Open Source Wednesday

This is a simple idea for every web development company (small or large) that owes its existence to open source software. I’m going to use Ruby on Rails as an example, but this is just as applicable to all of the other frameworks and tools we use daily.

On the first Wednesday of every month all of your developers work on bugs or needed features in one of the frameworks or tools that your company can’t live without.

The thinking is simple, and entirely self-serving:

A typical Software As A Service shop, or web development house is constantly depending on the quality of frameworks like Rails, but these frameworks are riddled with bugs and lack features that would really help.

No-one worth their paycheck would allow their own products to remain in a state like that, and yet we typically do nothing about those things in the frameworks and tools we are utterly dependent upon. Spending one day per month working on tools like these is not an altruistic move. It is a form of self defense. It makes your product stronger, and helps to guarantee that the tools you’ve built your company around will not fall by the wayside.

Improving the quality of the tools we all use helps to keep them popular, and popular tools get maintained and enhanced by more developers.

Contributing to the tools you work with regularly also helps build up your company’s reputation with the developers you most want to hire.

Open Source Wednesday helps your business, your customers, and your ability to attract the best talent.

How exactly is this done

Implementing Open Source Wednesday is simple, and there are a couple ways to approach it. One way is to simply point your developers at the issue tracker for the tool you want to contribute to and have them each choose a bug or feature request they think they can knock out in a day. Get together in the morning, make sure everyone’s working on something different, or intentionally joining forces, and set them loose.

If there’s a particular bug, or missing feature, that’s been impacting your daily work you might want to have some of your developers specifically attack that.

The thing to keep in mind here is to not take bugs that can’t be addressed in a day if you’re only going to work on them once a month.

Open Source Wednesday also serves as a useful change of pace. Letting your developers work on things that interest them outside of the tasks they’re faced with every other day helps to refresh the mind. And working in the different codebase is likely to teach them new techniques that can be applied to your business’ code.

What else?

That’s it. Go. Write something cool.

Why Wednesday?

I was looking for a day of the week that was somehow connected to the idea of “open source” and realized that “open” sounds like Odin who used to be known as Wōden and Wednesday is Odin’s day / Wōden’s day / Oden Dag/. Open -> Odwin -> Odwinsday -> Wednesday.

His name is related to ōðr, meaning “fury, excitation,” “mind,” or “poetry.” And what is code if not mind poetry? Wednesday seemed just about perfect.