Some companies think contributing to open-source is a waste of time. It takes work to ensure that your code is generic and widely reusable, and releasing everything into the open can feel like you’re turning over your proprietary technology to the competition.
However, since I joined iwoca I have been trying to “liberate” some of our code and have encouraged my colleagues to do the same. Why? Far from being hell-bent on slowing us down, it’s because I know that contributing to open-source can help your tech become more nimble, more stable and more respected. Here’s why:
It improves your code quality
Contributing to open-source can enhance your programming skills by forcing you to identify the aspects of your code that are unique to your business from those which are generic. This means that you have to be more mindful of separation of concerns and backward compatibility when developing the code that you contribute. This is bound to make your company’s internal code more robust and adaptable whilst reducing the chance that a library or framework update breaks your code.
It increases the utility of code
As a developer you sometimes invest a long time on a project that is only rarely used. When you contribute your work to open-source, you maximise its utility by enabling the greater tech community to use, learn from and improve upon your work. How does this help your company? Good employees want to work on useful projects. That means making them more useful keeps your team happy.
It generates valuable (and free) feedback on your work
By releasing your code, you can get valuable feedback from other developers including input on how to improve your code. Larger projects may even attract greater attention from the community and thereby increase you and your company’s reputation as pioneers in the field.
It helps position your company as a tech leader
Right now, iwoca is one of Europe’s leading alternative lenders but most people in the tech world have never heard of us. By contributing to open-source projects we communicate our vision and what we’re up to at meetups and tech conferences. This brings brand recognition and attracts top talent.
The community will thank you
When you are using an open-source framework, such as Django or Twisted (both of which we use at iwoca), it’s important to contribute to the platform’s development. It can be hard to do this product’s main value lies in your unique implementation, rather than developing the platform, but nine out of ten times you will find that some contribution proves more valuable than none.