Learning to be a part of the Community

One of the more interesting things about transitioning from proprietary software development to and an open-source model is learning to participate in a much wider community. Being a responsible member of the community means helping. And that means more than talking (i.e. complaining) about the problems. There is a feeling of satisfaction in helping to improve the quality of software that people use everyday.

I recently moved positions to being a component tester in the NSS lab. The work is interesting. It is working at a level much lower than I have before. (I mostly did n-tier, client/server, and web development in my previous life.) I have been working lat earning what work is currently automated, what the automation does, what I need to automate, testing new builds, regressing past bugs, etc.

I most recently have been working on a bug that has had people scratching their heads. (Lucky for me I inherited the bug from someone else who knows what they were doing.) Today I discovered that the defect was not in the product, but in the tool we were using to test it. Now, I could have just left it at that, not informing the developers of the open source product of the problem. That is probably what the typical response would be. But by choosing to inform the developers, I choose to help the community. We all benefit by helping each other improve the products that we use everyday.

That is part of what being a member of the open source community is, working together to make software that works, that enables people to do things at a minimal cost. In my previous life I worked in the Federal Judiciary. It just boggles my mind how much money the government could save by turning to an open-source model. That is tax dollars that could go from buying expensive proprietary software to money used to help those people that really need it (I won’t get into my political views here, but this is a political movement if you really think about it…).