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My thoughts on Open Source

11 Mar 2013

Surprisingly enough, this post is not for my FOSS class.

Anyway, this article has been circulating around my network lately, and it led me to think about my stance on open source.

I love open source software, both writing it and using it.

Why?

First and foremost, I’m a student. Learning is quite literally my profession. And hopefully after I graduate in May, I’ll continue to learn. I love technology because to be truly successful, you need to continue to learn throughout your career.

Open source allows me to learn by working with other people’s code. Whenever I jump into a large codebase, I tend to pick up techniques and design strategies employed by the original programmer. By doing this, I’ve also gotten progressively better at jumping into large projects quickly and figuring out exactly what I need to do to add whatever feature or fix whatever bug.

I also tend to get frustrated by poor software. There are a lot of open source projects that I like that lack features, or are bug-ridden. Whenever I get pissed off by something that doesn’t work, I can fix it. And then I can push my changes upstream and fix it for everyone. Not only is it empowering, but I don’t have to change my workflow/program to account for other people’s broken code.

A benefit of pushing your code upstream is the feedback you get on it. Most open source developers will analyze your code before they merge it in, give you feedback and allow you to fix your change. It’s a great way to get some constructive criticism on your code.

But the best benefit to working on open source is how it enhances my résumé. As I mentioned before, I’m a student. There was a point where I was struggling to get my first post-college job in the field. Having a github filled with open source projects that I’ve pushed to as well as open source projects of my own was a huge advantage over the competition - it helped me really stand out.

Never will I parrot the fucking notion that all software should be Free - it shouldn’t be. I’ll never support viral open source licensing - that’s not freedom and that hurts businesses, both small and large.

But I will say that open source is invaluable to students looking to get out into industry, and that it allows people already in industry to train old skills as well as learn new ones.

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