Free and Open Source

Open Source, Open Communities

Open source is really great. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. We’re all standing on the backs of giants. Think about it—if we hadn’t had the open-source movement, we’d all be paying thousands of dollars for access to mediocre software that would allow us to write slightly less mediocre software in carefully defined boundaries. I really love open source.

I also love the communities that form around open-source. I would definitely not know how to do what I do without the wholehearted support of the communities I’ve been a part of.


Communities thrive on the open exchanges of ideas, especially when they share their ideas with new people who question, challenge, and help forge clarity. New people find groups through a variety of ways, but they’re much less likely to join if there’s a cost involved.

Similarly, new people are less likely to seek out a new technology if there’s a cost to learn it.

Technology thrives on new ideas. Software itself is pure idea, and without a free and open exchange of that stuff it tends to wilt and die.


All of us have benefited from free and open software, we all owe a debt to the people who created it and to the communities who helped create those people. I work hard to keep the meetups I’m involved with free because I believe in freely giving back to the communities that have gotten me where I am. I don’t take sponsorships for The Ruby Hangout because my costs are minimal, and I make an effort to keep in-person event sponsorships limited to space, food, and other necessary costs.

The Arlington Ruby Users’ Group has a really amazing mentorship program. Experts freely give their time to help new people learn Ruby and progress in their careers. These are highly skilled people who could be billing a lot of money for their time giving it away for free. Because they believe in what I believe.

I heard about a meetup recently that charges for membership. There are blogs you can only read if you pay. And there’s at least one mailing list that you can only get on with money. The paid content in each of these is training material or access to the experts.

I don’t begrudge people their right to make money, but I also don’t like putting up barriers to content. These barriers, if enough come around (and there are decent monetary incentives to do so), could keep new people from joining our communities. That could stop the flow of new ideas into our discussions and could promote community rot.

Free Communities

I believe in free, open-source software and free, open-source ideas. I believe in community. I believe in growth and change and continual improvement through continual re-examination. I believe new people with new ideas are they only way to do that. Free communities are strong communities. Strong communities create amazing software that I want to use. Let’s all do what we can to strengthen our communities.

If you sell training or help to developers, please be awesome and do something like Avdi’s Postcard Offer. Offer new people a way to get in for free, help them out and they’ll help you out eventually. Or even better—spend time teaching new people for free. The Learn Ruby meetup in DC is a perfect example of people spending their personal time helping others level up. Let’s grow our community together!

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