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dAVE Inden
dAVE Inden

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What Whitney Houston taught me about Open Source Software

Cover image by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash.

It's no secret that I am a fan of Whitney Houston. I will happily argue that she is one of the greatest singers and performers ever. One of my favorite songs by her is "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."

But, outside of her amazing talent her music has actually helped me to better understand open source software. With Hacktoberfest upon us and in full swing I was reminded of how an open source project is a lot like a song. Though there may be an obvious individual working at the center of it all there are many pieces coming together to create this thing loved by many. We can easily get caught up in Whitney singing her heart out about wanting someone to dance with, but without the backup singers coming in with "dance" right on time in the bridge before the last chorus the song just isn't the same. Without their contribution the song would be very different.

This is a lot like open source software where one or a few individuals are celebrated, rightfully so, for building this cool thing, but there are lots of other people in the background adding their work too. I often see tweets like this one:

I don't think anyone should downplay their contribution to a project, especially a documentation one. Looking in the thread on that tweet I see many others feel the same way. Just because you can't add new code to a project doesn't mean your contribution isn't important or valuable to others. Non-code contributions to a project in the form of documentation or filing an issue should be celebrated just as much as adding a new feature or fixing a nasty bug. In some cases there are lots of people using a particular piece of open source software and what you add could be incredibly valuable, even if they don't know it, to many of them.

So, if you've been thinking about contributing to a project I strongly encourage you to go for it. Remember it doesn't have to be a code contribution to be useful or extremely helpful. The Hacktoberfest home page has a huge list of projects looking for contributors. Check it out and I bet you can find something where you could help.

If you have contributed to something or are working on a contribution I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Was it your first Pull Request to an open source project? Was this your first time taking part in Hacktoberfest? What did you end up making as your contribution? Let me know! :)

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