Lodahl's blog: Could you pass me the salt .... Thank you !

08 November 2006

Could you pass me the salt .... Thank you !

Why is it so difficult to contribute to open source projects ?

Well, I know that thousands of people around the world is doing an effort every day. But it's not enough. The programs are beeng used by millions. Why doesn't everybody contribute ?

The answer is: They don't know !

  • They don't know why !
  • They don't know when !
  • They don't know how !
  • They just don't know !

What ????

Imagine that you are in a restaurant with your wife. The guest at the next table asks you politely: "Could you pass me the salt, please ?". Would you hesitate to pass it to him ? No, I don't think so. And when you pass the salt; he will say "Thank you".

To pass him the salt didn't cost you anything and the response "Thank you" didn't cost him anything. We learned to behave like this as children and we try to teach our children to do the same.

Why ? - Because it works !

So, what has this to do with open source software ?
  • The cost !
  • The price !
  • The good deed for the day !
If we teach our children that they can pay back when they get something for free, they will automatically give a small contribution when they use open source software. Not only by typing their credit card number. Well, that will be okay, but actually it would be better if we gave them some easy opportunities to contribute:
  • Create a CD and give it as a present to somebody
  • Use 1 hour as a translator
  • Write a small manual (or check another authors manual for misspellings)
  • Put a OSS logo on you website
  • Write your name on the 'supporters wall' (references)
  • What ever ...
It should cost anything else than some private time. A commercial enterprise could 'donate' some hours in a project.

All we need is to find out some easy ways to contribute. And learn the children why, when and how.

Let's make a 'thank-you' campaign !


John said...

That was really nice... :)
BTW Can i copy and distribute your article to my friends and others?

Charlene said...

The reason I don't contribute to open source is that I am not focused on one open source project. I use as many as I can as a web developer for a small virtual hosting company. I probably handle 50+ websites and I have just enough time to get one site done before I have to work on another.

I don't even have time to think. In your passing the salt example, you don't have to think to pass the salt that is on your table. Now if you have any salt on your table either, that would be a better example. Some people have lots of time to search for salt but most don't.

Donationg money is much easier, but everybody thinks of open source as free, so do they really need money.

I have thought about writing a tutorial about the difficulties I have with getting a particular open source program to work - and when it does it works great! But I don't even have time before an upgrade comes along or I have to quickly get some other open source program working for a client.

Leif Lodahl said...

Hi John,
Sorry about the late answer. Been busy buying christmas gifts and more...

You can use the article if you find it usable. Just copy-paste or refer to my original post. Thats up to you.

Happy new year !

Leif Lodahl said...

Hi Charlene,
Sorry about the late answer.

I respect your choice. And I hope that you have success. If you are using open source software in your daily work I'm sure you appreciate the work that is being done every day. One day you might get time and resources to contribute.

Happy new year to you.