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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rewarding Open Source Projects

InfoWorld just announced its Bossie Awards 2011 results. Now its Packt's turn to launch their annual Open Source Awards competition, something I covered briefly last year. It is possible for anyone to nominate a project. Unlike in the case of Bossie, it seems Packt's awardees are chosen by the community.

In this post I will try to explore the concept of rewarding open source projects. As it appears in addition to competitions like these there are other, more concrete ways to let your favorite projects know they are valuable.

Packt Open Source Awards 2010 Results?

I tried to dig some information on the last year's results. Sadly Packt doesn't appear to maintain a proper index of these. They do mention the following on their competition page:
"The 2010 Open Source Award Winners included the Open Source Content Management System (CMS) Award winner CMS Made Simple, Open Source JavaScript Libraries Award winner jQuery and Pimcore the winner of the Most Promising Open Source Project Award.".
I dug a bit further and found out there were some other winners as well:
PrestaShop was voted as the best Open Source E-Commerce Application and jQuery received the best Open Source JavaScript Library award. The winner of the Open Source Graphics Software Award was the Blender 3D content creation suite, which recently released a new beta for Blender 2.5 and its Third Blender film.
The fact that I had to dig for this information highlights a problem. I think that the fact that they are organizing this sort of competition is a great thing. It's good PR for them and the projects after all. I do wish, however, that they would put more effort in publicizing the results and showcasing the projects. While at it Packt could mention about their offerings. I do know they have books on Blender and jQuery for instance.

What is the point of organizing a competition if you don't spend the needed effort to wrap it up properly?

Do we need to reward open source projects?

Do we really need these kind of awards? Are they just publicity stunts? Are there better ways to reward prospective projects? I think the key thing about awards like this is the publicity they provide to the projects they cover. Sure, money helps as well. I do think publicity is often more important to the projects.

This is the reason why I believe it is highly important to have meta-projects that actually focus on showcasing others. One known example of this is Wikipedia. Check out their list of CMS's for instance. WikiMatrix provides another good example. In a way jswiki, which I maintain, aims to do this sort of work as well.

Just having indices like these isn't enough, though. There are simply too many projects to choose from.  How do you know which one fits your purposes?

I guess this is the reason why users tend to gravitate towards bigger, well-known projects. I'm sure many of the smaller, less-known projects would more often than not fit the bill. The level of support might not be the same, though.

Often blogs provide nice views to lesser known projects. Just by maintaining a blog you too can help in this. If you wish to reward your favorite projects, often just saying thanks to the author is enough. One of the most valuable things you may give to a project is simply feedback. Sure minor monetary compensations may be beneficial too. Basement dwellers enjoy beer and pizza as regular people do. ;)


I think awards, such as InfoWorld's and Packt's, are a step to the right direction. I do think, however, that there are ways they can take the concept further. In case of Packt it would be highly beneficial if they could improve the way they present the competition results.

Instead of relying for awards like these to exist, you as an individual may reward your favorite open source projects directly. Especially smaller projects can benefit from direct feedback. It can be a huge boost for a developer. Just saying thanks can be often enough. :)