Why we run an open source program - Box

This is the third in a series of blog posts from TODO Group members, explaining why each company is committed to open source software. This week, we feature Benjamin VanEvery (@bvanevery) and Nicholas Zakas (@slicknet), who oversee the open source activities at Box.

We see running our open source program as being a logical extension to the type of work Boxers do every day. Like many tech companies, our technology stack includes open source projects. Because of that, it’s important for companies like Box to have a good understanding of the open source ecosystem. There’s no better way to get involved than to participate actively by releasing our own projects, contributing to existing projects, and working with engineers from other companies on common goals. Doing so also has benefits that aren’t immediately apparent.

First and foremost, it gives those outside of Box a chance to see what we’re working on and what sort of quality they can expect from us. Nothing speaks more about the expectations and standards of an engineering team than they code they produce. This has positive effects in numerous ways: from potential customers who may feel more comfortable seeing some of the code we’re built on, to candidates who want to learn more about what it’s like to be a Boxer. We’re proud of the code we write at Box and we think it reflects our engineering culture well.

Running an open source program also gives us the opportunity to collaborate with non-Boxers in a constructive setting. Our open source projects are an introduction to talk with us. A lot of tech companies are facing similar problems, and these projects provide a way for engineers from multiple companies to come together to jointly design solutions. Take one of our recent projects, ClusterRunner. After open sourcing it, we got substantial contributions from other valley companies that have added to the tool’s ease of adoption and which we plan to use in our own infrastructure! It’s almost like having an a second team to work with.

Sharing code that you’ve written with the engineering community or meaningfully contributing to an important open source project is a rewarding personal experience that extends beyond the company walls. Providing our engineers with an avenue for doing this is a reminder that while you’re first and foremost a Boxer, we are all part of a larger ecosystem of engineering working toward building a better internet.