Why you should contribute to open source projects

Open source can change your life. It has changed mine with Corcel, an open source project I started in 2013 that changed who I am, and how I live.

The first title I gave to this post was How open source can change your life for the better. That was a good title too, but I think the main reason I wrote this post is to encourage you to start (or continue) working and contributing to open source projects, that’s why the title changed.

You can think: “open source cannot give me any money”. The fact is: directly no, maybe a few. Contributing to (or creating) open source projects show your code to the world. And that’s the point! It’s when your life starts changing, believe me.

My life started changing in 2013, and because of open source. In that year I was running my company, an advertising agency. I was the one responsible for all the web and development fields. Actually, the company started in 2007 and I was in the heart of the development team for many years.

In the end of 2012, we started working on a client’s portal, made with WordPress. The first idea was to rewrite the entire portal in Laravel, but after some look, we decided to go with a very different approach. We decided to continue using the WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) – basically its administration panel -, then starting a new application on the public side (front-end) using Laravel. Here is when Corcel started to born.

I decided then to extract some code I used in the project development and encapsulate them in Composer package and push to GitHub. It was the first Composer package I created in my life.

When creating Corcel I had to learn how to create a Composer package, and maily, how to use GitHub.

2013 ended. 2014 ended. 2015 ended. Corcel was just one more Composer package on Packagist, nothing more. On Jan 18th, 2016, Corcel had only 270 stars on GitHub and just a few hundred of downloads.

Source: http://www.timqian.com/star-history/#jgrossi/corcel

The Watershed

Everything started changing because of this post: https://laravel-news.com/wordpress-and-laravel. It was written in January 2016, and since then Corcel began to be known, used and popular. BTW, thank you Eric L. Barnes 😉

That was when my life started changing. I started reaping the first fruits of the open source. Some months later, on May, Corcel had 600 stars on GitHub, 122% more than January. It was Tuesday morning when I received an email from a web agency based in London, UK. They were using Corcel internally and were looking for a new developer for the team. I got my first job offer to work remotely.

Unfortunately, I declined, due to I was running my own company, I had a partner, customers, projects, etc. But that offer stayed in my mind for days. It was time for a game-changing. It was time for a life move. And I did.

I always wanted to work remotely but running the company I run, like we were running, that was impossible, for many reasons. I decided to leave the company I had founded in 2007. It was 9 years breathing that air, working in the same place every single day. It would be hard, but I had to to do that.

I started applying for remote jobs on the Internet. A lot of them. Really, a lot. Of course, I had more experience with PHP, and then my focus was on the language. I was selected for a few interviews, but one email message surprised me:

Olá Junior, you definitely convinced me with the “Corcel PHP” reason 🙂

I started getting much more responses, and everyone mentioned Corcel as a good reason why they contacted me. I got through some interesting interviews, to work with WordPress, PHP in general and specifically Laravel.

According to an interviewer – that became a friend of mine later – usually, a remote job listing gets between 300 and 400 applications. They usually contact between 10 and 15 to start the hiring process, so only 3% of the applicants were invited to the process, and open source contributions were a very important differential.

Since May, 23th 2016 I’m working as a full-time remote employee for InterNACHI – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors –, a US-based company, and I’m working with PHP and Laravel. I continued receiving some responses for applications I did some months earlier, made some friends, improved my networking.

The Benefits

In my opinion, when you contribute to open source you have what to be shown. In other words, it’s a great opportunity to show your work before anything else. If someone just found you on the web, you have something to share, to show how is your working way.

Thinking in a normal hiring process you would do your first interview, then a development test, then more interviews, and the final offer. With open source, you are some steps ahead, because even in your first interview someone from the company already saw what you did, how you write. So if the company is looking for someone good with automated tests, go ahead and have some tests written in your GitHub, for example, contribute to a repository.

The most important point I think is when you start getting feedback and contribution from the community. This makes you feel good, believe me. Every day I’m learning something new with someone’s PR (Pull Request), and that’s the point, you grow as a developer, and you grow as a human.

Hey, are you the guy that created that project? Thank you so much, you save me a lot of time! ❤

And don’t forget how you improve when working with open source. I started blogging in 2011, and I have no words to say how my English has improved since then. I don’t have English as a native language, but Portuguese, once I’m from Brazil. So due to the open source I started having contact with people from all over the world, and always in English.

Conclusion

Like I said before, you possibly won’t make money directly from the open source, but you can start today and get the results in the future. Talking about open source is not only talking about the code, is talking about opportunities and how the world is changing.

Open source has changed who I am. I’m a so much better developer since I started Corcel, and I’m sure I still have a lot to learn with it and with the community. It’s something you will never stop to do. And that’s a good point.

Open source has changed how I live since I work remotely every single day. I can work from home, from a coworking office, from a coffee shop. I have more time to stay with my family, less stress, and better focus. I like this.

Finally, open source has changed my life, and I strongly believe if this is what you want to, you can do that. You don’t have to create a package, or a project, you can contribute to existent projects. The community needs your help. Write a test case for an untested feature or an uncovered scenario, this is a great opportunity to learn and improve yourself.

I really hope this post encourages you to start showing your code to the world. If you don’t have one, go ahead and create a GitHub account. Get back to the last projects you have worked in and I’m sure you will find good code to share. I can’t say how or when you will start reaping the open source fruits, but I can ensure you will.


I would like to thank Eric L. Barnes for the WordPress & Laravel post. That was the watershed for me. He even doesn’t know that, but thank you, Eric.

Also, I’d like to thank Chris Morrell and all InterNACHI’s coworkers, the company I work for, who believed me since the beginning. Thank you so much!

Published by

Junior Grossi

Senior PHP Engineer with TDD focus. Husband & Dad. Creator of Corcel PHP. Organizer of PHPMG. Software Engineer at InterNACHI. Loves coffee and music.

10 thoughts on “Why you should contribute to open source projects”

  1. Happy for you mate! Have you ever thought about leaving for better job opportunities elsewhere? I’m in Haiti and sometimes I think about the same things. Being recognized internationally, find remote jobs, but even better, quit the current place and go live elsewhere for a better career and possibly a better life.

    Thanks for the article! I’ve used Corcel in one of my projects. It’s a nice package, it lacks some features, but it was great to have it in my toolset.

    1. Hi Jean, thanks for your words and feedback! Yes, I consider moving from Brazil, not only for my career but mainly for the quality of life, I think. 😉And about Corcel, if you have any suggestion, let’s talk about them, I’d have the pleasure to listen. Thanks for commenting! Welcome! 😎

  2. Hi Man, congratulations for your contribution with Open Source projects and to share it with your blog.

    I am Brazilian too, and, I am a user from opensource projects since 2002, php developer since 2010, but, I haven´t any contribution with code or opensource projects. This your post are a motivation for me start contribute, because, i have very interested with a remote job.

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