No Open Source Project Should Be an Island

by Ostatic Staff - May. 10, 2013

Here on OStatic, we've frequently debated whether fragmentation is good for open source projects, or not so good. We've published posts arguing that centralized management of open source projects and documentation could have big benefits for users, and we've run many posts on successful forks of open source projects.

When the topic of fragmentation comes up, people often gravitate toward arguments surrounding how centralized funding could advance many open source projects, or how centralized marketing efforts could.  But what about development? Recently, at the Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid, the developers of GIMP, MyPaint and many other free graphics applications got together and talked about an important topic: how to work together better.

A Libre Graphics World post covers how developers for GIMP, MyPaint, Krita and Tupi--some of the very best free graphics programs--discussed the idea of working together on projects such as creating a simple common file format for sharing packs of brushes:

"This file format is likely to be a simple ZIP archive that will contain data in existing original file formats such as GIMP's GBR, Krita's KPP or MyPaint's MYB files, as well as metadata in XML. Boudewijn Rempt (Krita) posted the first proposal on relevant mailing lists. System locations for brushpack installation are currently being discussed, as well as some other aspects of the proposal. Michael Natterer (GIMP) thinks that the approach could be extrapolated to other types of resources."

Now, this kind of collaboration could benefit many open source projects. As Bryan Lunduke notes:

"To see the KDE, Gnome, Unity and Enlightenment folks sit down and figure out ways to re-use the bits and pieces that each has in common so they can focus on what makes each unique almost brings a tear to my eye."

You would think that the open source community would be teeming with cross-project collaboration efforts, but the fact is that many projects remain siloed, and don't get the benefits of cross-pollenization with other like projects. There is also a lot of room in the open source arena for independent production of important resources like documentation. FLOSS Manuals is a great example of such an independent documentation repository. 

The topic of collaboration on open source projects needs to extend to cross-project collaboration. In the end, everybody would benefit.