Ryan Harter

Freelance Android Developer

Credit Where Credits Due

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There are a lot of great apps on mobile devices these days, made by a lot of great people. Many, if not most, of these apps use various open source libraries for features or backwards compatibility. This is excellent, but we have to make sure that we give credit where credit is due.

Open Source is Great

I have always been a big proponent of open source. Not just software, either. I love the idea of open source hardware, and even open source house plans. I love the idea that, if only people would share what they created, we could all work towards the common good.

To that end, I’ve contributed to a few open source projects. And much of my work figuring things out has been done completely openly. But, as a freelance Android developer, I also understand the importance of proprietary pieces in helping people make a living.

Like many other Android developers, I make proprietary apps for clients, and also have my own closed source Android projects, Hashnote being the major one right now. Also, like many other Android developers, I utilize open source libraries like Jeremy Feinstein’s SlidingMenu for these projects. Using open source libraries means that I don’t have to reinvent every wheel just to get to the same result, alowing me to developer faster and rest easy knowing that the code I’m using has been tested by more than just me.

Credit Where Credits Due

One of the stipulations of using Open Source code is that you must adhere to the license. Let’s get real, must is a strong word here. You should adhere to the license. Many open source projects are created by individual developers who don’t have rooms filled with laywers ready to pounce on violators.

The flip side of that is that many open source projects are created by individual developers in their free time and provided, free of charge, out of the goodness of their heart. Sure, developers of popular open source projects gain recognition which helps gain clients and job prospects, but that’s simply because they’ve utilized the stage to show their development skills, just as any one else can.

In lieu of monetary rewards, the least that these developer deserve is credit for their contributions. After all, they did help the app developers build a stable app quickly.

That’s why I urge all of my clients to include an Open Source Licenses screen in their apps to display which libraries were used, who created them, and the license they are released under. It doesn’t have to be prominent and take over your app experience, just a link in the about page is fine. If you look in the about page of Hashnote you’ll see exactly that.

It’s Up To Us

Ensuring credit is given for these contributors is up to us. I’m not talking about developers, but rather the people in charge of the apps. That means developers on their projects, but also their clients.

I, admittedly, made the mistake of putting the open source license screen for Hashnote down the priority list until the app had already been out for a month. Nobody seemed to notice or care, but it still wasn’t right.

I urge you to continue using open source software to help make your development go faster and easier, but also don’t forgot the give credit for the time and hard work that went into making those projects possible.

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