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Disoriented programming

github enables open source developers to collaborate effectively

Here’s a little something to chew over – what would happen if we removed the structure and constraints imposed on the working developer? Would everything descend into chaos and be wholly unproductive… or would great things emerge with natural order from the lack of burocracy and politics? There has always been much discussion of Google’s ’20% time’, allocated to developers to work on whatever they want. It is difficult to analyse how or whether this works in practice, but there are some great examples of work done purely because it is the developer’s choice in the open source and philanthropic spheres.

Some of this unstructured work glues together the many systems we take for granted every day, and often those responsible deliver quality unrivalled in the corporate world without receiving a penny in return. With an increasing buzz around tech startups, social media and ‘cloud’ technologies, some organisations are beginning to implement different approaches towards their software development practices, and a few are making good money from it. There is a definite likelihood that developers who have been working for large firms for some time inherit quite a blinkered view of the problem domain on which they are working.

While I don’t necessarily agree that the product centric world of venture capital seeking startups is the way forward for entrepreneurial developers, I do think exploring new avenues for building innovative and useful software is important. When one begins to analyse the reasons for highly structured development approaches, it is obvious that it is for the most part a direct result of the way in which business is commissioned and carried out, so it is very likely a different approach to both business as well development is necessary for the change to be successful.

With increasing regularity I find myself turning to open source software to solve problems I’ve encountered. The pool of resources publicly available at sites like GitHub is growing rapidly, as are businesses founded on open source technology. Not all open source development is disorganised or lacking in structure but the work is certainly distributed and grows very differently to traditional closed source software.

The real boundary I’m trying to draw here is between work a developer has to do, and work a developer wants to do. I believe that in the latter case the results speak for themselves.

…You can find me on GitHub here.

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