The pitch / Xavier Borderie has been with PrestaShop since 2011, having started out by putting together documentation for the community. In 2015 he donned the “Advocate” cap to manage, support and lead that very same community.
Now / Open Source Advocate with PrestaShop
The role of Open Source in PrestaShop’s development
The Pitch / PrestaShop is one of the most popular Open Source projects in France (ranked 21st among GitHub’s most popular projects), and the company is among the very few French Open Source publishers to be a world leader in its field.
To be Open Source:
- Learning / It enabled us to learn a lot, and fast, about the needs of the various markets we were aiming at (and to discover what markets we ought to be aiming at, and thus what software modifications to prioritize).
- Debugging and improvement / The concept at the heart of Open Source is “Linus’s Law”: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”, or in other words, the more people there are with access to the source code, the more likely it is that the main bugs will be spotted, and that their fixes will be obvious to certain testers or co-developers. In that sense, opening up our code has brought us a lot of feedback and contributions, especially since we arrived on GitHub’s collaborative development platform in November 2012.
- Word-of-mouth / An Open Source project, by its very nature, will have a community grow around it, enabling PrestaShop to benefit very early on from users’ support in the form of suggestions and bug reports, as well as word-of-mouth promotion and being added to agencies’ tool portfolios. That’s how PrestaShop’s popularity grew so quickly, especially in France and Spain, and how it became a "must have” in web designers’ tool kits.
The Perception / Freelancers and agencies offering PrestaShop to their clients often do so because the code is free and open. This means they can easily (and legally) modify it and adapt it to their clients’ needs. On the other hand, retailers, sadly, understand “Open Source” to mean merely free of charge, overlooking its other aspects of freedom, openness and user contribution.
The Open Source community
This consists of thousands of people, who fall into several categories:
- Developers who submit fixes for the core solution. These are often the people we have in mind when talking about “Open Source contributors”.
- Designers of the modules and themes sold on Addons. These are the “Addons contributors”.
- Translators, who see to it that every aspect of the software is accessible in their language. Although not actually linked to Open Source, the community translation is a rarity among proprietary projects.
- People who flag up bugs and suggest functionalities on the Forge, the bug tracking system used by PrestaShop.
- Forum participants and moderators.
- People who organize local events relating to the solution.
- Agencies and freelancers who promote the solution to their clients.
What motivates them:
- It is in their interest, be that personal or professional, that the project improves and grows. They use it themselves or want to offer it to their clients.
- They want to gain experience, especially in code. Being part of a popular Open Source project can make a CV far more impressive, as well as backing up a claim to be a specialist in the solution.
- It’s an ego thing: it’s very gratifying to see your contribution accepted and used by hundreds of thousands of users.
- Because the software is free, some contributors want to give back to the community what they haven’t had to spend. They see this as a way of thanking the community by donating their time and expertise.
- And sometimes they are just interested in Open Source and want to be involved in a project!
Creating and leading a community
Every community is formed around tools, mainly for discussion, the essentials being a forum, a blog and a mailing list. To these you can add IRC or Slack “chat” channels, the main thing being for the community to be able to interact easily with the publisher to share its ideas and problems. The next step is to create knowledge bases, so as not to start again from scratch every time: these include documentation (user, developer, designer), a bug tracker, and so on. Finally, you need teachers, pioneers who’ll do the groundwork, ask the right questions, and start contributing to and promoting the project, thus getting the community started.
One the community has started up it’s essential to lead it, so that it can continue to flourish. I would say there are 5 tools for this: communication, driven by transparency and honesty; “do-ocracy”, in which the most actively involved contributors are recognized and consulted; interaction with new partners and projects; technology, to keep up to speed with what’s going on; and fun!
Promoting the Open Source ethos for the greater good
For our part, we’ll carry on developing this community because it’s individual contributions, everyone doing what they can, that enable projects like PrestaShop to improve and provide a better service to as many people as possible. This exciting potential has yet to be explored, and just like standout projects like Firefox, VLC or OpenOffice, PrestaShop wants to be in the forefront of promoting the spirit of Open Source!