One of the most admirable and enduring aspects of the software world is its commitment to open source software. These projects have variations but in general make the source code publicly available. Most typically they’re developed in a public open environment where skilled developers can readily view and update the code. Once completed open source products are usually offered for free to anyone who wishes to use them. Ambitious endeavors such as Gimp (alternative to Photoshop), OpenOffice (upgrade from MS Office), Linux (everything you hoped Windows would be), are all open source. An let’s not forget one of our favorites- WordPress, which is free open source, blogging software. Anybody with the desire and skill can download the entire source code used to build these products.
The business model for such projects might be considered questionable. Many of them use the donationware (aka begware), model to help compensate the idealistic techies that make them possible. One of the more successful models is to offer licensing so people can purchase support if they need it. Another option is to keep the source code free, and also provide hosted services for members who don’t want to deal with installation and maintenance. Or, in the truest meaning of the phrase ‘sell out,’ you can sell the entire product to the bad guy.
Whatever the purpose, be it profit or to make the software world a better place, businesses owe a lot to the open source community. I’ve always wondered how and where I might contribute to such a project though. It seems like the stuff of IRC chat rooms with Star Trek posters and potato chips strewn about. It turns out it’s not that hard to find. Bettercodes.org is a site that connects like minded open source developers and provides them the tools needed for their projects.
Once signed in Bettercodes allows you to do all of the following:
- Share your code snippets
- Post news or interesting links
- Ask questions or give the right answers
- Get connected with other coders
- Start or join development projects (2GB free code hosting based on GIT or SVN)
- Use their project management plug-in (still in beta)
- Join groups and discuss any and all topics related to development
For the open source developer it’s truly a remarkable find. As would be expected Bettercodes is released under the GNU public license such that people can reuse the (rather attractive) web design and code. Users are encouraged to contribute their suggestion or code to continue development of the site. Bettercodes itself is built upon WordPress.
Projects can be public, private, or hidden. Private means the project will be listed publicly but its content and activity will be kept hidden. Developers can request membership and once accepted will be able to view and access the project. Hidden projects aren’t listed and other contributors join by invite only. Once the project is created you can set milestones and tasks. Next is the fun part where you can set up your 2GB code repository. If this isn’t enough space you can apply for more. (Anyone building a project with a code base greater than 2GB, please contact me immediately!) Files can be uploaded to be shared amongst members. There’s also a timeline so everyone can view the tasks and milestones on a calendar.
Bettercodes is a site that stands for one of the greatest ideals of software- that software should be open source. The collaborative and public nature of these projects often leads to higher quality final projects. For many they contribute for the joy of making better software, unencumbered by the influence of business and profit margins. For all these projects, Bettercodes provides the tools and community for better open source development.