I contributed bits and pieces to various open-source software, but nothing in the long run, I might say. I also was never a maintainer.
It is hard for me to imagine the products I created or creating now without these open-source software. When I think about the creators or maintainers of various open-source packages, I am amazed to see their dedication, helpful responses, and the way they care for the community of users and contributors. For me, they are indeed the heroes of the modern web.
In a way, these open-source creators remind me of the late 90s when I had my first email address and started using Unix for the first time. I learned a lot from various mailing lists and IRC channels about computers, about how to install and reinstall my OSes, about how to create my first program, about changing config files for some games to make them work. It was a time when we helped each other when Google and StackOverflow did not exist. It was real communication supported by a genuine passion for assisting others in discovering the wonders of this new thing we called WWW.
I will start working for a couple of months to a new project: open-sourcing the IT Connect app that I developed while I was Innovation Product Owner / Innovation Master at METRO SYSTEMS Romania. The application is a web platform for innovation and idea management.
The open-source application will be developed with Elena Bogus as Product Owner, and I will be the developer and maintainer. It will actually be a rewritten from scratch because now we have a better and brighter vision about how such a platform should be. I will outline why I want to do an open-source project and hope that maybe I will inspire others to do the same.
Before going into that, let me give praise to METRO SYSTEMS Romania. I think accepting to open-source this application is an inspiring decision taken by them, and it is along an innovation road they took 6 years ago. It is a significant contribution to put there in the world for anyone who wants to use the knowledge that we created there while experimenting with innovation and entrepreneurship. Just in case you want to have a small taste of some learnings from this journey, Elena wrote an excellent article about 7 learnings out of building a corporate innovation culture.
Embarking in a journey to build an open-source project for me is mostly about:
- A sense of contribution and giving back to the community
- Deepening my knowledge and learning something new
- Connecting to new people
But let’s start with WHY.
Why this product? #
I am a person with a lot of ideas, I am always working on multiple projects simultaneously, so I understand the domain. In a way, I am scratching my own itch.
It also matches my experience in the last 5 years while being an Innovation Product Owner at METRO SYSTEMS. It is an excellent opportunity to find a way to code some of the learnings I had while supporting hundreds of people to transform their ideas into real products and launch them. I think an innovation management platform will help companies or teams to make their ideas happen faster with higher results. I often see people saying out loud ideas of products or services that they would like to create but remain just ideas—most of the time, there no step further than saying a phrase about them. Having a place where one can submit their ideas, where one can gather support or team members, where there are mentors and sponsorship, where feedback is given is creating more opportunities for anyone to advance their solutions.
I also firmly believe that innovation is driven by innovation. The more you do, the more you will do it. It is thus essential to have a place where you can see what is happening around in your organization. People will get inspired while reading other people’s ideas. Being transparent about what is happening is a big motivator for more people to contribute. And more people participating means more views and in the end, better ideas.
I think this process - of making an idea happen - has greater chances to sparkle real innovation if it is digital-first if an organization uses a web app to empower their innovation and to make it more appealing to anyone in the company. If there is no digital place to submit ideas, they are often shut down by immediate peers or direct managers. This killing of ideas is removing the most innovative ones in the first place. But publishing to a digital space allows a broader audience and thus more changes that an idea will live long enough to at least be validated.
Why now? #
This year - 2020 - started not so good. We have an international crisis (the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic), which affects in ways no one can predict our lives. I am sure that it will affect business and personal areas, accelerating some trends, destroying others, and making space for new things to appear.
I am convinced this kind of transformation will be, in general, a painful process. So there will be a great need for solutions to this wide range of problems.
You might ask yourself if it is not too late to start doing this. I think the effects of this year’s pandemic will ripple through 2020 and possibly into 2021.
This is why open-sourcing a platform that helps people speed up finding innovative solutions is probably among the best things I can do to help as many people as possible.
Why open-source? #
What is excellent about open-source is that it can be used by anyone, without any concern about privacy or any hidden interest from the creator. Anyone who will want will be able to take the platform, install it, and start helping their colleagues to make their ideas happen.
I genuinely hope the platform will be used by businesses and NGOs alike, as it will be a simple web-based app. I plan to use it myself for my own ideas.
I want to contribute back to the broad Internet community and get in the role of the creator of open-source software. I think it is a moral obligation to give back to the open-source community as much as possible. I am inspired by as many heroes I follow today on Twitter or Github or HackerNews, and I want to help others as they helped me being who I am from a technical perspective.
To make this project available to as many people as possible, the only logical decision is to make it open-source. This will also improve the innovative ability as it will allow more people to contribute with their own ideas on how to make the platform more helpful.
More personal reasons #
Better programming skills #
For me, this is a great occasion to shape my programming skills. There is no better incentive to expand my programming skills than to have my code open so that anyone can give feedback. I want to become a better programmer, I want my code to be elegant and simple to transmit better my ideas.
Get better at communication #
Creating an open-source community means doing a lot of communication. I re-started this blog to improve my communication. Open-sourcing a product implies more communication.
It is about building communities #
I like to work together with people working in IT. It was the most significant part of my work in the last 10-15 years. When I was not programming, I helped create all kinds of learning experiences for my colleagues. Open-sourcing IT Connect is an opportunity to create more communities and connect with more people.
Learning something new #
Let the fun begin!