Tackling the Barriers of Contributing Back to Open Source


Contributing development time to open source projects is a marvelous way to improve the competence level of a company's developers. It can be a valuable marketing tool as well. Is your contribution level up to par? If not, can you find ways to improve the level?

In DrupalCamp Helsinki 2016 Acquia's Jeffrey A. McGuire gave a talk titled "Of horses, water, & getting them to drink". For the uninitiated, the topic listed in the schedule was "Challenges and solutions in getting your open source company to contribution". The talk illustrated companies using open source as a part of their revenue stream, and how such companies could be included in giving back as well as just using the results from the community. 

There are many ways a company can contribute to open source: the company can sponsor and organise events, it can function as an evangelist for open source, or it can provide training in using open source. The chief topic in Jeffrey's talk was, however, how to convince a company and its employees to contribute development efforts. Jeffrey is a skilled and experienced speaker, so I enjoyed the talk tremendously. At the same time though, the session gave me pause: what could we do in Exove to encourage development contribution?

Exove as a company chips in at local and even international events, helps organise other events, and even evangelises open source to a certain extent. However I feel that Exove is an open source consumer more than a contributor, at least as regards contributions on developer level. I believe that getting us to contribute development time will benefit both Exove and its clients. Contributing development efforts such as new code or reviews for existing code can serve as training as well as marketing. The marketing of course being reputation-based, since your people should obviously know what they are working with. There are few better ways to prove that than having people's names and handles show up on open-source projects.

Jeffrey's session provided some ideas on how we could make contribution the way we work. The talk was based on research data from a number of companies, small to large. The research has been conducted by Chris Jansen and it seemed to be asking the right questions, even though I am not fully aware what those questions are, exactly; the session did not give the questions away completely as it was more about the results of the research. As you can see in the image above, people in firms our size can have multiple reasons, some more valid than others, not to contribute their effort.

It immediately dawned on me that we should conduct a survey of our own at Exove, so I reached out to Jeffrey asking whether we could use the same material to find out whether there are valid reasons behind my fears regarding development contribution. We are still working on the final result of that communication, but I'm sure we are on to something: we will find ways to lower the barriers of contribution as we work together with Jeffrey.

Stay tuned for the next episode in our journey to more development contributions!

Kalle Kipinä, Developer

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