The Philanthropist Myth
The coming week, our office will be invaded by 30-odd developers from all over Europe. They will eat our cheese, drink our beer and keep us up late. Why do we put up with this?
At Four Digits, we have always worked with Open Source software. When we started using Plone, we soon got involved in its community. We have made many lasting contributions, making sure things got better not just for our customers, but for everyone.
We went to programming events (called Sprints) and conferences. We started hosting sprints ourselves. By that time we were an established name in our community. We even had the honour to host a Plone Conference, which is something we're still proud of.
Did we make money doing this? No. Was it required for membership of the foundation governing the software? No. Was it a random act of kindness? Well, maybe in part.
Many people think of programming as an excercise in pure abstract thought, best performed in seclusion.The reality is that our requirements are dictated by the outside world, and that some challenges can't be fixed by one person. So we have to discuss, to decide how we can help our customers in the best possible manner. Sprints and conferences provide a unique opportunity to discuss, to plan, and to create a common understanding.
It's also the place and time where a contributor can physically experience the excitement of building something, of being part of a team that makes great software. It's fun! And fun is an important part of work.
All told, these sprints and conferences got us, and our customers, a lot more than we have ever spent on them.
When we first started using Wagtail we loved it. Soon enough, we thought of stuff that would make it even cooler. So we decided to dip into its community. We met lots of nice people who were happy to have us on board. So now we're organising a sprint for that.
This means two weeks' worth of work spent on preparing and the event itself. Putting together a programme, website, getting people involved, changes to office setup, and one week of being a good host for our guests. It's an investment we gladly make and we intend to enjoy every minute of it.
Of course, we like the idea of "giving something back to the community". But it's mainly about supporting a vibrant community, to keep our software alive, kicking and competitive.
Feel free to buy us a beer anyway!