How about some open source days?

I want open source days. Add those to the list: healthcare, dental, prescription, vision, vacation days, sick days, etc. and open source days.

Many devs are complaining about perks, or lack thereof. Alternatively, many employers are advertising ridiculous benefits. One thing some companies offer is x% of your time for R & D, personal projects, or open source. This is close to what I want, but it fills a different need. Anyway, the following would be quite appealing to me.

Some Position

Description: Responsible for doing some stuff. Full stack, rockstar, ninja, ginsu, terminator-alpha-squadron-hacker extraordinaire geek, whatever other catchy new descriptors are ‘in’ right now. Oh, and the company is really awesome, so: open source, beer, caffeine, hardware choice, cow, some cash money, and this crazy-niche nerd-lore adult toy.

Benefits: Equity, healthcare, 401k, 5% required research and development time, flexible schedule, 3 weeks vacation, 10 annual sick days, 5 open source days.

Disclosure: I probably wouldn’t apply anywhere that uses ninja/rockstar-esque terminology.

Open source days?

I don’t think I’m the only one who has occasional trouble with traction in the morning. Or on the occasional Wednesday. Or Monday. Or Friday. Or…

Sometimes I am just a little burned out. My candle is going at both ends, and occasionally I just need to revert to a vegetative state for a while to get those brain juices flowing again. This is what vacation and/or sick days are for (most people need to use these more). Other times I have the urge to be extremely productive, but I have no motivation to move forward on my current task. These are the times when I’d like to be able to take an ‘open source day’. I might want to work on a personal project that I have open sourced, I might want to support an existing open source project, I might just want to take a few open source solutions for a test drive. All of these are productive in their own right, but an employer is perfectly justified when highlighting that these activites are not offering (or rarely offer) a short-term and noticeable boon to the current task at hand. Solution: use an open source day!

Alas, I don’t have open source days. On my ‘off-days’, rather than simply diverting my productivity to some other project (where I might be at peak productivity), I dick around fixing bugs at a snail’s pace, reviewing reddit and hacker news obsessively, deleting spam comments from my blog, or maybe going through the xkcd catalog (again).

Some of the employers or productivity gurus out there might be concerned about this tactic. You might suggest that these are the days when you should employ productivity technique x, or that you’ve found technique y in combination with list-type z to work under similar scenarios. I only remind you that I said 5 days in a year. I’m not talking about resolving each and every Tuesday-lull by donating 8 hours (or so) of time to a random project. But about once a quarter I think some dedicated and endorsed open source involvement would be rejuvinating and productive for all parties involved. The employer gains some open source credibility, and possibly some employee education both for the individual and others with ‘what are you working on?’ and water-cooler-type insight. The employee gains experience on something that may or may not be directly in line with their position (both of which are productive). The open source project gains whatever it gains - evangelism, bug fixes, code cleaning, documentation, user support, whatever. And all this is gained at the expense of 8 man hours.

It’s worth noting that the 8 man hours you exchanged were probably more like 2 man hours, because I wasn’t likely to accomplish much that day anyway. Not only that, but the next day’s 8 hours are more like 12, because I’m likely to be good and recharged after such a welcomed mental diversion.

Some may also say that an open source day is a perfectly good use of R & D time, or that this is a justifiable usage for vacation/sick time. While I can get behind both of these ideas, I am talking about an offering that would appeal to me. If an employer or potential employer announced that I get 5 open source days to use at my own discretion (usage within reason, of course - no open source weeks immediately prior to a launch date), it would offer a notable plus for said employer. I see this as an employer going out of their way to say a few things:

  1. Open source is important to us.
  2. We want open source to be important to you.
  3. We trust your judgment, if today would be more productive for you spent on open source project x, we support that decision.
  4. We know that whole-heartedly diverting your attention can sometimes promote epiphanies, strokes of genius, or just light bulbs with resolutions to bugs that you’d otherwise waste days trying to fix.

I doubt we’ll see this offering (or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places?), but I think it would be grand to take a proper open source day.

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opensource teachingopensource dev