My involvement in the UCOSP program was quite rewarding and satisfying. I gained valuable real-world experience as well as knowledge pertinent to my school studies and long-term career goals. Prior to working on Markus, I did not have any experience contributing to open source projects. For this reason, I found it difficult to understand why certain people spend a lot of their spare time producing stuff without being paid and then give it away for free. What are some of the personal benefits you can gain as a developer from participating in open source projects?
This is your chance to work on projects and problems that you are most enthusiastic about, which is a strong motivator for doing your best and reaching creative heights.
Having your work reviewed and critiqued publicly may seem out of the norm. However, criticism can be viewed as a tool for improving your skills, attitudes and habits towards quality. You will develop a tendency to avoid sloppy coding knowing that your work is accessible by anyone.
The larger projects that have survived for years and continue to evolve often have great leadership, organization and development guidelines. Chances are you will become part of a team and learn from people that are many levels better than yourself.
Some people actually develop feelings of wanting to give something back. Maybe not trying to make a difference but simply showing a token of gratitude to a community providing such a strong foundation for learning and education to anyone in society.
Most people wish for freedom to control their lives. It can be incredibly frustrating to work on a project with budget constraints where software is rushed into a unmanageable mess. Reorganization and outsourcing can also seed feelings of disappointment and helplessness.
With open source you are no longer are a victim of such circumstances. You are free to implement and improve the features you think matter the most, while users help with finding relevance and setting priorities.
Most programmers develop an urge to not repeat themselves throughout their careers. Producing open source software is the freedom to truly reuse efforts when changing jobs (or starting your own company) and share them with anyone.
These intentions stimulate thinking using broader perspectives and designs that are cooperative, flexible and adaptable to different environments in order to maximize opportunities for reuse. Keeping users loyal often means maintaining version compatibility and upgradability. Having to deal with all this complexity will make you a better programmer.
Open source is a lot about a community of freedom and sharing and it is not hard to see why open source developers often are highly respected. Participation will introduce you to a community of incredible talented, like-minded and caring people that may help improve your skills beyond imagination.