Open Source User
I am a user of open source software. My earliest experiences with open source software was with the Minecraft server software Bukkit as a kid, when I was attempting to make a cool game server for friends. I started using Fedora in December 2013 with my first laptop, ending a lifetime of using Apple devices. I like to believe that I am familiar and experienced with open source software as an everyday user.
Open Source Contributor
I am a contributor of open source software. Despite using it so often, I am still new to contributing and I am learning new things every day about free and open-source software communities. These past three months have passed by seemingly faster than light. And yet, despite being new as a contributor, I am passionate about what I am doing and what others around me are doing. I believe that open source goes beyond just software – it is a culture, a way of thinking, maybe even a way of life. There are reasons why I love open source as much as I do, and while it was challenging, I narrowed it down to three of my favorite things.
Since I started using free and open source software, I gradually became educated about what software freedom is and what makes it so important. An open source project is one thing on its own. But is it free? And this not the traditional meaning of free, as in “no cost”. But does it protect your freedom? Do you control the software or does it control you?
This is something that is probably one of the most discussed parts of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), yet it is without a doubt one of the most important. At the end of the day, the people who work behind major FOSS projects such as Linux distributions (like Fedora), major software programs and languages, and even Minecraft server software share a core set of beliefs: the software you and I use needs to place value in freedom to manipulate and distribute as we see fit. It is within our right to do with our software as we wish. This is something that I sincerely believe will help bring the world to a better place.
Seeing as this is one of the most discussed elements of FOSS, I will not spend as much time on this. But it is important to realize that it is part of the foundation that everything else builds from.
There’s hardly a better way to put it. Working in open source communities is fun! Whether you’re the programmer or the writer, the designer or the maintainer, it’s incredibly engaging and rewarding to take part in an open source community that understands the value in community.
For developers, it’s a greatly satisfying feeling to write software and see it being used across several devices or systems, and then to get feedback about your software from users who think what you worked on is awesome. Does that mean all the feedback is always fun? No, but I believe the overall positive experiences always outweigh the few negative cases. As a FOSS developer, you can readily see your software’s impact on the world.
There is more that goes on for open source communities than just writing code too, so even if you’re someone like me who loves to write, there are ample opportunities to help in a fun and meaningful way. The articles I publish on the Fedora Magazine and Fedora Community Blog are enjoyable for me to write, and every thankful comment received makes it just the more worth it. For instance, I recently published an article about using an IRC bouncer software called ZNC and shared it across multiple channels of communication. Shortly after doing so, a user messaged me and asked questions about using the software I described in the article, and shortly after our discussion, he successfully tested and started using ZNC for his own IRC communication. How awesome is that?! Even just by contributing writing, I can readily see my impact on users.
At the end of the day, many of the people involved with FOSS do it out of their own time and effort. Most people aren’t paid or have the convenience of having their jobs allow them to work on their own projects. So why do it if there’s “no benefit” to doing it? To continue the previous point, it’s because software freedom is important, but it’s also because it’s fun. Usually, it’s not about the money or personal fame… it’s about making a difference doing the things that make us happy. Whether that is software development, writing about the software being developed, making awesome graphics for the community around the software, or any other aspect, we do it because we like doing it. There’s not much else of a way to put it.
Finally, the third thing I love about free and open source software is community. This is my favorite thing of all, truthfully. In my experiences working and interacting with members of open source communities, I am always met with welcoming and accepting attitudes and people who want me to succeed in contributing. I have discovered this especially in the Fedora Project community, more than any other project I’ve contributed to.
When I first introduced myself to the Fedora Marketing mailing list as an interested contributor to the Fedora Magazine, I was warmly received and provided with the resources I needed to set up my toolbox for success. Quickly after drafting my first articles, the Magazine team happily reviewed and revised my work and set it on track for publication. Seeing my first article go out on the Magazine was extremely rewarding, and I felt awesome that I had helped write something that readers would find interesting and be able to learn something new.
Another experience I had this past week was entirely unexpected. Fedora Community Lead Remy DeCausemaker recently published an article on Fedora Magazine about Software Freedom Day at RIT, an event on my university campus that I attended and participated in. Part of the article talked about some of the tasks I worked on and included a short interview with me. Later that evening, the same day the article went out, I received an unexpected message from a Fedora contributor in Panama who had happened to read the article. In summary, she left me some encouraging words about what I did at Software Freedom Day and said it was good to have people like me in the project. It caught me off-guard and I wasn’t expecting that – and from someone who I had never talked with before! This only reaffirmed the thoughts I have had for a long time about FOSS communities, in particular Fedora. The community behind these projects is incredible and the friendships that are founded here make everything all the more worth it.
It’s hard to see a future for me now without open source being an integral part along the way.
Special thanks to Michael, Cindy, Jordan, Remy, Paul, Ryan, Patrick, and Kiara for helping make my experiences in open source as amazing as it has been – I am looking forward to more experiences to come.