There is no “Donating Code to the Community”

There, he said it again, at the Open Source Meets Business conference in Nuremberg, Germany: “We would like to donate this code to the community.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, I’m not so sure. Or, to be frank, I think if somebody talks about donating code to the community they probably don’t understand effective open source.

Open source is a social engagement, not a tax-deductible donation that you can dump at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store. Without a supporting team, source code, open or otherwise, is worth almost nothing. Thus, a “donation” that consists of throwing code over the wall is likely to die immediately. Why would anyone pick up the code if there is nobody to explain and lead the project?

Thus, an effective “donation” involves not only open sourcing some code but also providing the resources for maintaining the code, marketing the project, and building a community. In fact, I’m sure that having quality software developers is the primary factor that makes or breaks the success of the proposed open source project. Hence, social engagement, not donation nor transfer nor dumping.

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