Why you should open source your next pet project

After looking into my github account, lot of people used to ask me why I open source my pet projects, especially after looking at my streak at github (my current streak is at 52 days 😉 ) the frequency of the question has increased.

I used to come up with an answer by combining these words randomly (passion, show off, free, rebel, linux, anti-Microsoft, license). But today, I realized that there is another (more important) reason why you should open source your (pet) projects.

Your project might have a longer shelf life than your interest in the project and in some cases longer than your life itself.

You might lose interest in the project, but if you have open sourced it, then there might be someone else who will continue to maintain it. But instead if you had just kept it in your hard drive, then it will just become part of the cosmic dust.

Abandoned projects

I have read about many examples where projects are continued to be maintained by other people, when the original creator has lost interest. _why is one famous example. When he suddenly went offline in Aug 2009 people immediately started creating mirrors of his projects and even though he is no more (in the online world) his projects are still being maintained actively.

None of this would have happened if he had not open sourced his code.

Arduino Makefile

Let’s talk about the project that thought me this.

Sometime back, I came across a post which explained how you can program Arduino from command line by using a makefile. I immediately got hooked and started using it when even I was working on Arduino sketches.

Soon I found out a couple of issues and submitted pull requests. Some of my pull requests were accepted and others weren’t. While browsing through the issues and pull requests of the project in github, I found that there were lot of other people who have also contributed various patches to the project. It also seemed that the original author has stopped doing any development or answering pull requests.

I started to consolidate all pull requests and patches from various forks into a common fork and even updated the readme file expressing my desire that one day all these changes would get into the main repo 🙂

Fast forward a couple of months.

Last week, I was surprised to receive an email from the original author, saying that he has lost interest in the project and whether I would be interested in maintaining the project going forward. I happily accepted and he transferred the repo to my account, after I merged all my changes back into the main repo.

None of this would have been possible if he didn’t choose to open source the project initially and also let go the project when he lost interest.

Thanks to Github

Ohh, by the way, I should also mention that some of it was possible only because of github. If github wasn’t there, then it would had been difficult for me to find and consolidate other forks and he also wouldn’t have noticed my fork or the effort that I was spending on the project.

Also, the recent addition of redirects by github made the repo transfer really seamless.

So remember to open source your pet projects by at least uploading them to github. Because you may lose interest in the project some day, but the project might still continue to live long after that.

Happy Open sourcing 😉

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