Open Source Doobs Drive Me Nuts

By Spicer Matthews

Disclaimer: This is just one man’s personal feelings. Pet peeve, if you will. While a few close friends of mine have certainly motivated me to write this, I will not be calling them out. They know who they are. These friends are close friends… I still love you guys! Feel free to blog about something crazy I do.

Open source doobs drive me nuts! What is this “doob” thing I speak of? Well, it’s someone who only uses open source software. They demand the freedom open source software gives you. They hate paying “The Man” for their software (ie. Apple, Microsoft, etc.). So they typically only use Linux, Android, Gimp, and so on. Free, open source software.

Freedom Over Quality

Some open source software is truly great. I use tons of open source software every day. In fact, I bet I use more open source software than I do paid software. It’s often much better than the stuff you pay for, but I always at least review my options. The idea that you would not pick and use a product based on its merits vs. being open source is just crazy to me. Any way you look at it Photoshop is better than Gimp. Many paid text editors are better than open source ones. For many years iPhone was way better than Android. Plex is better than XBMC. Roku is better than Boxee. In the software world, there is no good reason – other than a personal allegiance to a concept – to NOT use the very best tool for your personal needs. Yes, you have to truly try them all to know what the best is. Quality should always win.

Giving Back

This is what drives me the most nuts. It truly sends me into a tailspin: Not giving back. Being an open source doob is great – if you give back. Boatloads of blood, sweat, and tears goes into building great open source software. Yes, people open it up for all to use. It just feels wrong if someone is only using open source software and not giving back. You know that buddy who, when you go out to dinner with him, you always pay and he never offers in return? That is how it feels when you use open source and don’t give back. Take, take, take and give nothing – just wrong.

I think it is pretty easy to give back. There are a few ways this can be done:

  • Contribute back to projects you use. Fix a bug and submit a pull request.
  • Write documentation for the open source project.
  • Write something interesting and open source it yourself. Share your work with the world like others have.
  • Donate money. Every open source project will accept your money :)

What Do We Do?

While this post is very personal in nature, I am posting this on the Cloudmanic Labs blog. I say “we” because at Cloudmanic we have a pretty strong policy of keeping things balanced when it comes to open source (as we are a big user of open source software).

All code we write that we feel it is OK to share, we publish to our GitHub account. We write open source code that we spend time and money on developing for our products. In some ways we are even giving away code our competitors can use to compete with us. But even so, if we write something useful, we typically share it.

We also donate. We do not have any hard and fast rules, but looking back over the last 12 months, we have donated almost 0.5% of our revenue to open source projects. We donate when we feel compelled to do so.

Lastly, our employees are allowed (within reason) to work on an open source during “work hours.”

Why Are You Such A Hater?

I did not write this post to call out my friends. I did not write this post to imply that Cloudmanic Labs does no wrong. I wrote this post to maybe remind the open source doobs out there that it does not hurt to find a way to at least give something back. Open source software is not written overnight. The people who dedicate themselves to producing open source software deserve a helping hand every once in awhile.

After all, it is called an “open source community.”