Why do I Publish Source Code?

Warning! Some information on this page is older than 5 years now. I keep it for reference, but it probably doesn't reflect my current knowledge and beliefs.

Jan 2012

I like Open Source. Not in the way that some like Linux and hate Windows, but I just believe that to read or use a piece of code is often more helpful than to read only an abstract description of some algorithm. That's why I publish source of my personal projects. I can see many passionate programmers - like these from Warsztat - are not so enthusiastic to disclosing their sources. I was wondering why and here I'd like to share my thoughts on this subject, in hope I convince some of you to make your personal projects Open Source :)

First, I can hear an argument sometimes telling that you are ashamed of showing your code because you think it is bad. My answer to this can only be: you are probably wrong. Do you really believe that the "professional", "commercial" code inside companies - which is usually evolving for years, maintained by many people, modified to reflect constantly chaging requirements and written in a rush - is better than yours? Not necessarily. Or maybe you think that your code would be better if you put lots of additional comments in it, code in more object-oriented fashion or use more design patterns? Again, I don't think so.

You may also be afraid that someone looks at your code and tells that you are a beginner? Well, you may be right but... what's wrong with that? You code shows the level of your skill in programming and you shouldn't avoid showing who you really are. Remember that on the Internet there is always more beginner programmers who can learn from you than the advanced ones that could potentially make fun of your code. If you are afraid of headhunters searching the Internet, please keep in mind that when applying for a job, you may be asked to send samples of your code anyway - just as I was.

Second argument I can hear is: "But it's just my project, I don't want to make it Free Software developed by the community like Linux". That's a stereotype. Opening your sources doesn't mean the project cannot be developed by only you and will automatically be modified by some others programmers. Such thinking is just like when I hear somebody telling that programming in C++ means you extensively use OOP, while never use global variables, macros or printf. I've never received an email with a patch or other proposal for particular change in my code or collaboration in developing of my project. Even for my projects that are GNU GPL, I only get suggestions that I should add or modify some features.

If so, is it worth publishing source code anyway? My practice clearly answers yes, but not to start a community open source project. I sometimes receive emails asking about a piece of code for an algorithm I've decribed on my webpage, but I didn't provide code for. Programmers from around the world are constantly challenged with tasks they haven't done before, whether at work or at university. Their problems can be similar to yours. They Google for solutions. Your small niche place in the Web or a post on the forum can be of great help for such people.

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