Fifteen years ago, I was living life as a teenager. I didn’t play sports in high school nor did the typical things high school kids do. Instead, I was a computer junky or a nerd as some people called me. I had my very own computer handed down to me from my dad. An AMD K6-2 350MHz Processor with 128 megs of ram. Terrible compared to the Pentium 2 that was in the Gateway box, but I digress.
I didn’t know very much about open source software back then. To me, open source software meant that it was vastly inferior to whatever paid software was available to accomplish a task. This was also known as crapware. I also understood open source to mean free. Free as in beer. Instead of using open source software, I routinely found myself paying chunks of money for software that had a dedicated development team and was usually easier to install and use. Open source software usually came packaged in Tarballs with complicated instructions on how to install it.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I discovered Joomla and then WordPress when I started to understand what open source was really all about. WordPress taught me the following things.
- Open source software doesn’t have to be free of charge
- Licenses are the foundations in which code is built and distributed
- Passionate people will volunteer their days and nights to squash bugs so the project gets better
- Open source is a global initiative
- People can make an incredible living around open source software
- When things are going right, the sense of community is overwhelmingly awesome
- Improving the project is a goal most people can get behind
- Open source provides opportunities that otherwise might not have existed
Everything I know about the open source topic is based on my experience with using WordPress and participating in the WordPress community. I’d love to hear from others who grew up learning about open source the same way I did.
Seeing a team of total strangers in all corners of the globe working to solve a bug or issue in a piece of open source software is really amazing. You are absolutely right about how passionate and dedicated those developers can be. And when a group of like-minded people tackle the same project the results are amazing.