The open source paradox.

The open source paradox.

Something that bothered me lately is the lack of giving back to the open-source community. Not a monetary contribution for maintainers or not even open-sourcing any internal tools that can be beneficial for others. Companies using open source tools do not have to re-invent many complex wheels and making millions of revenue. Yet, they refrain from giving back. Keep in mind that, legal and license-wise that is ok. No problem whatsoever. But when it comes to the positive roles that companies should play in the open-source world, it is a harsh reality that they choose not to give back.

Even if the company feel not-willing to contribute a monetary amount for maintainers, at least they can open source tools and projects that can be opened without exposing the company security or IP to any threats.
Nevertheless, these companies may take these free to use tools for granted with the subconscious belief that they have no responsibility to give back.

I also noticed some companies release open-source software without spending any effort into promoting them, no documentation, no blog post, nothing, just a repository on Github that no one knows about. If the idea of contributing is to just release the software just to be tagged as a contribution, then you did not contribute. Go to the extra mile and be grateful to the community.

But ...

Do they have to? Isn't the idea behind open source is to be the response against proprietary software by providing source codes to the public using free and open licenses? If we ask software consumers to give back things in return, then what is the dissimilarity between proprietary and open? Whoever wants to contribute, let him contribute, and whoever wants to consume they shall consume, free and open.

You do not have to pay, contribute, just do not make the life of maintainers hard. I can not imagine being a maintainer of a large open-source project, and I do not mean coding, that is the fun part, but managing issues and people would be a nightmare for me. Particularly that you would be dealing with a public space where everyone on the internet can suggest, complain and scream at you.

DHH addressed this issue in an amazing keynote last year at RailsConf 2019 and his conclusion was really inspiring.