By Sam Debruyn
Why would the chef give away the recipes for the dishes he is famous for? What does the engineer achieve from sharing his schematics for that new technological marvel? Working open source is like sharing your secrets.
These contemplations are often pronounced by people outside or not familiar with software development. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples of why and where Open Source proves its value in our day-to-day business.
Free Open Source Software (FOSS) is an essential ingredient in our kitchen at Dataroots. There is no getting around its use, even for those electing to work as closed source as possible. We challenge anyone to execute a software project without the use of a single Open Source building block. But what exactly do you gain by working with Free Open Source Software (FOSS), how can it possibly be better than holding all the cards and how does a data company like ours embed FOSS in its core business?
Culture of giving
We create a great number of Open Source solutions in and outside the context of the tailored solutions for our clients. This means we often interact with the developer community and the creators of certain tools or solutions. We ask them questions, implement their feedback and ultimately, we give back. When we solve a problem, the solution is shared so other people can benefit from it, which ultimately stimulates innovation in our field. It does not take a lot of time to push pieces of code to GitHub or other public forums and we are explicitly incentivised to do so.
Experimentation and research
Dataroots invests 10% of all revenue yearly into applied R&D under the flag of ‘Dataroots Research’. This is our applied R&D laboratory where we are able to work on all code and data related experiments in the form of side projects, tools and solutions. We even have different guilds on data engineering or machine learning to work together and share knowledge. The possibilities in terms of the type of projects are endless but there is one fixed condition: whatever we make, it must be made open source. On our GitHub you will for example find a module to set up a data pipeline in minutes, but also a fun application to measure coffee consumption using a Raspberry Pi. Contributing to FOSS is even one of the official ways to raise our team-wide bonus and on our Slack channels, we can use our custom currency Briqs to sponsor Open Source projects.
It feels good knowing that many data professionals and companies from around the world use your contributions in their environments, or that your line of code was the missing piece of someone's puzzle. So even without officially working with Dataroots, potential clients and even competitors use your work to solve problems. Moreover, these are proof points of expertise, not only for developers individually but also for the company they work for. It is a way to build our reputation in the developer community where transparency and the concept of giving is rewarded. On top of that, potential hires also see the quantity and quality of contributions being made by Dataroots so the Open Source philosophy is even beneficial for recruitment.
Since its foundation in 2016, Dataroots has always pulled the card of FOSS, not only at a company level but also with our developers. As 99% of the code we write interacts with Open Source Software, we would be nowhere without it. We continue to look for new ways to share knowledge and explore new ways to open up our expertise to our team members and the broader data community.