A few weeks ago, Lauren and I spoke with Carrie Dils about open-source. Carrie has been around the Genesis (and WordPress) communities for a number of years, and has given back by contributing, teaching, and speaking.
In our interview with her, we cover a number of things — what open-source means, the benefits of an open-source ecosystem, and the pros and cons of open-source software. Listen to the full episode on StudioPress FM.
What is Open-Source Software?
As we were discussing open-source in our conversation, I realized there was a pretty good chance some folks didn’t know what that actually means. After being in the open-source community for nearly 10 years, I sometimes take it for granted. Here’s the definition of open-source software:
“Open-source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared in modified or unmodified form by anyone. Open-source software is made by many people and distributed under licenses that comply with the open-source definition.”
Basically, you can inherit the code base of any project and do what you want with it — and this is the big thing — as long as you also then release whatever derivative you do or come up with, with the same license.
The Benefits of an Open-Source Community
We asked Carrie what she thought were the benefits of an open-source community. Here’s what she had to say:
“That’s where the beauty of it comes in. People are giving and taking, and we’re all benefiting from it. You mentioned even sharing code with competitors. We call that ‘co-opetition,’ where we’re going up against each other, but also helping. The hope is that 1+1 really becomes three. A lot of times your competitors are the ones who get too busy and then have to refer work even to you then because they just can’t take it all. It’s really a great system when it’s working properly.”
One of the things we agree on is the give-and-take mentality that typically comes with an open-source community. Carrie shares her thoughts on that:
“One of the things that folks that are new to WordPress, or even new specifically to Genesis, I always encourage them to dive in, start getting involved in the community. The best way to do that is through forums, just answering questions. Even if you’ve been around WordPress one week, then you know more than somebody who’s only been around it one day. You have the knowledge to start contributing back by just helping somebody else.”
The Pros and Cons of Open-Source
Like most things in life, the good comes with the bad, and open-source communities are no different. Carrie explains some of the downfalls:
“This isn’t going to be specific to Genesis, but I see it a lot in Genesis because that’s one of the communities I’m more heavily involved in, but there’s this disparity between … let me just get down to the point. I hope that I’m not going to offend anyone. No names mentioned, but I had a support request come through — and this is not a one-time deal, it’s happened multiple times — where someone is being paid as a web developer or a web designer to deliver a website for a client, and what they’re asking for in support forums is for the work to be done for them.
I realize I’m painting in broad strokes. That’s not everyone. What I would love to see is that, if people are going to take this on professionally, that they actually are professional about it and take the time, invest the time to learn the skills to do that. I think that type of individual can devalue what a lot of people are doing legitimately and well, if that makes sense.”
The open-source community is more of a servant-first mentality, and everything in life, not everything is perfect. And I’ve seen it, and I try to address it and encourage behaviors to change or otherwise. A lot of times the community corrects itself, which is good. I can see what you’re saying, that there are people who have a tendency to come in and take more than they give.
There’s a whole lot more that we covered in our 29-minute conversation about open-source communities with Carrie. Listen to the episode at StudioPress FM.
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