I don’t usually take much interest or stock in anything the ZD family of sites put out, but there was a decent piece I read tonight, entitled Ten things you can do to help open source. It’s an interesting read, and I’ve read similar articles in the past. I always like these kinds of articles because too many people assume that all you can do is code. Well, development is good, but there are a whole host of other things that can be done too. His list, in short, is:

  1. Use popular open-source software (even if you’re not using Linux)
  2. Make sure open source is considered as an option when your business specifies new systems (obviously this is applicable to very few people — not too many people have the clout in their workplace to make sure anything is an option)
  3. Join online open-source discussion forums (mailing lists are good here too)
  4. Learn to code (well, learning is ok… what you do with it is what matters and this is no more helpful to open source as it is to proprietary source)
  5. Help document and debug (this is essential, I think — for myself, I’m not much of a programmer, but I do have some mad documentation skills that have been put into effect many times)
  6. Go to open source events (this is good — show support when you can and as often as you can, and face-to-face real-life support is much more meaningful than some online poll)
  7. Put your money where your mouth is (this also is very important, and too many people figure because something is open source that no money should be or needs to be involved… but open source developers need to eat just as much as the proprietary guys do)
  8. Look around for other ways to use the open-source model (he notes wikipedia here, and while this is an interesting idea, I’m not too sure on the practicality of it, or how contributing to wikipedia helps, say, the apache or php or kernel developers)
  9. Report bugs — don’t just complain about them (this is more important than most people realize… if you whine about a problem and never report it, how is it supposed to get fixed?)
  10. Think things through, and be honest (I think he should have stayed with “9 things”… this one is a bit hokey, but ok)

Anyways, some of these ideas are new (but wierd) and some of them are old and just as relevant (and requiring reminding as the whole OSS steamboat chugs forward picking up new folks every day) today as they were 8-9 years ago when I started getting involved.

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