More than half of Canadian developers are actively participating in open source projects but there’s a disconnect when it comes to companies and their expectations surrounding open source versus their actual commitment to it.
Cloud provider DigitalOcean released its quarterly survey for Q3 2018 on October 26, but IT World Canada was granted exclusive access to the segmented Canadian data from the report. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the open source movement, for this quarter’s report DigitalOcean surveyed thousands of developers from around the world with 124 Canadian developers who participated, sharing their thoughts on the open source community, and how they participate with it, both in business and for personal use.
The survey found that 20 years into the movement, 55 per cent of Canadian developers are actively participating in an open source project, and while that may seem fairly significant more than 60 per cent of the respondents reported that their company expects them to routinely use open source software as part of their day-to-day work.
And while companies may be expecting developers to work in open source, only 44 per cent of those surveyed said their company currently gives them time to work on open source related to work and 19 per cent are allotted time to work on non-work-related projects.
Almost half of developers name the number one reason for not getting involved in open source is feeling they don’t possess the right skills to contribute, or feeling its too difficult to get started; but following close behind is company’s not allowing developers the necessary time needed to contribute to these projects.
In the survey developers stated that if their company gave them more time they would contribute to these types of projects that are deemed so important.
Ahmed Nassri is a developer who works with Telus as a chief architect on its digital platform, he says he’s personally faced concerns over his ability and had to learn what areas of open source he is able to contribute to. He believes one issue facing the community is many think that writing code is the only way to contribute, “In fact much of the value around open source project is less so about the core contribution to the project and more about the community effect of that project. Such as adopters, people who help write guides, people spreading the word about the project and more.”
Companies and open source projects
Nassri works for Telus Digital, the platform that essentially runs Telus’ customer and employee operations and the digital platform is actually built on open source technology through GitHub, as our sister site ITBusiness.ca has previously reported. Telus has clearly found the value in working in an open source environment.
DigitalOcean’s survey found that a company is mostly likely to enter the open source space when it can access technology that is widely adopted or can use the platforms for documentation purposes. Other top reasons Canadian businesses chose open source technology is when it would be faster to use those projects than it would be to create the same project in-house.
Companies seem to be encouraging their employees to work in open source but the problems arise when the time allotted, as well as investments in open source don’t match up. The majority of Canadian developers report that (if they are given time at all), they only have between one to five hours a week to work on the projects and even less for non-work related projects.
On top of that more than three quarters of developers responded that their company donates less than $1,000 a year to open source and only 10 per cent said Canadian companies are involved in an open source foundation (which have the primary goal of providing funding for development of software), with 59 per cent with no plans to contribute at all.
Of those surveyed, 53 per cent feel that large tech companies do not contribute as much as they have gained from open source. Companies may want developers to spend time on these projects, but according to those surveyed by DigitalOcean, companies may only open to using open source technology when it suits the company’s needs.
Things may be changing
However the outlook isn’t all that bleak, the majority of Canadian developers, 94 per cent in fact, believe that the open source community is healthy and growing.
The community has definitely seen an uptake in popularity lately. One of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time involved open source, (IBM’s $34 billion purchase of Red Hat, the creator of open source system Linux), as well as Microsoft’s recent acquisition of GitHub and its commitment to the Open Invention Network, point to major tech companies’ increasing interest and investment in open source.
This seems fitting as most respondents agree that of five major tech companies, Google, (which created Android, Go and Kubernetes) and Microsoft embrace open source the most.
How developers use open source
Canadian developers are involved in open source in a variety of ways, more than half contribute software, while others help maintain software, file issues, write documentation and organize the open source communities.
The majority of developers feel that participating in open source projects is a good way to improve coding skills and learn new technologies as well as help to improve technologies that are required for their jobs. And many simply find that participating in open source is about being part of a community.
In terms of platforms used in Canada and globally GitHub appears to be the most popular system by far that developers turn to for finding open source projects. Other notable platforms include GitLab and BitBucket.
Developers are also participating in these projects on a regular basis, either daily or at least once a week.
Nassri fits many of these categories, not only does he spend 20 per cent of his workday on open source and 90 per cent of his free time is dedicated to being a part of the open source community. He is involved in the Node.js foundation, and a founder of Node Day and Functions Conference.
This is where Canadian companies need to step up Nassri said, “I haven’t seen Canadian companies fully understand or realize the business benefits of encouraging teams to be part of the open source ecosystem. A lot of American companies have teams that are dedicated to doing open source…whereas Canadian companies for the most part are still in the consumption mode of software…and haven’r realized the need to give back.”