Home > Essays, Projects > The (Sometimes Instant) Good Karma of Open Source Contribution

The (Sometimes Instant) Good Karma of Open Source Contribution

I’m tickled by the good that can come of the noble act of releasing an open source project.

Two months ago I released trueDAT, a web-based GUI for MySQL databases and the first real project I’ve ever taken the time to open source.  While I always figured good things eventually came to open source contributors1, I didn’t have expectations for myself while showing off trueDAT for the first time at a Meetup group back in mid-January.

While demoing my baby, I made the acquaintance of two folks eagerly looking to birth their web vision: a user generated content site focused on promoting the best with prize-laden contests.  They were then working on learning PHP and MySQL, and so trueDAT, a tool which makes a really novice-friendly way to interact with databases, made a nice topic of conversation.  (They were also a bit displeased with the progress on their site with their current provider, so we had plenty to talk about.)

The instant good karma of open sourcing trueDAT is summed up in the following 2 snippets from emails from them to me over the two days that followed:

…  I’d like to talk over potentially hiring you to build Masspire. I’m not that enthused about my current menu of options, and I’d like to explore a bit more. …


… Basically, if we can think up a mutually agreeable version of the site that you’d be willing to build for $… I’d be happy to work with you. I’ve got a bit more faith in someone who makes something like trueDAT for fun than an Indian firm.  …

These words simply tickle me:

I’ve got a bit more faith in someone who makes something like trueDAT for fun than an Indian firm.

I share them not to brag on what a great open source guy I am (I’m not, I’m new to this game–trueDAT hasn’t even been downloaded 100 times since I released it two months ago), nor to revive the notion that I’m anti-India (I’m just anti-cheap slop).  Rather I wish to share that experience with my fellow programmer: that open sourcing can make such a powerful and immediate impression on the type of person who could/would/should hire you.

In hindsight?  Makes total sense.

Beforehand, I only knew open sourcing as more of an ideologically good thing.

Today, about 2 months later, we have high fived over the successful build of their site, which can be seen now at www.masspire.com.  I had a solid February as a contractor, and they’re pleased with the value and end result of their work.

Our connecting professionally was a tidy win-win, and a direct result of chops effectively demonstrated through an open source project.

Doing well by doing good, illustrated.  Viva open source.


  1. E.g. I’ve donated a few bucks here and there to some of my heroes for creating modules I’ve found useful


This is Programmer for Hire, a series of essays and explorations on the art of being a great programmer doing on-demand custom software development.

  1. March 20th, 2012 at 14:20 | #1

    Nice job on Masspire John- looks like a fun project!

    I can relate to the enlightened self interest of contributing open source. I’ve had more than one client who hired me because they could see the work up front in terms of open source projects. It’s demonstrated value.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Chris Anderson’s book, “Free,” but this post reminds me of it: http://is.gd/3jgY4N

  2. John
    March 21st, 2012 at 10:57 | #2

    Never heard of Free, but looks like I good read. Just ordered it on Amazon, selling for $0.01. A price which I find to be both fitting and awesome.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. gaylene
    April 6th, 2012 at 10:12 | #3

    John, I’d like to speak with you about one of the articles you wrote. May we arrange a time? Best – gaylene

  1. April 15th, 2012 at 06:27 | #1