As in life, the concept of synergy is a magical goal in software development wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Open source communities are a living expression of the saying. Software that has spawned its own community benefits from the input, experience and ideas of others, contributions that may help create something that could never be achieved by one person alone.
Making source code available so that users and developers can review and suggest modifications and enhancements has a ton of benefits for both the software owner and the user. One of the main benefits of open source software is the existence of open source communities – online forums and chatrooms where developers come together and share their experiences with particular programs.
If you need to really explore a program’s functionalities, want to brush up on your coding skills, or are looking to create an open source program yourself, an existing open source community is a great place to start.
Below we look at the three open source communities with high rates of active user participation and how they evolved their platforms.
WordPress has become so massive that it is estimated it powers 25% of the web. The platform that began it’s life as primarily a blogging space has mapping, video and enterprise commerce capability. Five hundred sites are created daily, and at the time of writing it has developed over 47,000 plugins.
A big part of this success is attributed to its community, who have been very active from the beginning. Wordpress has a really great structure in place, allowing for 14 different ways that users can contribute to the platform. One of the real strengths of the community is its diversity. It’s not just developers, but bloggers and business owners contribute to it as well, so they’ve got feedback on a number of levels, which creates systems with a really rich and satisfying user experience.
Moodle may sound like an adorable, inner-city dog breed, but in the Learning Management Software space, one commentator says that it’s the ‘gorilla in the room’ (presumably because it’s large and begs to be noticed). Moodle is primarily concerned with e-learning and training. Many universities around the world use Moodle (including UNSW, ANU and La Trobe in Australia) and it’s attracted the attention of big organisations like Cisco and IBM (who use it for training purposes). It’s got a range of really cool features and over 1200 plugins sorted into 21 different themes.
What makes Moodle so special is that the range allows you to be very specific about how you can customise your e-learning system. It also has a very hands-on community forum and well-documented processes, so if you get stuck, finding a solution tends to be very simple.
Github, is known as the ultimate ‘geek-rave site.’ Created by Linux’s Linus Trovalds, it’s the largest open source community in the world, where you can work on millions of projects ranging from:
- 3D Modelling
- Productivity tools
- Data visualisation
But Github provides more than a base for tech lovers to come and share their knowledge, its forums attracts so much talent that one commentator said that it offers a glimpse into a very exciting time and place in history: ‘If I say that Github captures the zeitgeist of the programmer world of the 2010s, I am thus saying that Github is at the absolute core of the software development universe.’
Thinking of joining an open source community?
As french philosopher Gilles Deleuze is famous for saying, ‘technology is social before it's technical.’ The best technology isn’t the technology used by a few geeks in their tech-castles, it’s the technology that’s intuitive, functional and beautiful, the technology that can be used by anyone from a developer to your grandma, that shapes the world. As the above examples demonstrate, when you expose a project to a wide range of views, then you can end up with something that evolves beyond your wildest imaginings.
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