A question I hear frequently is “What can we open source?” and my immediate answer is “As much as possible”. Not so long ago, the question was “What is open source? Followed by “Give away our code, are you effing crazy?” I’m sure most engineers understand the benefits of open source software, but I’m encouraging more open source involvement – especially when it comes to their jobs.
It seems counter-intuitive that giving away your “secret sauce” can have such a massive positive impact, but thanks to the commons effect of open source software, that is indeed the case. The last three companies I’ve worked at could not have existed without it, so I think it’s worth reiterating how important the open source movement has been our profession. For example, it’s:
Good for your product
By being active in a project, we get others excited to work on that project and then potentially (hopefully) contribute useful features for the final product.
Good for recruiting
Software engineers don’t like to repeat themselves. When you enable them to carry some of their work forward between jobs, it’s incredibly satisfying. Aside from the obvious benefit of happy, satisfied employees, the corporate commons benefits by allowing employees to bring in technologies they’re expert on, thereby improving velocity from day one.
Good for outsourcing, or not
New hires are more likely to be productive on projects that are open since they’ve seen it before - increasing their impact and reducing the need for outsourcing. On the flip side, it’s easier to outsource to contractors that are experts with any open source products that your company uses, reducing their ramp up time and making them more effective.
Good for blogging
It’s a lot easier and more rewarding to write about a pet project. You can point to the OS product as part of your post and offer your insights. Blogging more frequently (with easier posts) is always helpful for your brand, and of course for potential recruiting.
Good for software engineering
When publishing a software product, an engineer will go the extra mile to ensure that it is well documented, usable, with clean interfaces. This leads to more maintainable, modular systems.
Good for security
When there’s more attention paid to security related code, it’s always a win. By open sourcing internally authored security code, you have the potential to gain more eyeballs on it. And, it’s important to leverage all the existing security software out there that is continually under heavy scrutiny.
As you can see, I love living in the open source world. What are the benefits your company has experienced with open source? Leave us a comment below.