If you want to customize an open source tool, it may be simply a matter of handing it off to your IT department or hiring outside help. But what to do after you have a customized version of your software available?
The Open Source Ecosystem
The way that most proponents of open source tools hope you’ll move forward from that point is by sharing the customizations and changes your team has made and making them available for other users of that particular piece of software. Within your organization, there may be some arguments against doing just that. Some are legitimate: stripping out any information that would allow your competitors to learn about how you work from your customized software might be impractical, making it harder to protect your organization’s confidential information. Others may see the changes you made as proprietary, and that offering them for free is a waste of company resources.
Making those customizations available, however, can help you improve upon your chosen tool. The more users and developers are working on a given open source project, the less likely it is that development will stop — making it a useful investment for any organization relying on open source software.
The Core Developer Question
You could simply release your changes and customizations to the community that creates a particular tool, or you could take an active role in developing the tool in question, providing resources and help. There are certainly some benefits in taking a leadership role. You can help guide the development of your software, making it possible to implement key features that you may want. But taking a leadership role does take resources and time that you might otherwise dedicate elsewhere. It’s likely a question that only members of your organization can decide.
Of course, it’s very easy to get involved with most open source projects. The typical open source community can always use a few extra hands or a few extra dollars. If you make it clear that you’re interested in getting involved for the long haul, such communities will always find a way to bring you in and make use of whatever you can provide them with. It’s just a matter of deciding to get involved.
Does your organization actively support the open source projects it uses?
Image by Flickr user Ricardo Ferreira
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