Lee Willis

Karma

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One of my colleagues made a comment the other day.

You must get a lot of karma for all of these patches you send…

I found this quite interesting. I’ve always been a fan (In a non-religious sense) of the concept of karma.¬†Google helpfully provided this definition:

The sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

For me – I’ve always believed that if you have good intentions, and treat people well, then that will be rewarded.

My father-in-law has studied behaviour extensively, and I’ve had many a conversation with him about psychology, and behaviours. I recall a long conversation about altruism (doing good things for others motivated not by personal gain), and while I’m sure many people see Open Source in general as altruistic. For me though, that’s not the case.

So, what about me and Open Source. A brief history:

  • I first encountered Open Source in University. One of my classmates was a Debian Maintainer and introduced me to it. I was immediately in love with the concept. Not because it was free (as in $0) – but because it was open. I could change, extend and fix it if I needed to.
  • I got involved in WordPress when I built a site for my wife.
  • Then I built a second site for a family member. Encountering a number of bugs in the plugins I was using, I got involved in patching them. I didn’t want to have the hassle of continually applying those fixes – so I submitted them back to the project.¬†Since this wasn’t a paid project, this also seemed like a good way of giving back (good karma – right?), so I made sure to make any fixes I made be useful in the general sense rather than just for me, and off they went.
  • I also spent time in the support forums identifying other issues and trying to provide fixes for them. After all I knew I would be called upon if any problems happened, so it made sense to me to head them off at the pass.
  • Shortly afterwards I started selling WordPress plugins. I’ve always tried to make sure that some of the time I spend “doing that” (it’s not my day-job) is spent giving back to free projects, such as plugins I’m extending, or WordPress core itself.

So, I love Open Source because it’s open and I can change, bend it, fix it, improve it. That’s empowering.

I contribute to Open Source because it makes my life easier to do that than the alternative. That’s hardly the “altruistic” angle that people often spout about Open Source (Geeks building stuff for free), but it’s honest.

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