Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

How I convinced 15+ companies to contribute to OSS

Story time! On January 2nd I launched Turku Gives Back, a non-profit project to encourage local software companies to give back to open source. Last Friday, February 2nd 16 companies and bunch of individuals joined together, we made 20+ contributions to various open source projects.

I wanted to share how I came up with the idea, built the project and managed to make my contributions by encouraging others.

The Idea

In the end of 2017, I was applying for a job at Github and was browsing through their blog and website and ran into Open Source Friday. What a brilliant idea. I knew that most companies didn’t make it a habit or part of their culture to contribute back to open source but on the other side there was a rise of companies rewarding their developers and designers for contributions.

Also, my personal relationship with open source wasn’t too shabby either and I wanted to do something to fix it. Instead of just spending a few hours contributing directly, I wanted to increase the impact by spending those hours building a project with hopes to attract others.

The Execution

I came across the website on Thursday evening and it stuck in the back of my head. By Friday evening, when I was walking home from the bar, my brain started to work and by the time I had reached home, I had come up with a plan I was super excited about: create a guide book for participants, website, press release and a list of companies to contact.

I’m the kind of guy who gets going really fast. I didn’t really know what I was about to do but once the ball started rolling, I couldn’t stop. In three hours, I had built a website (using Squarespace, huge fan!), bought a domain, crafted a 6-page guidebook (using Keynote — my #1 tool for these kind of things), wrote a blog post, figured out the most important partners from our developer community partner network. I created a form through which companies could register (using Squarespace form tool with Google Drive sheets integration, one-click-wonder).

Then I had to wait. It was the turn of the year so I didn’t want my emails to be lost in the ever-growing pile of holiday emails. Finally on Jan 2nd, I got to launch. I hand-wrote 35 emails to CEOs, CTOs and other contacts in local software companies, published the blog post and started going wild on social media.

During the month leading up to the main day, I talked with bunch of developers and directors, pitching the idea and getting good feedback from the companies. I wrote another blog post about the benefits of open source contributions and tweeted out whenever a company joined the campaign.

The Results

As I mentioned, we were able to gather together 16 companies who gave half a day (some even full day!) of their time making contributions to open source projects they felt important.

Some companies made contributions to their own code that they had open sourced, some made contributions to the tools and frameworks they use to run their business and some helped small side projects that make their life more enjoyable as developers and designers.

I’m so happy by the outcome. Much more was done to open source than I could have done alone. And hopefully we were able to give open source the attention it deserves in companies.

All together 24 open source contributions were made during the event. Check out the list of contributions here and check out some hyped tweets at our Moments.

The general feedback from the companies was positive and for at least a month, open source was a discussion topic in the developer community in a new way. I had plans to contribute myself during the day but ended up spending my day in Twitter and email sharing the contributions people made. I did build a tutorial for how to integrate Twilio to your application the next day.

From an idea to execution, marketing and finally the day, Turku Gives Back was a successful pilot. I learned a bunch of stuff about organizing something like this and thus, the next time it will be even better.

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