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Reasons Why You Don't Contribute To Open-Source Software

Free Software

Published on 23 April 2010 10:20 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
87 Comments

Over on the GCC mailing list is a rather lively discussion (especially for being a Friday evening) that only started earlier today. No, it's not about the recent GCC 4.5 release or even our GCC vs. Clang/LLVM benchmarks, but it's about development participation. A developer is asking why you don't participate in contributing to GCC?

There are many responses already, but the GNU Compiler Collection having higher standards for accepting patches than most other open-source projects and legal reasons have been the two most populous answers. Contributing to GCC requires filing a disclaimer that you assign the copyright to the Free Software Foundation. For developers employed by organizations, this disclaimer is often problematic and can take significant amounts of time before it's cleared by various legal departments, here is a good message in regards to that situation as even at least one developer at Stanford has been turned off by the situation.

Some of the complaints have been about the quality of the code within the free software world being absolutely appalling with different formatting techniques, few code comments, a lack of documentation, and other shortcomings when mostly unpaid developers from around the world all diverge on a single code-base. GCC on the other hand tends to have a higher standard with regard to code quality and documentation with requiring patches comply with the GNU style.

Other expressed barriers in participation have included spoken language difficulties, lack of time, GCC being bloated and crufty, and availability of hardware/architectures in testing patches. It's an interesting read with the different perspectives on the matter, which can be followed via this web thread. The discussion is still ongoing.

More generally than just GCC, why don't you participate in open-source projects that interest you? Or, on the other hand, what are your main motives for participating in such projects? Tell us in the forums.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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