Tesla, Laravel, Open Source, & You

Today electric car company Tesla announced the “open sourcing” of their electric vehicle technology.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in a blog post titled “All Our Patent Are Belong To You,” stated that Tesla will not pursue patent lawsuits against anybody who uses their patented technology “in good faith.” 

From Musk’s post:

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

He goes on to to say that “technology leadership” is defined not by patents, but “by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers.”

Technology Leadership is not defined by patents...but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world's most talented engineers. -Elon Musk. The Snappy Blog.

So. What does any of this have to do with Snappy?

I’m glad you asked!

Since I started working for UserScape, I’ve heard a lot about open source. In our case, of course, “open source” refers to software.

Like Tesla’s cars, Snappy was built by talented engineers, our own Eric Barnes and Taylor Otwell. They built (and continue to build) Snappy using Laravel, a PHP framework. The interesting part? Laravel is open source software, and it was created by Taylor. Most of it has been built while he worked here at UserScape.

Last month the entire UserScape/Snappy team gathered in NYC for Laracon, the conference built around Laravel. It attracted engineers and developers from all over the globe; I met people from Wales, Ukraine, and Australia, to name a few. The things these men and women have built, and will build, are astounding. And the only thing all these smarties had in common?

Laravel.

Built by Taylor Otwell, an employee of UserScape.

I’m not bragging, I’m just making a point: that, like Tesla, UserScape supports the “open sourcing” of ideas and technology. And so can you.

During the conference, our founder Ian gave a 15-minute lightening talk on the subject of open source software, and what he sees as his responsibility, as a small business owner in the software industry, to support it.

Ian allows Taylor one day per week to work exclusively on Laravel. Of course, Taylor also spends many of his own hours working on his “side project,” but Ian has made a point of giving him time, space, and support to work on it while he’s “on the clock,” as well.

Laracon_2014___Snappy_Live_Events

Why?

Well, I think Ian already knew what Elon Musk is now discovering. Success as a company isn’t about patents and exclusivity. It’s about, in Musk’s words, “the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers.” When I first interviewed for this position, Ian told me with absolute confidence in his voice that he believed the members of his team were “some of the best in the world at what they do.” 

This is a huge part of what drew me to this job and this company; I’m not an engineer. I’m a writer. Technically, a writer can work just about anywhere, writing just about anything. But I was deeply impressed to see a company that goes out of its way to support and nurture its employees, not only for what they can contribute to the bottom line, but for what they can contribute to the world.

I don’t flatter myself to think I’m one of “the world’s most talented” anything. But I think I’m pretty good at what I do, and I know there were multiple opportunities available to me when I chose UserScape. And I know that my coworkers, Ian, Jamie, Eric, Taylor, Chris, and Rebecca, are awesome at what they do, every last one of them. And we all choose to work here; in my case, the company’s supportive attitude towards its employees’ individual growth was a huge part of why I joined this team.

So I have to agree with Elon Musk. Our company is successful not in spite of each individual’s personal goals and talents, but because of them. Taylor is the most obvious example, but I believe it’s true of all of us.

Here, just read this again. Tweet it, pin it, whatever you do with awesome quotes, this one deserves the full treatment:

Technology Leadership is not defined by patents...but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world's most talented engineers. -Elon Musk. The Snappy Blog.

That’s all very pretty. But why should I care?

Ian’s main point was that we all profit from open source tools. Every tech company in the world, probably, in some way, uses a piece of software that came from the open source community. UserScape’s two products, Snappy and HelpSpot, are built on open source software.

We all profit from these tools. We depend on them. It’s our responsibility to improve them, and it’s just good business to improve them. -Ian Landsman

UserScape gives back to the open source community with hours, by giving our developers the time and support to create freely. Any software company can do this, by actively hiring developers who contribute to open source, and encouraging them to continue doing so. Other ways to support include straight monetary donations, or, if you have the skill, contributing code directly to open source projects.

You can donate to or purchase from the individual developers who build the tools you use for free. Many of them write books you can buy to read or donate, or maintain podcasts, blogs, and newsletters that need sponsors.

And of course, you can help by working with companies that support open source, by using the products that pay for that work. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Snappy is one of those products. It’s built entirely using Laravel, and when you choose to support Snappy, you also support Taylor’s continued work on Laravel, which in turn supports countless other software projects.

Ian gave a brief but brilliant talk expressing these ideas at Laracon; you can read my live blog of his presentation,  by scrolling up from here, if you’re interested. (Full video of most of the Laracon talks is also forthcoming; if you don’t want to miss it be sure to subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter.)

I love to see physical-world companies like Tesla jumping on board the open source movement!

What do you think? Was it foolish of Tesla to open source their EV technology, or do you think it’ll only move the company forward, as Musk predicts? Do you or your company actively support the open source community? I’d love to hear about it!


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