Advantages of being open
People from other professional fields have always asked why is that the tech community is a closed one. This relies on obvious situations for them such as few women involved in the field, introverted people working with code or the poor social skills defining a lot of us. But there are non-obvious and high impact actors that can defend this as an open and transparent community.
Take the Internet as a reference, such a powerful engineering artefact that grew unstoppably because of the decision to share the protocols and letting anyone plug into the network following the right standards. Nowadays anything is connected to the Internet using different tools, allowing anyone to share whatever they want.
As a company, we have faced challenges since the beginning of our existence. Many of those have been solved thanks to the tech community: an open and wide group of people sharing knowledge and tools with the world for learning and collaboration purposes. We couldn’t be what we are today if we wouldn’t had that access on the past. So do we today. We care about being kind and open with the world. Letting others see what we are doing in a transparent way had provided more benefits than we thought. Besides, we realized during this involvement it doesn’t matter to share our work, because the difference is provided by those behind the execution of that open knowledge.
There are no tangible or explicitly measurable insights about the benefits of open source, such as ROI in specific distribution channels, impact with a target market, among others; what we know is that the mantra behind our core value of Kindness can derive into different advantages that provide unique long-term benefits.
Passion for the things we do
What else can have the same amount of passion in the work you do than giving back to the community something they can use or talk about? Being passionate about what you do is to talk about that, it doesn’t matter whether the weekend, vacations or if you are on a date. Passion is what drives the craziest but heavier advancements in the world.
Sharing the tools, sharing your code or design is a way to talk to others in every single moment, letting them know you care about technology, creativity and collaboration.
A new distribution channel
My co-founder is the author of a book: APIs on Rails, a piece that was started for fun, but also because there were many development fields in the existing sources to learn the construction of a Service Architecture on Rails. Taking advantage of open tools, and communities that share knowledge in different ways, he was able to distribute the book in electronic and printed format. This book has been a back-up of our knowledge in the Internet Century were everything, eventually, is going to be connected.
A cover letter to our leads, a training tool to our hires, and a passionate presumable element that has attracted attention from many people willing to know more about this topic and about the company.
I am not saying we do not collaborate already inside the company, but sharing what you do demands another type of collaboration. An open, decentralized, distributed and very organised core team needs to be behind every commit, every release or version. Collaborating with people around the globe, speaking many different languages and following a personal standard on a project can be a hassle, but if you attract the right people because of the existance of that project, collaboration will happen as a matter of fact. Without the existence of Github, Bitbucket or many other Distributed Revision Control Systems this would be harder to imagine, but now it’s easier.
Understanding collaboration means to work with new or existing members in a organised and distributed way, no matter the project.
Individual growth and recognition
We try to encourage every member from our team to share something with the world. That can be in the form of a blog post, a picture in our social networks, but most importantly in open source tools and open design within the creative communities. We had a problem trying to convince the team to share those in the /icalialabs namespace within the different networks. For instance, how can you encourage any team member to publish an open source tool on behalf of the company rather than using their own username?
The answer is simple but was complex to define. When you share a tool on your own, you need to define a strategy to distribute it, to let other people know about your work and connect with them constantly. When you get the support from your company, the company can’t say no to use a tool made by a team member. Our company has the commitment to use it, grow it and share it with the world. The impact of having an open source tool in the namespace of the company can have a greater reach than alone, just to say that a company is the sum of every individual in the company. Of course there’s going to be personal growth, and that’s something attractive for anyone collaborating in open source. Nowadays many huge companies ask for your Github account to see your open projects. With the backup of the company’s reach, satisfaction and recognition can be higher.
We have faced some constrains with a couple of clients rejecting the possibility of sharing any kind of design with the world. This is completely understandable when there’s a board, investors, intelectual property involved. In contrast, projects where bureaucracy doesn’t happen, are willing to share those efforts and the results have been grateful. People within open online communities get inspiration in many ways, but they are also looking to discuss, comment and give feedback to anyone sharing there. It is obvious talent is around the world, working in different products and teams, but at the same time they are connected with anyone because of the Internet. The possibility to receive feedback from any expert or passionate about the work you are doing help you grow and add more value to what you are building.
When we released Furatto, we published the link in Hacker News a Friday. In less than 3 hours we received comments from 3 different front-end developers involved in huge and interesting projects such as Pure CSS. The conversation helped to realize the improvements and question ourselves about the project itself.
Couple of weeks ago we had some meetings with tenure people involved in very different software industries, products and procedures, defending the way that certifications were cool because of the backup that gives you for being supported by a monster such as Oracle or IBM.
We do the contrary, we are not attached to certifications or closed source tools. Technology is improving and changing every day. Being closed to one tool that is backed by a 3-year-certification document can be dangerous and toxic for the progress our company needs because of the high acceleration happening in the tech field. All the open source communities are aware of this, that’s why we can see new languages, frameworks —options in the end, that let anyone to enter the tech jungle and fight for a different goal and propose whatever they want. They can leverage the same as the big fishes. Advances come from being open.
For this specific advantage, I would like to cite what I read from How Google Works:
“Open-sourcing something says, in effect, that we are committed to growing a platform, an industry, and an ecosystem as a whole. It lets everyone see that the playing field is level, with no unfair advantages conferred upon any particular player. Removing this suspicion of unfair advantages helps growth”. (Schmidt & Rosenberg, 2014)
Credibility on the company
Being a Latin American company competing in a world wide market is very hard, and even harder when you see how difficult is to attract talent and fight against the numbers revealing the poor amount of engineers and tech people involved in LaTam as the region with the least offer of profiles. Nevertheless, developing tools to reuse and reduce time-2-market in our products and services has been a reference of the expertise we have compared to other companies. By showing to leads and clients the quality of code and vision on specific tools we let them believe that we defend what we sell, what we do.
A couple of actual clients have been engaged with our exposed code in our Github account, or looking at our design style in Dribbble. Sharing what you do everyday will help others realize your potential as a team.
Exceptions can exist thinking about opening something to the world. Main factors involved while deciding to open something can be the quality you are looking on the tool, legal restrictions from customers, or the 10x better-factor advantage against any other tools or products available. Nevertheless, we don’t regret having Kindness as one of our core values, inspiring our team to be committed to share and be open sharing with the community and the world.