index2018-09-09

What does open source mean to me?

Readings:

After these readings I quickly realized that I have never truly thought about what open source really looks like and how deeply it affects the people who are contributing and the people who are not contributing. I really like Betsy Leondar-Wright’s term “inessential weirdness”. As a professional and proudly unprofessional web developer I have run into a good number of weirdnesses, some of them essential, others inessential. There is one incident that comes to mind:

A couple of years ago I built a small command line app called undecided.js

This was the very first thing I had ever built from scratch in Node JS and I was extremeley excited to share it with friends online and offline. The app allows you to quickly create a simple webpage of your favorite links through a series of command line prompts.

I shared the project with many people with two goals in mind. One was to introduce people to the command line in a fun and interactive way. The second was to inspire internet surfing and sharing of links without something like Facebook.

Soon after sharing I came across of GitHub repo called awesome-command-line-apps. The apps were pretty awesome so I decided to open a PR for adding undecided.js to the list. This was my first time opening a PR on a project I had no personal connection to. The owner of the repo responded by commenting:

This is one if the most useless things I have ever seen.

screen shot of my pull request

If I were to break down this moment into weirdnesses I might do it like this…

Inessential:

  • this person whom I have never met was immediately dismissive of me and my work
  • my project used profane language
  • while I was trying to build something for non-coders to use I think I missed a few steps in lowering the barrier to entry

Essential:

  • my project was meant to be used for fun and was meant to be inclusive meaning that coders and non coders could use it
  • the owner has contributing guidelines and is seemingly pretty active when it comes to reviewing and merging other people’s pull requests

second pull request screen shot I think the name of the repo should probably be called bischoffs-awesome-list-of-command-line-apps

This incident didn’t deter me from contributing to other people’s projects but it did get added on to my personal pile of “working with coders can really suck” moments. It also contributed to a feeling of being inferior, something that I find is kind of easy to feel as a woman in a male-dominated space.

To me open source means open. Open means anyone. Anyone means everyone. Open source is important but creating a safe and inviting and growing community around an open source project is probably more important than the project itself.