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Jay Gordon for Microsoft Azure

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Open Sourcing Your Creativity

People tend to associate open source simply with the software that's created. But what about other creative things that we come up with? Open source is more than just adding a license to code you write.

Open source means a community can use, modify, and share some form of intellectual property because it's been made open to the world. In the context of software, you can look to the model of successful open source projects that become absolute behemoths, like Red Hat Linux and Kubernetes.

More than code

But we can open source other things in life. We can use open source to promote our creativity and allow it to spread beyond just ourselves. For instance, Ashley Willis (McNamara) is an incredible member of the open-source community. Aside from her technical expertise, Ashley provides the tech community with artwork that has an open-source license. This means if you'd like to use one of the many gophers Ashley designed, you can if you follow the open-source license.

gopher mic drop by ashley mcnamara

Ashley used the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License for the artwork she provided the Go community. The artwork can not be used for commercial purposes (anywhere revenue is obtained, including advertising).

GitHub logo ashleymcnamara / gophers

Gopher Artwork by Ashley McNamara

Readme - Gopher Artwork

Based on original artwork from the amazing Renee French.

You can also find us on Twitter:



How can you use these things?

Download and unzip the and in there you'll find the PNG files. These files are ready to print and I suggest Sticker Mule for high-quality, color correct, stickers.

Special shout-out to:

Software used

The application used to create the Gopher Images is Adobe Illustrator.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This artwork can not be used for commercial purposes (anywhere revenue is obtained, including advertising).


By exercising the Licensed Rights (defined below), You accept and agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of this Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License ("Public License"). To the extent this Public License may be interpreted as a contract, You are granted the Licensed Rights in consideration of Your acceptance of these terms and conditions, and the Licensor grants You such rights in consideration of benefits the Licensor receives from making the Licensed Material available under these terms and conditions.

That means members of the community can enhance various projects they are working on with artwork created by Ashley as long as they promise not to use this artwork for financial gain. This kind of selflessness is the type of thing that's helped open-source initiatives become successful. People wanting to give, to help others.

Open sourcing my tunes

Recently I decided to start making a lot of videos for my work as an Azure Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. I didn't really want to get myself into any concerns around using copywritten music and started looking for free tracks. The internet has a lot of interesting royalty free music, but it really wasn't cutting it for me. I have an ear for what I like, and to be honest I wanted the right kind of sound for my presentations.

So I finally grabbed what I had: Garageband for Mac and sound loops along with some time. Once I came up with enough songs that I felt comfortable to share with, I put them on SoundCloud. After thinking about what I could do with them to help my community a tad like what Ashley's done, I decided to apply the same license to my tunes.

open source license on soundcloud

My hope is that the music I create can be part of someone else's podcast, video or whater format they want to use it in. I just want the creativity I have had to get into the hands of others. I have no financial benefit to doing this, I just simply want to contribute.

GitHub is a cool start

A lot of interesting projects can start on GitHub, the world's largest collaborative code website. Repositories exist for almost anything you can think of. People obviously share their code on GitHub, but tons of other interesting projects, like Ashley's gophers exist there.

There isn't just code to correct, there's tons of other parts that your help could be used. Maybe you find an open source list of really interesting things that are not code related at all.

The New York Times is well known for their investigative reporting, but did you know they are also an open source contributor on GitHub? Sure they provide tons of interesting apps and helpers for other developers, but they also open source information. In an age where we are concerned about the wellbeing and health due to COVID19, the New York Times open sourced US Coronavirus Data.

NY Times Github Repo License

What really makes this interesting to me is the fact that they specifically share all of the repositories in their GitHub account under the Apache 2.0 license. That means they took the time to consdier that all the projects hosted by the New York Times in GitHub are open source and ready for you to use and contribute to.

I am not the New York Times

You and I, we aren't the New York Times. We may feel a bit strange about even considering making a change to the data provided by the New York Times in this context. But it is open source...

Ashley Blewer in 2014 wrote about the intimidating nature of beginning to contribute to an open source project in a blog post. The idea that you are coming to improve, correct or even exclude things other people have created comes with a little bit of weight. What if your changes get rejected? What if your pull request isn't formed a particular way? What if you simply don't understand git?

Some thoughts on these types of concerns to put your concerns to rest:

  • open source requires empathy from both sides, explaining your changes is important
  • explaining your rejections in a kind way is also critical - use kindness
  • not every project fully explains how they want code submitted or changed, the same can be said for non-code projects.
  • You don't need to be a master at git to help contribute to a repo on GitHub.

GitHub has made it simpler for you to begin contributing to open source by providing you with education and simple tooling to get started.

edit and submit pr on github

You don't even need git experience as Ashley Blewer mentions, you can use the little "pencil" icon in the corner of the documents you'd like to modify in GitHub, create a pull request and submit it. No terminal, no installation and no configuring local SSH keys.

You will get there though, with help from a community of people on YouTube who open sourced knowledge around using git and GitHub.

Start contributing

You can start contributing or creating to open source projects, be them technical or creative, by just finding what interests you. Maybe you're a fan of the New York Yankees like me, and want to help this project to learn Core Graphics by using the Yankees roster! If you don't know anything about the graphics but can find issues in the roster data, maybe that's how you start! Maybe you think this recipe for overnight oats is missing something? Documentation somewhere have word misspelled?

Why not

Becuase I had some minor technical issues.
Because I wanted more control over my blog.
Becuase I am paying there, and still they have ads in my blog of which I get no profit share.
Becuase I like the idea of blogging like a hacker.
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

All I did in GitHub search was look for the misspelling of because with becuase. If I can fork the repository, create a new branch, propose changes and then have the creator merge them. It doesn't have to be code, it could be anything that you can help be part of.

If you'd like to start gitting around on Azure, you can sign up for this $200 promo!

See you in the repos!

Top comments (4)

chen_d_ravid profile image
Chen D. Ravid

This is such a great read. Loved the concept of open sourcing your creativity. There's another way of open-sourcing your time and talent btw. My team and I created a platform to help open source developers offer paid products and services on top of their free and libre code. Still in beta, but check it out:
Would love to hear what you think!

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Absolutely! Open source projects are often in dire need of non-code contributions: artwork, design, writing, sound effects, and music are the ones that come to mind immediately.

Speaking of which, if you're looking for an open source game to contribute exactly that on, my team is working on one this June, and we could sure use any creative work anyone's willing to contribute!

shaijut profile image
Shaiju T • Edited

Hi Can you answer my question. I am planning to participate in a Azure Hackathon. So I have idea to detect social distancing using phone camera in real time. Is there a way to do this using Azure Custom Vision AI OR is there some other Azure services for this purpose ?

phantas0s profile image
Matthieu Cneude

I love that. Very nice article.

If you want even more Gophers, Maria Letta has some in stock too!