Contributing to Open Source is NOT Charity!

During a WordCamp in 2015, I remember someone being praised for contributions to the community.

The person who received the compliment made the appropriate right noises but added “I do not expect anything in return, it was simply a way to give to community.”

The man wore benevolence quite splendidly and that is where I felt he was wrong.

Contribution to Open Source - Not Charity

No, if you are making a career out of WordPress or any FOSS platform/product, building a company on it, you are doing this because a lot of people before you wrote the code and contributed.

And they did not do this because they were benevolent masters of the the technology world, but because they wanted to improve and nurture something they felt was important and useful to them. In the end, almost everyone who contributes to open source projects like WordPress, ultimately does so because they have skin in the game.

Better Software = Better Society

Okay, volunteering your time for better software is not exactly comparable to volunteering time for a better society. Writing code for a FOSS project gets you a lot of credit and improves the software you use to make a living. This cannot be compared to basically volunteering time at a homeless shelter or teaching under-privileged kids at a school. Anyone who compares the two is being conceited.

That said better software can greatly facilitate a better society.

A free open internet, will help democracy in the true sense and societies will greatly benefit from the feedback loops and organisational power technology gives the users. Millions today use the web to connect, to write opinions (including what you are reading now), to interact, to collaborate, to plan and to demand rights and change policies and hold each other and also the might governments accountable.

And such an internet should support freedom (ie: open source architecture, software and in general its philosophy), it should allow you to transfer your data from one place to another and definitely should not be a walled up garden.

This is why, people who make a living from open source software, should contribute to it in anyways they can, and not smugly say they do not expect anything in return. We have received plenty already, it is time we realise we are very privileged. It is time to stop calling contributing to something that benefits ourselves as charity.


Also check out: What is open-source culture? What does it mean to me?

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