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A hard part about open source software

Dear Reader,

For Mother’s Day, I made my mom and mom-in-law a digital picture frame. I gave it an email address and family can send emails to a system that will show them on the frame. I assumed that once it was deployed, all my siblings and their kids would be excited to send picture to Babe. (the affectionate term my mother chose to be called by her grand kids, Dad was known as Dude. Don’t ask…) I assumed wrong.

Each week I send everyone an email reminding them that they can do this and challenging them to send a picture on a specific theme, and each week I only get a couple of new pictures. It’s not that my siblings and their kids love babe any less than I do but they have their own lives, their own activities, and well, they are busy.

Open source software projects are a lot like this. Projects start out as a labor of love by a single person. They love it, they build it, they release it to the world. Somebody else likes it so they use it too. After a while, you get enough users so that someone steps up and contributes. Everybody benefits, some tell other friends, the project grows in popularity, the cycle continues.

Even though the project is getting really popular with a lot of users, the number of contributors stays small. ONE of the reasons is jsut that we’ve all got other things to do. We can’t ALL contribute to EVERY Open Source Software package we use. I’ve given back to a couple of projects with mixed results. In every case I’ve given back, it’s been that I wanted something extra in the project, I knew how to program, so I wrote it and contributed back.

Moving people from the role of USER to the role of CONTRIBUTOR is one of the hard parts of running an open source project. If a project leader fails to do this then the project will most likely die as the leader moves on to other things.

If you have a favorite project, consider stepping up and becoming a contributor. There are probably a hundred things you can do, many don’t even require coding.

Make life easier on the leader of your favorite Open Source Software project, step up, be a contributor.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Rise to the occasion

Dear Reader,

My very first shot at speaking at a conference came long before I entered the PHP community.  It was back in my FoxPro days. Several of my co-workers were putting together a regional FoxPro conference and they asked me if I wanted to speak.

I hemmed and hawed, and said, “let me get back to you”.

Life moved on without me. I was stuck behind a wall of fear and just could not move on.

I decided – sitting in that conference that I could have been speaking at – that if I was ever asked again, I would immediately say YES.

If you want to speak, you have to not only be willing to rise to the occasion, you have to be ready to.

Get yourself in the mindset to step up.  Convince yourself that you are ready.

Then, the next time your PHP User Group leader asks for volunteers to speak, rise to the occasion.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Step up and lead

Dear Reader,

I used to wait for permission to speak up, permission to take action, permission to lead.

Then one day I looked at those who were moving ahead of me. I noticed that they never waited. They didn’t bother asking. They saw something that needed to be done and they did it.

If what they did wasn’t exactly right, they didn’t get fired, they usually got help.

In the end, most of them started moving ahead of me career wise. Not because they were luckier than me, and not because they always did the right thing. They moved ahead because they did something.

Be on the lookout for something that need to be done.

  • At work
  • In an Open Source project
  • In your non-technical community

When you see it, step up…and lead.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Paying for Open Source

Dear Reader,

There is a LOT of talk going on about open source, paying, licenses, an other fun topics. Open Source is growing up and people are trying to figure out how to make a living at it. Yes, there are some bad actors out there strip-mining the value out of some open source projects without contributing to the project. There are however, OS heros out there.

PHPStorm has hired  Nikita Popov. Here is the one key takeaway in that entire post.

The focus of his work – improving the PHP ecosystem – will remain the same.

JetBrains gets it. They know that for PHPStorm to thrive, there has to be ongoing and serious development  on PHP, it cannot grow stale. So they stepped up.

Do you work at a company whose existence is only possible because of open source software? (I do) Then you (we) need to step up. If you are paying attention you know that there is another  high-profile core developer looking for a job. Talk to your managers. Talk to your CEO. Have your company step up and ensure its own long term survival the way that JetBrains did.

Give back.

Hire a core developer and pay them to work on PHP.

Be an open source hero like JetBrains.

Until next time,
I <3 |<