Open Source Software (OSS) is becoming more important and plays a vital role in the IT business today. I mean, can you imagine doing a software poject without using open source software? Looking back at the past years, I must admit that literally every project I was involved in used at least one open source component. Be it a library / framework or a tool like the IDE.
When I started using open source, I wondered how people could afford writing software for free. That was about 8 years ago. Today, as I am myself an open source software developer, I know much better about how developing open source software works and where the money comes from. Although open source software is inherently free, it does have a cost. The people writing the software you use in your projects have to earn some money as well.
So, if you wonder how to support your favourite open source project, here are some ideas.
Give feedback. Read the newsgroups, use the mailing lists, ask questions on the forums. If you like the software, say so – it will make the committers happy. Happy committers write more code :–) If you dislike things about the software, say so as well, but be polite. If something isn’t working, you might consider filing a bug – it’s not difficult at all.
Advocate your favourite project. Spread the news. Talk to your colleagues about how great the project is and how much time you save by using the software. Tell your customers. Write articles (did you know you get paid for writing print articles?). Go to conferences andand give a user experience talk. Send testimonies for inclusion on the website to the development team.
Donate. Some projects are personal endeavours of people like you and me you spend their private time on these projects. Show your gratiude by sending some money via PayPal or choose something from the developer’s Amazon wishlist. If you’re a company, thing about sponsoring the project.
Help on the forums, newsgroups and mailing list by answering questions.
Fix bugs and send patches.
Buy support. Most OSS development teams will be glad to provide consulting and training for their project.
Buy features. If there is a feature you badly need, ask the development team to implement it and offer to pay for it. If you use open source software strategically, it is perfectlyok to pay the development team for special features. It shows your own committent and appreciation. However, the new feature needs to be available to the public.
If you would like to add to this list or discuss with me, feel free to post a comment or drop me a mail.