WordPress is open source. Yoast SEO is open source. At Yoast, we’re open source fanboys (and fangirls). We’ve talked about it, we’ve written about it. And still, lots of people do not know why open source is so unique. Most people do not even know what open source software is or how it’s made. That’s why we’re starting a series of interviews with people that love open source as much as we do. We’ll even search outside of WordPress. Let’s start this series with an interview with our very own Joost de Valk, founder and CEO of Yoast.
Q. Why is open source important to you?
“Open source is important to me because it’s what allowed me to learn how to code. I learned to write code by looking at other people’s code. Another reason why open source is so very important to me is that I have a deep feeling that this is how software should be developed and how knowledge should be shared. This might sound a bit grand, but as human kind, it just doesn’t make sense to develop the same things over and over again.”
Q. In what way do you contribute to open source projects?
I actively contribute to WordPress Core myself. In addition, as a company, we contribute to open source platforms by donating development time, design time, marketing time and money.
Q. Who is your open source hero?
“Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. He’s a hero because he open sourced Wikimedia, the platform on which Wikipedia is build. In a way – with Wikipedia itself – he actually open sourced all knowledge. That’s just really awesome.”
Q. Do you have to be a developer to be involved with open source?
“No, absolutely not. Every open source project needs copywriters, translators, marketers, designers and project managers in order to succeed. Also, we need people with lots of other skill sets for, for instance, organizing a conference. I think that at Yoast, about half of our contribution is not code.”
Q. When and what was your first open source contribution?
“My first open source contribution was a test case for WebKit, the core of Safari and Chrome. This was at the end of 2005. I’ve written hundreds of test cases for WebKit and I started blogging about that on WordPress.”
Q. Does open source say anything about the quality of a product?
“Open source itself is not a guarantee of quality. There’s good and there’s bad open source software. However, with open source software, you’ll always be able to hire a developer to work on a product, even if a product is abandoned. You’ll never end up with a completely dead product because you can always reach the code. I think that is a major advantage of open source software as compared to closed source software.
Q. How do you learn from open source software?
“Open source code is visible to everybody. Because of that, you can learn from other people’s code. You can see and learn from the solutions of other people. Working on open source projects also means that you can discuss and collaborate with others who are working on the same product.
The developers at Yoast learn from each other, but they also learn from all the other developers in the WordPress ecosystem. Because of that, because they learn from so many, different developers, they quickly improve themselves. They become better developers. I really think that people severely underestimate how important this is.”
Any ideas on whom to interview next? Which open source fanatic should I reach out to? Let me know!
Read more: Why our mission is: SEO for everyone »