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blogged: 2019.08.16

You are only paying a small part of your dev team

The software your team builds relies on a lot of code that is written by people outside your organisation. Are you paying them or thanking them even?

Building software changes all the time, for me it started with writing desktop apps that you would put on a floppy for someone to use. More than 20 years later I am working with a team at Virtual Vaults building SAAS by using PAAS and all the serverless goodies in Azure. Not only infrastructure and the delivery to the end user changed, but also the way we are able to continuously create, test and ship features with multiple people working closely together.

A big part of being able to build complex systems fast is because we can build on top of layers of abstraction. These days you just don’t build everything from scratch, you use services, packages. If you would look at your entire stack, ever wonder how little code that is executed, is actually yours? And how much of the external code is a library that you are paying for? I am betting that just like the software I am working on, most of the external software is pulled into your project as a package via NuGet or NPM. The majority of these packages have their source code in a Github project and have an open source license.

So the foundations of the software we are making money with is made available for free. Build something for free, who would do that?

Well, there are a few different groups doing this. First of all, enthusiast that started something just to learn or make their life a bit more easy. Some of them grow their career because of the project and become trainers, speakers or specialized consultants. We also see big tech companies like Google and Microsoft pushing a lot of open source, in a lot of cases it will connect people to their platform making it a solid strategy. But what about all the other businesses that build software, are we also giving back instead of only consuming and should we?

Yes we should, and some do! But how can we do that, not everyone at the office will be amused if we would fill our day with hobby projects and we certainly cannot just publish all our company’s source code to the world. There are however a few options to balance it out.

I wrote this because I believe that not everyone in (tech)companies is aware that their development teams and their products are powered by the vast amount of communities and heroes working on pet projects. If we increase contributing and sharing in our cultures I believe we can achieve even more.

* Note: There is a thing to be very aware of, don’t let your project become a security issue. If you share or contribute to an open source project you are also letting the world know that you are using it. Make sure nothing gets into the libraries you use that you do not want in there! But you are already checking that with everything you are using, right?