The open-source community seems healthy (and expanding), but there are always developers who haven’t contributed so much as a single line of code to a Github repo. According to Digital Ocean, which surveyed more than 4,300 tech pros, the reasons those developers haven’t gotten more involved in open source are pretty straightforward: They’re often intimidated, and they don’t know where to start.
Of those who hadn’t yet gotten involved in open source, 45 percent claimed it was difficult to get started, while 44 percent said they didn’t have the right skills to contribute to a codebase. Another 30 percent said their companies hadn’t given them time to contribute, and 28 percent cited the aforementioned intimidation factor.
In other words, developers who want to contribute to open-source projects need some combination of an easier entry point, more time and resources from their employer, and improved skills. “As the number of developers and hobbyists worldwide continues to grow, there is an opportunity to create better resources and starting points to get those newer to code—and open source—excited about contributing,” Digital Ocean suggested in its report. “As part of this, we need to underscore that developers of all skill levels can make a difference.”
Businesses will only throw their weight behind open-source platforms that are already widely adopted, and that have lots of documentation and active maintainers—meaning that cool little project you spied on Github won’t end up adopted by your multinational employer anytime soon, no matter how great its utility to your daily workflow. That being said, making a good business case for a particular open-source program can often perk a manager’s interest—after all, GitLab’s 2018 Global Developer Report, released earlier this year, shows that managers are often more excited about open-source projects than developers.
Among those developers who do engage with open-source, almost a quarter (24 percent) work on these projects multiple times per week, and nearly as many (23 percent) do so once a week; another 27 percent engage with open-source on a monthly basis. “Even though most companies don’t invest in open source organizations, they encourage the use of open source within their businesses,” Digital Ocean added. “Nearly three out of every four respondents said their companies expect them to use open source software as part of their day-to-day development work.”
While the open-source community can seem intimidating from the outset, it’s actually filled with lots of people only too happy to help (and share their opinions about the code, but that’s another matter entirely). Sites such as Stack Overflow and Reddit’s r/opensource can answer any questions you may have, and Github repos offer lots of useful notes and commentary on projects. The great thing about open source is that everyone’s in it together; while there might be disagreements between contributors, the collective goal is to create the best software possible, open to all. You just need to plunge in.