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Rajvir Singh for ByteSlash

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What is Open Source Debt? And How to repay it?

If you are a developer, then I would say you're in debt to unknown people. Don't worry it is good debt and there's nothing to be worried about whilst you repay it. But, yea, it is a never-ending one.

Let me explain

What is Open Source

First of all, what is open source?, and I would assume you know it. But if you are getting into this new world of programming so for that, here's the explanation.

Open-source software is computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner.

Those were the first lines I could find when searching for open source.
So now you know what open source is so let's talk about the good never-ending debt you are in.

What is Open Source Debt?

Let me break this down into few pieces

Why do people create things for free?

Open source is all about accessibility for everyone, with ease.

I am good with examples so let me show one example of me.
I am working on this project named Elecrue. I started this project and made it public for two reasons, I created it for my own because I was looking for a good starter code for electron-react in js but I didn't found one so I created one myself, the second I wanted to repay my open-source debt as React, Electron, Vue is open source. And the third and bit selfish one, Is that I wanted to beef up my resume.

By doing so, I helped a lot of other developers who were having the same problem, now they can use it to create other things to make more amazing things open source, like Evan You did by creating Vue open-source, and now hundreds of hundreds of developers and companies use it to create more amazing things. In this great loop, everyone makes their contributions.

How to repay Open Source Debt?

Now you understood the debt, now let's talk about the ways you can repay it.
There are many ways of repaying this debt, let's talk about some that are most common ways

If you want someone to give you something good then you need to give something good too

  1. By writing quality code for a problem and then sharing it:-
    As the statement itself explains, You should just do like me or Evan You, write a code for a problem or a fun project that you think will both make your resume good and will help someone

  2. By Educating others:-
    Another way is to educate others. There are many ways to do this, Like creating tutorials on youtube, writing blogs, or making Github repositories for storing and sharing learning material like IoT Course from Microsoft (which I am learning IoT from).

  3. By Helping Others:-
    Open Source is all about helping each other, so if you happened to find any bug in your favorite library or framework, then create an issue on its repository. If you have a solution for that bug, make a pull request on it. By doing so you are helping yourself and others, And it will add a big pulse to your resume.

  4. By Sponsoring the creator or project:-
    I used Evan You as an example a lot of times to let's use him as the last example too. If you have seen his Github profile and Vue Github Page then you would have noticed that there is an option to sponsor a project or the developer, it means you can pay the developer or the project via Github to backup developer. As the project grows large like Vue it needs a lot of maintenance so often developers don't have the time or energy to maintain the project as there is a lot of work and time they need to pour in. So the people or the companies who uses the project, pays the developer a small amount so the developer keep maintaining the project

As October is coming up, there is a month-long celebration called Hacktoberfest, to promote open source. I think it is a good way to remember to repay your open-source debt. To learn about it more check out their website:-

That's it, I hope I explained well this great debt that never ends for good, If you liked it then share this article, If not then don't forget to give me feedback so I can improve myself.

Have a good day,
Rajvir Singh

Top comments (10)

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

Yeah Alexander, I can feel that, takes alot of time, But I think it is a landing page for your repo so don't forget to polish it up. And I liked your view towards Open Source as there are many perspectives about open source, as it is obvious, as Open Source itself is pretty wide field of topic.

And don't forget to share your sweet project with me!
Thanks for the time you gave to me,
Have good day

michaeljkelly profile image
Mike Kelly

There’s another form of OSS debt I originally thought you might be talking about when I saw this article and it’s quite common. It happens when a dev in say 2017 finds an OSS package to use in a project because it solves a problem — say it’s an image tool like FFMPEG ( Works great, the dev moves on to other problems. Fast forward a few years — ffmpeg working great so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? But meanwhile…there have been many updates to ffmpeg, fixing bugs, including known security bugs. Because it’s been 4 years since you’ve updated, updating may be quite a task — the interface may have changed, and of course you have to test that all your use cases of ffmpeg still work — and you DID write automated tests for those back in 2017, right?

This is where open source software is free as in “free puppies” not as in “free beer” — you have to care and feed it. That’s another example of OSS debt.

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

Yeah Mike, thats is also a duty to take care of, as Often myself make issues on github repos about updating the repo or make the repo archive as you can see in one of mine issues I created on github
I will say it is hard to maintain the project, but if project is large enough to back the developer, then it is great, but often times it is hard to get at that level. So yeah it kinda becomes free pupies like.

Open Source is a wide subject, and constists of mulitple factors. There are still alot of things that I am still exploring, I will surely update this article after year or so.

And Thanks for taking time to comment, and to read.
It really makes me happy alot that you gave your time to me.

astrit profile image

I love open source and I like to pay my debt by creating or contributing on OS projects.

For example I created this free OS icon library and it feels very rewarding that people appreciate it so much even tho is just icons.

Great article, thank you 🙏

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

Really nice github project you have astrit, I will surely use it in my personal use, thanks for it.
And Thanks for commenting, and to reading.
Have good day

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

I hope you all liked, And I also hope you found the easter egg that I hide, about telling two reasons but later got three.
Anyways, If you guys have any feedback about my writing style or presentation style, I will surely hear.
Have a good day and don't forget to pay your debt

eirinosfinley profile image

I can tell you that people are paying their debts all along their lives, my father told me that his family were paying debts regularly without any pause for more than 10 years. And I also want to admit that if those judges will die, their debts will bring so much happiness to their families, I can truly say that because I just read an article at Fit My Money, and thanks for telling how to repay those debts. I am a developer, and even I can’t do that)

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

ah.. Sorry but I am little confused what you are saying, but thanks for using your time to read and comment. I am always open for discussion. Let me know

deninpaulv profile image
Denin Paul

Great article mate!

rajvirsingh1313 profile image
Rajvir Singh

Wow, Your project is really nice one, I am not good at web servers in java to contribute, but I will surely use it in one of my projects