So You've Decided To Open-Source A Project At Work. What Now?

May 18 2014. 04 comments

A while back, I wrote a post about starting an open-source project. The focus of that article was on starting an open-source project as an individual. I received a lot of positive feedback and also some questions about how the process changes when you’re open-sourcing a project at work.

Many companies are starting to investigate and participate in the open-source community, and yet few guides for doing so exist. This article focuses primarily on the process of open-sourcing a project at work, which brings with it other concerns and decisions.

The more familiar we are with something, the more we like it. This is the mere exposure effect

Suppose someone at your company wants to open-source something. This has never happened before and you’re not sure what to do. Do you just put it up on GitHub? Announce it in a press release or blog post? How do you know that the code is OK to open-source? There is a lot of planning to do, and it all starts (unfortunately) with the legal department.

Giving away company assets is as much a legal issue as anything else. The very first conversation should be with an appropriate member of your company’s legal team to discuss the ins and outs of open-sourcing. In larger companies, one or more intellectual property (IP) attorneys are likely on staff or on retainer; in smaller companies, this conversation might start with the general counsel. In either case, it’s important to lay out exactly what you want to do and to clarify that you’d like to formalize a repeatable process for open-sourcing projects.

Comments

  • Jessica Walsh

    January 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Suppose someone at your company wants to open-source something. This has never happened before and you’re not sure what to do. Do you just put it up on GitHub? Announce it in a press release or blog post? How do you know that the code is OK to open source? There is a lot

    Reply
    • Stefan Sagmeister

      January 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

      Suppose someone at your company wants to open-source something. This has never happened before and you’re not sure what to do. Do you just put it up on GitHub? Announce it in a press release or blog post? How do you know that the code is OK to open source? There is a lot

      Reply
  • Cameron Coczon

    January 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Suppose someone at your company wants to open-source something. This has never happened before and you’re not sure what to do. Do you just put it up on GitHub? Announce it in a press release or blog post? How do you know that the code is OK to open source? There is a lot

    Reply

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