GitHub wants to help more people become open source contributors with a new initiative called Open Source Friday. As the name implies, the program encourages companies to set aside time at the end of the week for their employees to work on open source projects.
It’s designed to bolster the ranks of open source contributors at a time when many businesses rely on freely available projects for mission-critical applications. Open Source Friday isn’t just about getting businesses to offer their employees’ time as a form of charity, it’s also a way to improve key business infrastructure, according to Mike McQuaid, a senior software engineer at GitHub.
“We see this as kind of a mutually beneficial arrangement, both for businesses and their employees, be they aspiring contributors, active contributors, or current maintainers,” he said. “Because if [businesses] provide those people with time to work on these things during their work hours, that’s beneficial to the company, and that’s beneficial to the individuals as well.”
The idea behind the program came about as a result of GitHub’s work with the open source community, which showed that people who want to contribute to open source software don’t feel as though they have the time or resources to do so. McQuaid hopes that carving out employees’ time on Fridays could help provide additional structure and incentive to participate in the ecosystem.
The Open Source Friday website includes resources to help convince employers of the importance of open source work, as well as information about how they can make it a habit at the office. For contributors, the site includes a link to a guide GitHub released last year on how to start adding to an open source project.
Maintainers, the people who shepherd and manage open source projects, get their own resources to help them welcome new contributors, as well as tools to help them explain why their extensive participation in the open source ecosystem is good for business.
GitHub also allows users to set up profile pages that make it easy for people to take what they’ve done on these Fridays and show it off to the wider world.
Users don’t need to be engineers in order to take part, either. While code contribution is important to the success of a project, creating and maintaining documentation is also key.
“Basically, if you have done any programming before, or if you’ve improved documentation that’s related to software before, you can contribute to an open source project,” McQuaid said. “Maybe not every open source project, but you’ll definitely be able to find something that you can get involved with.”
GitHub is part of a broader consortium of tech companies that’s known as the Todo Group and is designed to encourage the growth and use of open source contributions among industry heavyweights like Facebook, Google, and Dropbox.