True Life: I’m An Open Source Rookie


0pen-Rookies-logo-2014Thousands of open source projects are initiated each year. Some skyrocket to superstardom, some slowly inspire a supportive community, and others fail. Black Duck Software highlights notable open source projects each year with its Open Source Rookies program. In 2014, the list of projects nominated spanned security, cloud storage, Bitcoin marketplaces, DevOps tools, and database management. Each project began in 2014 and rapidly established a thriving community.

Some projects will continue to grow and become popular and successful while others may morph and change as they progress. Not all Black Duck Rookies are high-profile projects. CodeCombat, OpenBazaar, and Neovim are three projects representing different areas of technology not only in technical scope but in their path to Open Source Rookies of the Year.


Given the escalating job market for open source expertise, governments, corporations, and educators have been focusing on expanding the reach of coding education. Programs like Girls Who Code, Code for America, and Code Academy provide educational resources for professionals and students. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to engaging young students. CodeCombat founders George Scott and Nick Winter were bored by traditional learning programs and sought to create a fun and interactive learning experience for students. They open sourced their educational programming game in 2014, and after two months of development made it into Google’s Summer of Code.

Despite its initial success, investors were cautious about investing in the platform, so the founders had to develop a refined, commercial, open source business plan. By following the freemium model, they were able to structure their game to provide free education to interested students with the option to upsell for enhanced features and game explorations. This idea not only pleased investors, but also helped them to attract a large community which supports this game in multiple languages and for students and teachers across the globe.


The founders of OpenBazaar are inspired by the Bitcoin movement. In a blog post titled “Bitcoin Free Trade and Terrible Humans”, project founder Brian Hoffman bemoans the negative reputation Bitcoin receives in the media. He says that people who claim the digital currency paves the way for drug dealers and child pornographers egregiously misinterpret the founding principles of the Bitcoin movement. “We are here because we believe that people deserve to be free,” Hoffman states.

The OpenBazaar contributors apply this philosophy in their development of a decentralized Bitcoin marketplace. Project founders launched the project at the Toronto Bitcoin Hackathon where it was warmly received by fellow Bitcoin enthusiasts. Hoffman uses Reddit and events like FOSDEM and hackathons to grow the OpenBazaar community. Today, the contributors have achieved a beta release of their project and are looking to stabilize the marketplace across multiple platforms in the coming months. This project started with no corporate backing, but began by donation of time, talent, and Bitcoins.


Reinventing a time-honored classic is an intimidating challenge. To succeed in this endeavor, one must put a modern spin upon the least favorable aspects of the original without diminishing the integrity of the original design. Thiago de Arruda faced such a challenge when he began work on improving the tool that he used most in his work, the Vim text editor. When Thiago began work on Neovim in 2014, his goal was to match the speed of the text editor with the speed of its plugin development environment.

Neovim is not the first attempt to reinvent the Vim text editor – others have tried to rebuild the tool from the ground up. Thiago noticed this pattern of failure and improved his design by preserving essential Vim features, such as documentation, vimscript, regex, and ex commands. Developing a healthy community was critical to the success of his project, and because Thiago was able to pinpoint the desires of the Vim community with his proof-of-concept, he has succeeded at gaining support. Using Bounty Source, Thiago inspired the backing and donations of the community to fund full-time work on Neovim for six months. With continued community support, Neovim hopes to launch a beta version in 2015.

To follow these projects and the community pushing the boundaries of technology, join the #OSRookies conversation. Follow @Neovim, @OpenBazaar, and @CodeCombat to keep an eye on the open source movers and shakers.