Community and Open Source Potential: Interview with Stefan Koopmanschap

Stefan Koopmanschap

As part of Microsoft’s efforts to promote interoperability, we’ve been asking members of the Open Source community to share their insights and experience with Open Source technology. If you’d be interested in sharing your views or know someone who would, please leave a comment below.

Meet Stefan Koopmanschap (@Skoop), a PHP developer from the Netherlands who has a long history in Open Source. He’s been been a Support Team Leader for phpBB, a documentation translator for Zend Framework, and is currently a now advocate in both The Netherlands and online. Stefan was also a co-founder of the Dutch PHP usergroup which later merged with phpBelgium to form PHPBenelux, where he was secretary.

We recently got to ask Stefan about his history with Open Source, and what he thinks it means for business, technology, and community. Stefan has been working with PHP for well over a decade and has had the privilege of watching the community evolve and grow. For him, Open Source is more than just a passion for the code. It’s also about the community and the people who form it. But enough talking. Let’s let Stefan speak for himself.

How did you first get involved in Open Source development?

When I started with PHP in 97 or 98, I learned a lot about PHP development by reading blogposts, by downloading open source scripts and looking at how they did stuff. After that, I started using Open Source software, most specifically phpBB. I highly enjoyed this, but at some point I felt like I was leeching off the work of others, and I needed to give something back. Aside from sharing some (admittedly really bad!) pieces of PHP software on SourceForge, I started answering questions on the phpBB support forum. At some point, phpBB started an official support team and I signed up. This was the first time I’ve officially become involved in Open Source.

What makes you passionate about Open Source technology?

Contrary to a lot of closed source software, Open Source is usually built to solve a problem someone has. So instead of thinking “my users may need this feature”, it’s “I need this feature, let’s add it so others can benefit of it as well”. I’m not saying there’s no feature creep in Open Source, but it’s much less than in closed source software. Additionally the sense of community is awesome. It is amazing what people do. Aside from the contributions to the code, there’s things such as the passing of Richard Thomas, a sad happening for the PHP community. But what happened afterwards? Richard turned out not to be insured, so the community stepped in and donated money for a special fund for Richard’s wife and kid. I think stuff like this is what makes Open Source so beautiful. It’s not just about a passion for the code, it’s also about a feeling of community.

What is your preferred Open Source platform and why?

Being involved in PHP a lot, I would obviously say the PHP-related platforms. I run a Mac for my desktop and linux on my VPSes, but I’ve recently been working with Windows Azure and other cloud platforms, and they all work. So even though I have a slight preference for running PHP on *nix-based platforms, I will happily work with PHP on any platform. Why PHP? Well, I’ve been working with it for so long, and even after trying several different other languages I’ve always come back to PHP so far. It’s pragmatic, but supports all best practices in software development.

What other/upcoming Open Source technologies are you excited about?

Within PHP, I’m really excited about the different next-generation frameworks. They add a whole new level of quality tooling to the PHP community. Additionally, I am very excited about all the projects that PHP developers are starting to use more and more: Solr and Elastic Search, Jenkins, etc. All Open Source, but not written in PHP, but they make things much better and easier for people to use.

What Open Source platforms do you see as having the most importance potential in the coming 12-18 months?

Looking at the PHP world, it’s all the projects around PHP. The earlier mentioned Solr, Elastic Search, Jenkins etc. It’s what allows PHP to grow more and more into a position where it is a valid choice for enterprise development.

How do you think Open Source is affecting SMBs?

I think Open Source allows development companies to benefit from the work of others, making it easier and faster to develop high quality software. For non-development companies, I think Open Source is important for portability (being able to switch between technologies) but also for the quality of the software they use. They may not be aware of this (or at least not in the short run), but higher quality software is much better for their software. It will reduce maintenance cost in the long run, and will be more stable as well saving frustration and lost work time.

How do you think Open Source is affecting enterprise level companies?

This very much depends on the company. Companies that embrace Open Source will benefit from it for the same reasons I gave in the previous answer. Companies that ignore Open Source will stay where they are. Companies that try to kill Open Source will actually damage their business while doing so.