Should you contribute to open source? It's complicated.

Jul 25, 2019


Those of us who work (and play) in the open-source software world tend to think of contributing back to open source software as something highly desirable to do. It's practically a given for most professionals who use open source software that we should contribute. Ideals of democracy, decentralization, volunteerism, and altruism genuinely motivate many who contribute.

In the best-case scenario, an open-source project is comprised of a virtuous, reciprocal community in which participants donate their time to improve a tool that is freely available to all people. However, this scenario doesn't always sync with how open source really works in the wild.

And, what does it require to contribute to open source projects meaningfully? Should open-source contribution be an expectation of organizations that use open-source software and those who they employ?

As skilled designers, project managers, engineers, et al., are open-source contributions the most impactful way to spend our precious, valuable, voluntary time, or are there alternatives we should consider as individuals and the organizations who benefit from using open source tools?

We'll use the Drupal community as a lens to explore the broader world of open source and lend a more nuanced analysis on how open source contributions stack up against alternative means of spending our volunteer time as organizations and individual stakeholders of an open-source community.

Spoiler alert: it's all gray, though strong opinions will be shared and are expected to be challenged!…

Hi! I'm Karim Boudjema, the developer and site-builder of this site. I'm currently working as a freelance Drupal developer.

I was wondering how could I giving back to the Drupal community all what it gave to me during the last 10 years, that's how the idea of this site came to me ... (read more)

Hi! I’m Santiago Rico, the web designer and themer of this site.

When Karim proposed me to design and theme this site for the Drupal community, I accepted immediately because the community is the main reason why I love Drupal so much.