Giving props is cool

I’m not really a business-man kind of guy. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around the economic logistics of running a zillion dollar corporation, so I’ll preface this to say that I can’t really speak from that angle with first hand experience. What my perception of that kind of business is though, is cut-throat and viscous with a side of watch-your-back. Considering I’m generally a laid back, go with the flow kind of person (unless I’m sitting in traffic) it’s pretty natural and obvious that I’m just not cut out for that line of work.

What has worked pretty well for me though, is open source development. I think because it has that whole ‘pay it forward’ type of mentality to it… and because I get to prove myself everyday to my friends, my peers, and my clients and colleagues. It benefits not only me, but the people that I work and play with, to do a good job. I’m rewarded with natural thank-yous and random pats-on-the-back just for doing something that I would be doing anyhow, which lets me ‘make my own bed’ so to speak. It’s like having a commission based salary, except without the sales pitch and the getting ripped off by the sales guy.

I’m blessed and fortunate to be able to do what I do and be able to pay the bills with it. It’s a luxury that I’m not always sure I deserve yet, but I take advantage of the opportunities doing my best not to take them for granted any step of the way. Because of the WordPress community, I’ve met amazing people that I call my friends, even if we’ve physically met 3 times. I’ve gotten to work a lot on BuddyPress, and will be putting some efforts into bbPress now, all of which I’m happy and proud to be able to say that I am a small part of.

All of this, isn’t my doing.

If it wasn’t for the GPL, I wouldn’t have any of it. None of it would be possible.

If I wasn’t able to see other peoples work and reapply it for the task at hand, I would never have been able to learn LAMP development in the first place. The first thing I noticed is that open source developers are typically very generous, providing copious amounts of insight and example code with out asking for a penny in return. The general rule, of course, is that you credit the original author for their assistance, even if it was in a semi-anonymous fashion. I generally like to drop a comment in their blog if they have one thanking them for their help, but I digress…

This is all what made giving props cool.

Let me just say, that NOT crediting people for their help is usually uncool. I am of the opinion that anyone with a shred of moral fiber should thank the people that helped them get where they are. But in the open source development world, having a link in your footer to the engine that runs your site, is something you’re proud of; having a commented line of code inside yours that credits the original author is something you’re proud to do, and there’s a few reasons why I think that is:

  1. It shows you’re paying attention to other people and what their methods are.
  2. It shows that you respect them and their efforts.
  3. It lets the world know that you’re humble enough to thank the people that help you along the way.
  4. It proves that you can’t do it alone, and that you understand that no one expects you to.
  5. It goes a long way towards building good relationships and business practices.
  6. It means that when someone credits the hard work that you’ve done, you’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling too.

I know that the GPL is a legal document that is meant to protect the rights and abilities of the developers that use it. Going back to the business-man thing, I can honestly say that in my beginnings (and sometimes even recently) I did not comprehend exactly what the GPL was or what it meant to believe in it as strongly as I do on this day. To me, today, the GPL is something that protects me and my rights as much as it is something that lets me safely distribute what I do for others to use, reuse, and share however they see fit in a respectable and ethical fashion.

The kicker about all this, is my feelings won’t be hurt if I don’t get ‘props’ even if it’s in the spirit of the GPL to provide them; even if it’s written in the license that you need to obey the original license. If I never get a thank you, and never get recognition for what I do, and my code shows up somewhere without a direct credit to me, I won’t even be mad… it isn’t something I need or want… but I will appreciate it. Like most things in life that can be appreciated, if they go totally unappreciated for too long… if they are used and abused to point of an obvious injustice being committed, be it moral, ethical, legal, or otherwise… there are and should be repercussions for that kind of behavior.

So… in short (but also very long), the GPL made props cool. It did that by giving everyone a perpetual and reciprocal way of helping each other get things done in a way that makes sure everyone is appreciated, everyone is treated fairly, and everyone gets recognized for their hard work and dedication. If you use a GPL licensed snippet of code, or an icon that someone has made available, or use open source software, by recognizing the hard work that went into those things, you’re silently appreciating and respecting the people that help make the internet awesome, and they do appreciate it. I know I do, and I appreciate all of you too. 😀