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Why should every developer contribute to open source projects

Open source is not just a trend in the software development realm; it’s a philosophy. It all started back in the early 1990s, when Linux creator Linus Torvalds thought about creating an operating system, just for the fun of it. Linux, probably the most popular open source to date, celebrated its 25 birthday a couple of days ago. It has been a hell of a ride since then; some of the world’s largest companies have jumped on the open source bandwagon. Google, Facebook, Apple and Airbnb have already released open source projects.

Apache Cassandra, for instance, is an open source database management system built to handle vast amount of data across many servers, offering constant availability, scalability and easy data distribution. It’s the brainchild of Facebook, and now it is being used by other large firms (Apple is a case in point). Last November, Google open sourced TensorFlow, its machine learning engine. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict what the future holds for the open source community. More and more companies are going to embrace the open source culture, its core philosophy, which is something like this: if you benefit from open source technology, tools, documentation and the like, you should give something back.

You might be asking, “ok, this is amazing, but what about developers?” Well, before being developers, designers or computer scientists, they are people.  They all know about the importance of being grateful. After all, we were all beginners at one point. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie programmer or a seasoned developer: you have used open source tools at one point in your career or in your learning process. If you get something for free, it only makes sense to give back. That’s what open source philosophy is all about.

Developers use open source tools all the time. Writing code is hard: it takes a lot of time, effort and persistence. Someone might be thinking, “Programming is full-time occupation, why should I even bother with open source projects?” Well, if everyone though this way, we’d still be solving problems using brute force. Every developer should contribute to open source projects, and here is why:

Gain relevant programming experience

The best thing about open source projects is that every developer can contribute code. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experience programmer- anyone can be part of the increasing open source community.  GitHub is a great start. The site has millions of open source projects, and you can pick one or two and go from there. Admittedly, your code will be reviewed by project managers or other developers, but that’s just to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Many aspiring programmers find themselves in the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem; they need programming experience to find a job, but can’t do so because they lack practical programming experience. Well, start contributing to open source projects. It’s not a CV or resume per se, but it sure helps a lot in landing a job in programming.

Build a reputation and a practical resume as well

When you contribute to open source projects, other programmers and designers will notice. The good thing about open source projects is that people are willing to help you. It’s a community of like-minded people, after all. Every line of code you submit, every bug you fix means a lot to the people contributing to the project. You will be appreciated for your efforts, you will start building a reputation among your peers. By doing so, you will not only build social proof, but you will also build a practical CV or resume. Don’t ever underestimate the power of social proof; it’s perhaps the greatest asset you will ever have.

Give back to the open source community

Developers use open source tools all the time. Say you have used a piece of software technology that has changed your life, a program you are in love with, and now you want to give something back. Coding is always appreciated, but you can also help the open source community by donating a small amount of money, say ten dollars. It might seem like peanuts, but that donation of your means a lot to your fellow developers. It could buy them a six-pack of beer, extend web hosting for a couple of months more, fund a domain renewal, etc.

In addition to code and donations, you can also help with the documentation. It could be things like technical writing, tutorials, website translations, etc.

Promote open source philosophy

Last but not least, every developer should help in promoting open source culture. As a disciple of Open Source philosophy, you ought to spread the word, make people realize how important open source really is. Developers contribute to open source projects simply because they enjoy it, they believe in it. If it makes the world a better place- and open source has done this time and time again, it’s worth the effort. It’s like a worldwide club, a place where every developer can contribute.

Open Source is here to stay. Jump on the bandwagon now, and help the world become a better place.