Assume you are considering open-sourcing a large service of your internal enterprise infrastructure. Let's say you have the resources required to ensure the minimal requirements are met: the licenses are sorted out, profanities removed, security audits conducted and all known security vulnerabilities fixed. Assume your company doing the open-sourcing has a very recognized and valued global brand.

Does it make sense to open-source such service by just dumping the files? I am assuming here it won't even be possible to run the service as-is, because it will have dependencies on other, not open-sourced systems.

If not, what would be the minimal effort required to make open-sourcing worthwhile?

Related questions:
Reasons NOT to open source not-for-profit code?
The reason to make some code open source
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  • 1
    What do you/the company want to gain by making the service open-source? Dec 15, 2018 at 7:11
  • 2
    Without knowing the goals and motivations, I think your question about "the minimal effort required" makes not much sense sense- the effort will heavily depend on what one wants to achieve. So it would be really helpful if you explain those goals first to us by editing them into the question. Note also, you should clarify what you mean by "worthwhile" - for whom? To the company? Or for others?
    – Doc Brown
    Dec 15, 2018 at 9:51
  • There are many well-known open-source organizations who will provide guidance to companies wanting to open-source an internal project.
    – rwong
    Dec 15, 2018 at 13:49
  • 1
    Why do people keep voting this question down? Dec 19, 2018 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


The "minimum requirements" for open sourcing some code depend primarily on why your company plans to publish it, and secondarily on what it is.

First, sometimes this kind of "code dump" actually makes sense. Specifically, if you are obligated to open source something to satisfy customers, partners, and/or a government, but you don't otherwise care about the code. This could include terms of an intercompany agreement, plans to abandon an otherwise-popular product, or regulatory compliance.

If that's not your motivation, then the situation you described falls below the threshold of minimum worthwhile results. Let's assume that the code is being open-sourced in order to create a userbase for it ("community", by some minimal definition). That would require, at a minimum, three of the six requirements below:

  1. Existing popularity or marketing to create popularity
  2. Adequate user documentation
  3. Adequate code/developer documentation
  4. Current code runnable as a "Minimum viable product"
  5. Appropriate licensing
  6. A present and responsive engineering team.

So, for example, a project with runnable code and a highly responsive engineering team that is liberally licensed is minimally viable even though it has no documentation. Alternately, a well-documented and highly-publicized project whose code doesn't currently run will also be minimally viable. In either case, there's a decent chance of attracting volunteers to fix the bugs/docs.

Your question suggests that you would have only (5) and maybe (1), and the project would fail on documentation, runnability, and involvement of existing staff. This is not minimally viable. The fact that it's for a well-known company makes it worse; the project would be visibly deficient and thus hurt the company's brand.

  • 1
    Thanks Josh, I've learned a lot from your answer and I will spread the knowledge inside the company. Dec 17, 2018 at 7:34

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