Our topic this week is Open Source.

1:46 There are a few other code processing apps that are open source; JS Bin and Dabblet, for example. So why isn’t CodePen open source? That’s the question we’re answering on today’s episode.

Would a GitHub issue thread be a good place for customer support?

3:39 It is tempting to have an repo that other people can check out to find fixes for various bugs or problems. The main reason we haven’t set that up yet is a lack of time. We don’t have any support staff yet. We’re currently using Respond.ly for keeping track of tweets mentioning CodePen. Many of our users will tweet at our CodePen twitter account when they run into problems, so it’s an easy way for us to see when someone runs into a bug.

6:57 One of the benefits that a GitHub repo might provide is that people could search for open issues and not have to submit a support request, which could save us some support time. This is similar to having a support forum.

7:30 It sounds like a good idea, but we saw this method tried at Wufoo, where there were forums for people to ask questions and get responses. It didn’t end up working out so well due to issues with search functionality. We are going to explore similar options more in the future, because we would like to have some kind of online resource where users can find answers to common problems.

Why not open source the CodePen codebase?

8:35 We’re not worried about someone copying our code and spinning up a competitor. Much of our value is that everyone knows to go to CodePen, and we currently have 27 servers running the site, so that’s not really something you could imitate easily.

9:53 Since there are so many moving pieces and complexity, we don’t think that a single repo containing all of CodePen’s code would be that useful for most people.

Security Issues

11:41 We did a previous episode about security, and we know that there are people interested in pouring through source code looking for bugs and holes in our code. This could create some dangerous situations if a bug was discovered by the wrong person. We would need to do a complete security audit before open sourcing all of our code, and even then, there’s always the risk that something might slip through.

Is open sourcing always the right thing to do?

14:41 A common sentiment in our community is that not open sourcing your code is in some sense rude, or holding back, or not contributing. While we aren’t contributing our codebase to the world, we are giving back with a free service and in various other ways.

We don’t want to put out code that isn’t well documented and well supported. That isn’t the right way to do open source.

17:52 CodePen does use a lot of open source software. A huge example of this is the open source code editor we use in CodePen, which is Code Mirror. We don’t contribute much code to that project, but we do support it with a monthly donation.

22:14 What we’d like to do is open source some of the libraries we’ve created so that other people could start using them. For example, we have a tool called Bunker Box we use to keep iFrames secure, so we’d like to open source that and maybe some other pieces of CodePen that would be useful to the broader community.

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