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Culture

Cracking the open-source community code for drive-by developers

Open source would be even bigger if it were more inclusive. It must become easier to contribute to open-source communities.

Jack Repenning, CTO of Collabnet, takes issue with my complaint that contributing code to open-source projects is hard. Jack's suggestion that "while community membership requires more than 'casual contribution,' you shouldn't have to 'become a key member'" in order to play a part is fair and spot-on. Unfortunately, it doesn't really tackle the big issue.

Most would-be open-source contributors don't have time to become anything more than casual contributors. This means that the vast majority of potential open-source contributions remain in their silos and never make it back into the common code pool.

Think about Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst's suggestion that enterprises need to start participating in open-source development. I'm going to be speaking at the New York CTO Club in November on this very topic: how do we encourage "drive-by developers" to become full-fledged members of open-source communities?

It's a non-trivial question with much at stake. The organization that cracks this code would likely immediately take center stage in open-source development. It must become easier to contribute to open-source communities if we hope to make open source more than simply an interesting facet of the software industry, and turn it into the central, driving force behind the industry.