Supporting OSS in the .Net Space

time to read 2 min | 293 words

Jeff Atwood wants to donate 10,000$ to open source projects in .Net-land. Check the comments, they are very interesting. This raises the question of whatever monetary support is the best way to support OSS projects. I really appreciate Jeff's efforts, and I think that they would do wonders for the moral of the developers that gets the money.

However, I want to point out some other ways to contribute, just as important, if not more so, than money:

  • Contributing to the documentation:
    • Tutorials
    • Gotchas
    • How-to
    • Samples
    • F.A.Q
  • Participating in the community (forums, mailing lists, etc) - answer questions that you can, help other people when they run into problems
  • Evangelize the project:
    • Post about it
    • Talk about it
    • Help people using it 
  • Bug hunting - there is a respectful position for Bug Contributors - they help make the project better

Contributing code is important, but it is far from the only way you can contribute, and most OSS projects can do with more help in the above mentioned ways than code contributions. Documentation, in particular, is something that OSS projects usually lack at.

As a side note, I think that Frans Bouma has hit a key point in a comment there:

You come with an example where MS provides the source. Great example. The thing is though: that's NOT what should be changed. MS should work _together_ with open source projects started by others, outside MS, and make sure these project don't hit a wall because MS thinks they have to do their own copied version of the same project.

He has some other points in the discussion that I disagree with (choosing to go OSS vs. commercial offering) , but the point above is a very important one.