"Open source really crept up on me over time. As a Windows user I had always sought out shareware to keep costs down. FOSS just got lumped in with freeware, and in that regard, I liked it a lot. Perl's CPAN was probably the first time I 'got' open source, because it was a source I could understand, use, alter, and improve. I'm still more of a user than a contributor. I've written two modules for CPAN, but not much else."
Malpass says it was Firefox that really helped him begin to see the potential of the open source development approach, especially for client-side applications. "All of a sudden here was a software product that was really, really good. Looked good and worked better than its commercial rivals, with a community that could respond to problems quickly and openly. That set me off looking for other high-quality applications, and I'm happy to say I found plenty."
Malpass says the reaction from Etsy sellers to his scripts has been good. "The response has been really very positive. I think some people have been surprised that I've just gone out and made these available to the community, rather than trying to sell them. I think of it as a 'pay it forward' sort of deal. I make a good living using tools freely given by others, so I should give others good tools too. People have been sufficiently impressed by the hacks that they've donated money to help cover my costs, which has been a welcome surprise, but I'm not going to get rich doing this.
"It's been nice that I am able to play some small part in the FOSS movement by encouraging people to switch to an open source browser - there have been a number of people who've said, 'OK, these sound good, I'm going to try Firefox now.' There are a fair few technically minded sellers on Etsy, but I don't get the impression that there are lots of real techies. Where they show up is in third-party tools that like mine, try to make life a bit easier for Etsy users. Right now Etsy's platform is maturing, and I know they have a plan to develop and release an API, and I think that will open up some interesting possibilities, and really tap in to that 'maker' spirit."
Malpass recommends that people new to open source just jump right in - but not too deeply. "The various Linux distros that come on Live CDs are a great way to get your feet wet without really committing. Alternatively, grab an old box off Freecycle and have an 'I can break this' sandbox. I think Windows users can really benefit from the mature FOSS applications that are appearing now, especially OpenOffice.org, which is a beautiful replacement for commonly bundled software like Microsoft Works, but most don't know they exist, so it is important to evangelize."
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.