Have you ever thought the same way? If so, this article might interest you. Every day we consciously and unconsciously come into contact with free software. Even very many cloud servers use Linux and similar open source operating systems. There is a vast amount of free software from various fields: Research, education, business, medicine and many other areas.
Especially the GNU project has significantly contributed to the fact that free software is what it is today. A global community of people who develop and improve things together.
Basically everyone is invited to participate. Many people would also like to participate, but don't know how.
The German Informatics Society, the largest computer science professional association in the German-speaking world, founded the Open Source Software working group in 2022. This working group plans events to inform people about open source software and to motivate participants to get involved.
On February 13, 2023, the event "Supporting the Open Source Community? Yes gladly, but how? What are the possibilities to support the open source community (software, hardware, data) as an individual or as an organization?" In the coming days I will inform about the event in further posts.
Computer scientist Michel Pecchia had the first contribution. He identified 3 categories of support for open source: using, funding and collaborating.
Support through use
Using open source software increases its relevance and also its market share in society and leads to more digital sovereignty. Using open source software also represents the easiest way to get started. On the topic of digital sovereignty, another post will also follow.
Besides open source software, there is of course also open source hardware. Here, too, dependencies can be reduced.
Then there is also open content (e.g. Creative Commons licensed), open data (Open Data) and here transparency leads to better collaboration and accelerates research. For example, during the Conron pandemic there was a release of at least one open source vaccine. This allowed vaccines to be produced without having to pay import costs.
What was new to me, and what I learned from Michel's contribution, is that there are other ways in which the open source idea is used. For example, in Open Source Seeds, which targets the sharing of free seeds.
Support through funding
Open source associations and open source projects can be identified here. In the case of the former, carrying advertising, donations and also membership fees can be assigned. If one wants to support an open source project, crowdfunding and microcrowdfunding is a good entry point. There might also be a remunerated option for the further development of program parts. If you are an enterprise, using open source enterprise solutions might also work well. For example, something like Owncloud as local storage and much more. If you want to support projects like Wikipedia, you should also consider that these are also based on other projects, such as PHP or MySQL. Thus, a potential donor should also think about it.
Support through participation in the organization / associations
Many local open source groups offer a quick entry and like-minded people to exchange. Here one could become active in the region and organize e.g. information booths.
Voluntary activities would be e.g. translating and proofreading of documentations of any coleur. Events can be organized. The web presence should be kept up to date, whereby one can also contribute here. So far, I have considered the topic of design to be marginal. But in fact, an appealing flyer, infographic or website article is the first thing a potential user sees.
Michel divided the topic block into 1.) collaboration on the organization itself and 2.) collaboration on the actual project.
Support through collaboration in the open source project
There is also a lot to do in the actual project. Similar to an organization, meetings have to be organized, workshops, conferences and events have to be prepared. If the used software causes problems, bug reports and feature requests are welcome, because it leads step by step to a more stable and gladly used software.
Then layouts and design guides for different areas have to be produced. Art for t-shirts and logos are also very welcome.
The topic of documentation is necessary, but not enjoyable for everyone. If you enjoy documentation, join a project and help out there. Many projects offer newsletters to keep the community up to date. Even though this can be very time consuming, it is worth it and leads to a better perception of the project. Tutorials and project documentation and their translations round out the possibilities.
Many projects offer communication channels that need moderators. If you like to help, share your experience with the (other) newcomers in the project.
If you are past the stage of just writing bug reports, but also know how to fix the bugs, then you can handle open issues. If you are not that far yet, it is possible to increase the quality of a bug report by asking more questions and thus save time for the developers. The implementation of desired new features is also important and regularly leads to happy faces in the community. Then, of course, there are tools and tests where experience is welcome.
As also written in the previous section on organization, documentation (tutorials & mentoring) is also important here.
In projects where data plays a big role, one could help to collect images, GPS and GIS data and keep them up to date. For example, OpenStreetView offers everyone the opportunity to improve the map material in his home town or around. The entire database is available to everyone at the same time.
Finally, a piece of information on the side. As mentioned above, there are also open source projects outside of software development. For example Open Source Plant Varieties, Open Source Standards or Open Source Design House Building Kits.
Concrete examples of support possibilities
At this point Michel brought concrete examples. For example, the Free Software Foundation is happy about designers and people who like to organize lectures or booths.
The Open Source Guidelines are a project that provides individuals, communities and companies with information on how to run or contribute to an open source project.
With weeklyOSM the OpenStreetMap community informs about its progress. Co-writers and translators could make a big difference here.
Wikipedia could serve as an example for the "data, free knowledge" area. Pick pages where you are knowledgeable and share your knowledge.
The Open Source DIN SPEC 3105 project is working on ways to publish DIN SPECs under an open source license.
The last example mentioned here is the open source WikIHouse, a modular construction system designed for the design, manufacture and assembly of buildings.
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