Entering the Open Source Software community as a newcomer was an intimidating proposition at the start of the semester. It is a community that has existed for nearly as long as the internet, and to think that someone with as little practical experience as I have, could alter or create code for thousands of users, was a little scary. With that being said, all of my interaction so far with the community has been extremely positive.
The majority of our interaction with Open Source Community, namely the Epiphany community so far has been about the requirements and functionality of the dialog extension we are developing. A good portion of our early interaction has been through Professor Ellis, as she as more direct connections with the people directly involved on our project. We have been submitting questions throughout our early development process to a common Wikipedia page, available to all of the members on this project. We have been adding questions as they emerge, and members of the community have been taking their time to answer our questions.
We have also done a bit of passive observing of the community. We have spent a bit of time in the #a11y IRC chat room, listening in on meetings and watching the community interact with one another. We have observed several discussions about the Epiphany project as a whole. Even though these haven’t been about our project exactly, observing how all of these different people interact with one another has been beneficial to us going forward. It is giving us a bit of insight in how we should go about interacting and communicating when we began coding and implementing our project.
There have been many things I’ve really enjoyed regarding working on Open Source Software. First and foremost, the ability to access all of the source code, and the ability to modify or add features that you need is really amazing. All of the software is free, and it really is being developed by people with the sole purpose of creating beneficial software. There are no profit margins or corporate figureheads who really don’t understand what is going on and are only looking at the bottom line. Instead, it is being developed by intelligent individuals who just want to create they best product they can, and then use it. With all of that being said, Open Source Software doesn’t exactly fit into the standard model of education.
The way that standardized education works is usually to have an expert who spends a great deal of time teaching students, who then go on to practice and learn the craft. However, the Open Source world has a group of experts, who really aren’t that teachers. Instead, they provide documentation and the resources to teach yourself. It does fit much better into the college mold, and more-so the real world. At first, this seems like a terrifying task, trying to learn all of this really on your own. However, the more you do it, and the more your really think about, its something we’ve been doing all our lives. As computer science majors, we inherently explore and try to teach ourselves new things, its how we got into this field in the first place. We were interested in computers, we sought out answers, solutions to problems, and anything and everything we found interesting related to computers. It was this initial interest for me, the interest in programming and how software actually worked, that got me into this field in the first place.