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GitHub Invites Developers to Open Source Friday

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GitHub invites developers to contribute to open source software, starting with a couple of hours every Friday.

Regarded with skepticism by some in the beginning, and criticized by others for undermining intellectual property, Open-Source Software (OSS) has become a constant presence in the lives of developers, users, companies, institutions and governments. Directly or indirectly, many rely on OSS for their daily computer activities. It is enough to mention several projects that are either open source or built upon open source: Android, Chromium, Firefox or the Apache HTTP Server. Chances are when one checks email or accesses the internet, data comes from a Linux server. While Linux is used little on the desktop, its presence on the server in the cloud or datacenters is overwhelming. The first option considered when having to select a new software is open source, according to a survey conducted by GitHub this year. It is no wonder that many software companies, including important ones such as Google, Microsoft or Facebook to name a few, either have some of their products released as open source or contribute to such projects.

Following the publication of a set of Open Source Guides, providing information on how one can start and maintain an open source project, how to contribute to one, how to find users for it, and others, GitHub has launched a new initiative targeting developers and called Open Source Friday. GitHub started this by suggesting their own developers to take some time every fourth Friday and get involved in an open source project. Now they are inviting every developer to get involved in open source, at least on a small scale: "spend two hours every Friday working on an open source project relevant to your business."

In the past, some developers contributed to OSS as a hobby activity in their free time. Today, GitHub considers that such contribution is not necessarily altruistic, but it can be "an investment in the tools your company relies on." Even companies are invited to participate, improving the software they are using, giving their employees the option to learn better how to collaborate by working on an OSS project, or simply building up their reputation.

GitHub has a few basic recommendations for those interested in being involved in this project:

  • opt-in for maintainers - only point to projects that maintainers have agreed so we don't send a swarm of extra maintainer work to someone who doesn't want it or can't handle it
  • wisdom of crowds - if lots of people are doing the same thing at the same time, more people will make an effort to join in
  • avoid rewards - Getting free t-shirts or other kinds of gifts tends to bring out bad behavior like PRs that change a single line of whitespace, which waste maintainers time and energy, the rewards should be less tangible

For those who have not worked yet on an OSS project and want to do so, GitHub recommends them to start with a project they already use or find a project on Up For Grabs or CodeTriage, two portals with pointers to various projects. They have also published Great for new contributors, a page with several OSS projects that have "a history and reputation for being welcoming to new open source contributors."

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