Open source is more than just a tech buzzword. It’s a philosophy by which we operate at Unity and by which I personally try to live. I believe that when we embrace the five principles of open source, we act with integrity, clarity, and equity. And in so doing, we contribute to a better world.
What does open source mean
Open source is a term that was coined in the late 1990s to describe software with source code that is available for anyone to access, learn from, and improve upon. It wasn’t a new idea though. Ever since software development began in the 1940s, programmers have been sharing ideas and code with each other to promote and advance the field of computing. Now open source principles have been adopted by fields as broad as education, healthcare, business, and government.
Sharing the open source way
One of the first lessons we learn as a child is the importance of sharing. A baby hands a toy to a parent and beams as the parent exclaims, “Thank you!” and hands the toy back. Through playing this game hundreds and hundreds of times, the baby learns that sharing does not mean losing. In fact, sharing makes people happy.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we forget this lesson. As an adult, sharing means losing control. Transparency means exposure.
Many businesses talk about transparency in their work, but few walk the walk. The experience of sharing deepens our relationship as a team and with our clients, and reminds us that there is more that unites us than divides us.
Working together the open source way
Another early childhood lesson is that it’s not possible to do everything on your own. (Try telling that to my kids.)
I speak from experience when I say I know it’s hard to work together. Collaboration can be an extremely frustrating experience and sometimes it feels like you’ll do a better job alone. But remember the proverb:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
There’s a reason proverbs like that stick around. For one, they’re catchy. But it’s also true. We are all in this together. And when we work together, we capitalize on the group’s strengths and carry those of us in weakness through the hard times.
And we all have hard times.
Failing the open source way
None of us are perfect. You will fall down. You will cry. And you will want to stay there. Especially if you’re alone.
The only way to get through failure is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and keep going. Failure leads to new perspectives, allows us to look at problems in new ways, and helps us find solutions in new places.
You might think that sharing your failures with others would be humiliating, but it is also a relief. Because failure hurts a lot less when you have other people to help you through it.
Keeping failures bottled up leads to feelings of shame all around. It becomes your dark secret. Meanwhile, the rest of us are looking at your ostensibly perfect exterior and wondering how on earth you manage to be so flawless when we see our own failures so clearly. Which only magnifies our feelings of inadequacy.
So let’s be real here. The more we see failure as an inevitability, the more it can be seen as an asset.
The smartest move you can make is to try, fail, and try again. Because it’s the quickest way to improve. Practice leads to progress, never perfection.
Being objective the open source way
Sometimes when you are entrenched in a problem, you need to take a step back and try a change of perspective. A good idea can come from anywhere, so don’t close yourself off to it based on preconceived notions. Weigh ideas based on their merits and not the people behind them.
This is somewhat easy when dealing in the third person. Is this idea better than that idea? But it is a huge challenge when you throw yourself into the mix. Is their idea better than my idea? Being an impartial judge of merit when you are in the running is tough.
It’s hard for me to remember this, but I try my best: Not everybody thinks the same way. Remember you don’t always have the answer and you’re not always right. Admitting you’re wrong — or throwing out your own idea — is not easy. But sometimes it’s the smart thing to do.
Loving the open source way
Love is at the root of everything we do.
We strive to make choices that benefit humanity and act with the best intentions towards all humankind.
We build community with others who are driven by a common purpose. After all, to be driven by a higher purpose gives one direction. And when we work with others driven by the same purpose, we lift each other up.
The open source way lifts us all up
By sharing, working together, failing, being objective, and loving, we build a community of other humans who love us and want to help us succeed. When we have a network of people who lift us up in moments of weakness and cheer us on when we’re triumphant, we gain esteem and reach our full potential. Isn’t open source awesome?