Why I decided to go open source

Akshat Jiwan Sharma, Tue Jul 09 2013

Specter was open source from the first line of code that I wrote. I did not even wait for the project to become stable before releasing the code. Thankfully it did not cause me much embarrassment and in a short span of time it has evolved into a product that I use daily. It was not the first open source project that I did. I made abstract before it. Specter however was my first big open source project.

The idea of open source did not come naturally to me. I have grown up in an environment where knowledge has been a competitive edge that needs to be protected rather than shared. So I was a bit hesitant when I committed that first line of code. I think that to an extent my hesitation was justified. I do not have a full time job. I am working insane hours to make specter best blogging platform there is. I am competing with behemoths that have been in blogging business for decades. To top it all off I have taken a radically different approach. It would not be unreasonable to get all the advantage that I can on my side. The only question was whether releasing specter as open source would prove to be an advantage or will it be a detriment?

Looking at two of the best blogging platforms of toady it was clear that I could be successful following any route. Tumblr was a closed source blogging platform where as wordpress has embraced the open source philosophy. So which one would be right for me? If I went the Tumblr way I would probably have to provide an infrastructure for hosting blogs from day one. I don't think that it was possible for me as the only developer to build a great product and create an awesome infrastructure to host it as well. So I decided that I would focus on creating the blogging software for now and leave infrastructure problem for another day. Since I was going to provide the users with the software why not make it so that they can modify it as well? Open source it was then.

While I agree that I was cornered into using open source I must say that it has grown on me quite a lot. One of the best things that has happened as a result is that I don't think that I am the only one working on the project now. Yes I concede that there are not many contributors, but since the project is open it belongs to the community. The burden of creating and developing specter is shared. Tim O' Riely put it best

Empowerment of individuals is a key part of what makes open source work, since in the end, innovations tend to come from small groups, not from large, structured efforts.

Unknowingly I have created potential small groups for my product. If I had made specter closed and gone with the route of providing my own hosting I would have left my users with no choice but to use my platform or go elsewhere. Now you can chose what you want to do with it. You can chose where you want to host specter. You can even chose to customize it to make it more suitable for your needs.

By going open source I have made my product less opinionated. I do have my ideas of what a good blogging software should and should not do. But I am not imposing my ideas on you. I am not saying that you have to follow them. I am betting on the fact that my users will have completely opposite notions of blogging than mine and that they will be able to implement their notions easily. It has also taken a huge burden off my shoulders. I do not have to design a product that pleases all. I just have to design something that is easy to tinker with and this has been very helpful for me. I have never had such clarity in designing a product before.

I am not claiming that going open source is a sure way to success. Like I said before, many closed source blogging platforms have been very successful.Only time will tell whether specter is successful or not. But I believe that by going open source I have given specter and myself the best chance to succeed.


comments powered by Disqus