Looking back at some years of open source
When I look back at the last few years of my open source experience I can say there are many great things I got from working on open source software.
I really like open source events. I attended a few in the past, met cool people and learned new stuff. Some of the events are free or not that expensive for open source developers. I took vacation days and spent my own money to travel to foreign cities and countries and it was totally worth it for me. Attending an event was a good reason to have a short trip. I hope these events come back some day in the future. You just cannot get some experiences in front of your computer like meeting people at in-person events.
I noticed there is a big difference in the nature of events. Some events are more from the community for the community like FOSDEM and others are more company focused. They differ a lot in the level of technical talks, audience, marketing and recruiting. I really like the community events and hackathons because they are more about tech and not about recruiting or selling stuff.
Gifts and cash
Another nice perk of being active in the Open Source Community is getting some free stuff. Many companies offer gifts (Swag) or competitions where you can win stuff or cash. This is great for a motivation boost. Sometimes open source developers are even able to get paid for their contributions, which really should happen more often.
I am really thankful for all companies and individuals who gifted me something. It’s awesome to get something for the work you are used to do for free all the time.
One of the things I like the most is giving advice on topics I got a lot of experience in. I never really thought of being a “real consultant”, but I kind of like the occasional E-mail or Github comment. For some topics about Cordova you can find my name very often on Github or my blog. People working on these topics reached out to me to ask for advice and help. This usually becomes an E-mail thread or some video calls and I really enjoy them. I learn what other people are doing. Sometimes similar and sometimes different to my work or background. I can learn a lot from this and usually help these people, which is really good for motivation. Some people are really grateful and it’s fun to exchange ideas and find solutions for problems together.
Meeting new people
One of the biggest benefits of open source work and events is meeting cool new people. People you can exchange ideas with, teach or learn from. You can build a professional network and even find friends.
I have met a few cool people who showed me totally different environments and technologies. I really think having broad scope is important.
Meeting new people might even get you a cool job you would never known of or thought of before. I got my current job through a friend I met at an open source event.
Learning essential skills
Learning is the most important part of becoming and staying a good and happy developer in my opinion. I got many important skills from my open source work and not my day job or education.
One important skill is diving into an unknown codebase without fear and find your way to solve an issue. You might deal with obscure code or even a new programming language. But working in open source is often just that. You got a huge, sometimes very old, project and you need to fix an issue. If you get used to working with many unknowns it helps you a lot for all kinds of development work.
Open source work sometimes is more communication than coding. You need to discuss issues and code changes with people from all over the world. English is not everyones first language which makes this sometimes a bit difficult. If you do this for a while you learn quickly how to communicate better. Misunderstandings, a wrong tone or being rude can cause harm and you should make work for everyone a pleasant experience.
I would suggest anyone who can afford to spend a bit of time to try out open source work. If you invest a bit in open source it generally helps you and the public good. Open source can consume a lot of time and energy but if you are able to contribute and engage in communities it can make you a better developer and it feels rewarding.