Should you contribute to open source? It's complicated.


Those of us who work (and play) in the open-source software world tend to think of contributing back to open source software as something highly desirable to do. It's practically a given for most professionals who use open source software that we should contribute. Ideals of democracy, decentralization, volunteerism, and altruism genuinely motivate many who contribute.

In the best-case scenario, an open-source project is comprised of a virtuous, reciprocal community in which participants donate their time to improve a tool that is freely available to all people. However, this scenario doesn't always sync with how open source really works in the wild.

And, what does it require to contribute to open source projects meaningfully? Should open-source contribution be an expectation of organizations that use open-source software and those who they employ?

As skilled designers, project managers, engineers, et al., are open-source contributions the most impactful way to spend our precious, valuable, voluntary time, or are there alternatives we should consider as individuals and the organizations who benefit from using open source tools?

We'll use the Drupal community as a lens to explore the broader world of open source and lend a more nuanced analysis on how open source contributions stack up against alternative means of spending our volunteer time as organizations and individual stakeholders of an open-source community.

Spoiler alert: it's all gray, though strong opinions will be shared and are expected to be challenged!

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