Becoming an Open Source Developer

2018 was a big year for us at CodeRed.  We solved interesting problems, expanded our team, and we announced that we were open-sourcing our in-development Content Mangement System, CodeRed CMS.  Open sourcing our work was something we had yet to do as a company.  To call it a learning experience would be an understatement.  But I think it's safe to say we greatly benefited from our decision and efforts.  

We've been using open source software at CodeRed for as long as the company has been around.  Whenever we're approached to build a new project, we're immediately thinking about what kind of open source projects exist in our problem domain.  To us, open source software is how we operate, it's how we work.  

It only made sense that when we started our own CMS, it would be open source too.  In hindsight, we didn't fully understand what that means.  I'm sure this is obvious to other open source developers, but switching your repository's settings from private to public isn't necessarily the same as open sourcing your software, at least not professionally.  If your software isn't easily accessible and consumable, is it really open source?  Or is it effectively closed?  

Making your software easily accessible and consumable requires time and resources, however.  There's now overhead that didn't exist before.  No longer are our developers just working on the project.  Now they're interacting with the community.  They're making sure the documentation is usable from the outside.  And they're doing external code reviews for features they weren't necessarily thinking about.  Going from being a user of open source to a creator of open source requires a shift in thinking.  Less time is spent coding and more time is spent on the meta details of your project.  

This is not inherently bad.  But the additional responsibilities can be taxing.  You are surrendering the autonomy and potentially the agility of your project in order to gain longevity.  Depending on the scope of your project, this may or may not be what you need.  Despite the overhead, it still makes sense for us.  The pros outweigh the cons by a large margin.  Our continued success on CodeRed CMS largely belongs to the open source community.  In our first 6 months, we have 7 watchers, 47 stars, and 13 forks.  The support is more than we anticipated and we couldn't be more thrilled.  

If you would like to get involved, we have a channel on the Wagtail slack:  As always, you can get in touch with us through the GitHub page: