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Bad Reasons to Hack on Open Source Projects

Update: the original title was "Reason Why You Shouldn't Hack on Open Source Projects", but commenters pointed out that this title would fit better.

People admire open source contributors, just like they admire entrepreneurs and artists. That's awesome, they'll tell you. Improve the world, I love that. Go for it! (It's easy for them to say.)

But as with anything that becomes more prestigious, people recommending it to you will ignore your opportunity costs, and you may try to do it for the wrong reasons. You shouldn't become an artist so you can be famous, but because there's art inside of you that will kill you if you don't let it out. You shouldn't found a startup to make money, but because it's your life's work. And you shouldn't hack on open source projects because someone told you that your GitHub profile is your new resume, but because you want to code socially. I won't focus on why open source is good in this post, but rather warn you about some common, bad reasons to hack on open source projects.

(image: jalbertbowdenii)

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