The value of open source

Person sitting on floor typing on a laptop

One of the biggest reasons I love using WordPress and was drawn into using it is the fact that it’s an open source project. That means people have built software that’s free for anyone to use and modify.

In this day and age where a lot products, especially software products, feel very commercialized, open source projects remind us of what happens people come together to make cool things and not expect a profit.

So, here are some of the reason to value open source projects.

It’s free

There’s not a whole lot that’s free these days, but open source projects tend to be free. You can find most of them on GitHub (although WordPress is still officially using Trac at the moment) and download them.

Chances are you’ll have to find a host and/or install it yourself. Actually, WordPress became famous because of it’s “five-minute install” back in the day. But good projects have great documentation that can help you get up and running.

Open source projects a lot of times passion projects for those who contribute and maintain them. They do it for the love of development and the open web. If you like the project you’re using and if there’s a way to donate, I would highly recommend doing so. But the biggest benefit is the initial price tag: free.

Anyone can contribute to an open source project

Also, open source projects are typically open for anyone to contribute. You don’t need to be the greatest developer in the world or have the absolute best resume. All you need is a computer and a passion for what you’re contributing to.

Plus, it’s a great to learn more about web development. I started contributing to WordPress by creating themes for the theme directory, and each time I learned more and more about the right way to do things. Each new theme was a chance to improve on my web development skills.

And there will be people who are willing and able to teach you. I was lucky to have a set of great reviewers for the first couple of themes I built. They took the time to explain what was wrong with the theme and to show how I could fix it so it would be accepted. And I know there are a ton more people in WordPress and other open source projects who will do the same.

It creates a great community

Without a doubt, my favorite part about being involved with WordPress is the community around it. It can be easy as a web developer, especially a freelancer like I was for a number of years, to feel lonely and disconnected from, well, just about everything.

But because of the popularity of WordPress and the fact that a lot of people everywhere help contribute to it, there is a very strong community around it. There are WordCamps and local WordPress meet ups across the U.S. and the world. And there’s a very strong community online. I can’t begin to tell you the stories I’ve heard and seen about people helping each other and only knowing their avatar and screen name, but here’s a great one about Kim Parcells.

And that community has helped me keep going when things get tough. And it’s also a major reason why I have this new job as a web developer at the UNT Health Science Center.

I can definitely say that I wouldn’t be where I am without WordPress and its community. And being a part of an open source community can help you too. I’m just one of the many, many success stories that come out of open source projects.

So if you’re looking to take your development skills to the next level or maybe find a sense of purpose, join an open source project. It doesn’t have to be WordPress; it could be Drupal, or Joomla or something else.

It’ll give back to you more than you can ever give to them.

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