Open Source Is Beautiful

Open source software is beautiful to me. Yes, anyone can take the code and do anything with it. Anyone can tinker with the code to make it do what they want, or to spin-off a completely new (and even competing) product.

What makes it beautiful to me is the community that surrounds it. While there are always warts, open source can bring together so different people using (and hacking) the software in so many ways and allow them to contribute in their own way.

Recently, WordPress moved to a “feature plugin” method of adding new features to core. Previously, new features were built directly against trunk from day 1 and, if they weren’t ready or something was fundamentally wrong with the approach, a lot of work had to happen to remove it from the codebase.

With feature plugins, a new or existing WordPress plugin would be developed with the plan of the feature being integrated into core for everyone to use. The plugin can develop at whatever speed and, when deemed ready, it would then be merged into core. No more was the expectation that a new feature would be built from scratch to deployment within one release cycle.

A great advantage is it adds another place folks can contribute. With small groups working on feature plugins, you can now ping the lead, say you want to help, and you’re part of the team. I was able to contribute via the Dash project for 3.8 in a way I doubt I would have if it all stayed in core.

Even my wife, Vanessa, joined the fun. I’m a mostly lurking member of the Front End Editor project. A large amount of the work in Javascript, which I’m not strong in, so haven’t done much. I put the feature plugin on Vanessa’s site for her to test drive and she kept getting frustrated at the lack of a way to return to the wp-admin editor except for canceling the front end edit, going to the Dashboard, then the Posts page, then back to the post itself.

Her usage of it and reporting the problem (to me across the living room, but reported nevertheless) contributed to the project. I wrote in a quick button, submitted the patch, and it’s now part of the feature plugin. The “Vanessa Button” is one of countless examples of how folks have contributed to open source software, even if they didn’t look at a piece of code. (There are a number of ways to get involved in the core WordPress project…)

On Twitter, anytime I’ve seen anyone with a WordPress question, there are a number of responses and folks chiming in with other tips and suggestions. The community builds each other up, helping each other become stronger in our craft. That’s incredible.

In Austin, the local group is strong and brings together often 50+ people together at a time to discuss WordPress-related topics and build local community. The meetup is now waitlisted with 125 attendees. Mind-blowing.

Like I said, open source is beautiful.

[photocredit: Me. It is a picture of the walkways at the Vancouver Classical Chinese Garden. Check out a few more pictures.]

Why Not Open Source?

In the WordPress world, a recent piece of news is WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg cancelling his $10,000 Kickstarter pledge for Pressgram, an Instagram-style iOS app that would allow you to save your photos to a WordPress blog (that you own and control) instead of a third-party service that you don’t. Matt cancelled his pledge because Pressgram’s developer John Saddington announced that Pressgram, while free, would not be open source. If you don’t know anything about Matt, know that he is a very strong believer in open source software so this move isn’t surprising (to me at least).

The question burning in my mind, though, is why isn’t it being released open-source? Read More