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Why Recognize Open Source Contributors?

David Charboneau

David Charboneau

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First… why ask this question? Why ask “Why do we recognize contributors”? It seems like it should be obvious, right? We recognize open source contributors for the things they’ve done that we’re grateful for. Except, I snuck something into that last sentence… I snuck in “that we’re grateful for”. It’s more than stating the simple fact of a contribution, it’s at least an expression of gratitude for the contribution. I think there’s even more to it than that.

Asking “why do we recognize contributors” could help us better understand and define what recognition is. I want to know what it implies, why it’s important, and the value it provides. How does recognizing contributors benefit an open source project? How does recognizing contributors benefit the project leaders, and the contributors to a project? If we better understand the value of recognizing contributors, can we improve our recognition process and increase the value of recognizing contributions to open source?

Did you see what I did in that last sentence? I might have made a mistake. I might have misspelled “contributor” as “contribution”. Let’s go with it. Let’s assume we’re recognizing contributions, first, and the contributors as a consequence.

Of course, this all assumes that we know what recognizing a contribution means. Let’s explore that a little.

Recognition is a thank you. It’s an expression of gratitude that strengthens community bonds.

Recognition acknowledges an ownership claim. It implies that there are benefits that should be accrued by the recognized person or entity.

Recognition is a record of accomplishment; it’s a pedigree of prior successes that can be used to judge the credibility of a contributor in future work.

This list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a good enough start.

We recognize contributions to express gratitude and to strengthen our community. We recognize contributions so that the benefits of having a stake in the work can flow to all members of the community. We recognize contributions to help our contributors develop their reputation and brand. Excellent.

Now that we have a better understanding of what recognition of contributions is and what value it provides… this understanding raises a few questions. For example, does your open source project recognize contributions, or does it recognize contributors? Would recognizing contributions be more beneficial to your contributors and your project in the long run?

Another question is, how can we improve the process of recognizing contributions and contributors, and increase the value of the recognition? This is the problem OpenTeams was built to tackle. We don’t have the only answer, but we have an answer. OpenTeams is on a mission to improve the process of recognizing contributions and increasing the value of recognition for all contributors and the projects they contribute to.

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