We've all heard this term.  We kind of know what it means, but the true beauty of open-source reveals itself once you put it to use.  It's within everyone's grasp to learn how to do just that.

But first thing's first.  Here's the definition of open-source:

"denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified."

Using open-source code doesn't mean you need to know how to code! Chris Ried / Unsplash

I never learned how to code.  I can't write javascript to save my life.  When I got into learning about open-source apps I treaded ever so carefully.  I worried about "getting hacked" or something.  Or about deploying some nefarious untested app.  Or losing my personal data.

These were and still are valid concerns, but I have a few takeways to share about my experience as a laymen putting open-source tech to work for me.  It's not that hard, risks can be minimized with one easy approach, and there are so many fun things to tinker with virtually for free despite your technical aptitude.

What is Github?

"GitHub is where over 83 million developers shape the future of software, together."
Microsoft sucks but they made the right move buying Github in 2018 for $7.5 billion.

So Github, while aesthetically looking like shit (for a non-programmer!), has lots of hidden gems under the surface to be discovered by anyone.  These gems are the thousands of open-source apps that anyone can use.  The source code for these apps is readily available, customizable, and most of the good ones are updated by active communities of developers.

Remember above when I said there are ways to minimize your risks when using open-source apps?  Well, the easiest way to do that is to just focus on those apps that are updated and maintained, that have dozens if not hundreds or thousands of Github stars (their rating and review system).

GitHub icon in 3D. My 3D work may be seen in the section titled "3D Render."
We will show you how to browse Github for the best repos. Rubaitul Azad / Unsplash

You can use that as a guide so that you avoid even looking at any repositories that have less than a few dozen stars.  Simple as that.  Of course there are lots of other ways to be digitally safe and secure with your online business.  We will guide you through this process.

We've done a lot of the legwork already.  We've curated reputable repositories that are in a word, amazing.  Here are some just to name a few:

3D Rendering Rocket Space Launching Illustration
My favorite open-source app: Rocket.chat! Andy Hermawan / Unsplash

Rocket.chat is where I started with the whole Workmates endeavor.  It's a chat app like Slack.  Absolutely loaded with functionality, I am still blown away that I can just fire this up and have most of the best features of PAID Slack virtually for free.

You can see our Rocket.chat servers at https://chat.workmates.live and https://chat.travelers.live.  We have hundreds and hundreds of channels in our showroom and dozens of servers out in the wild serving our customers.

Rocket.chat is freaking awesome!  There is a "Livechat" feature that allows you to deploy a veritable call-center environment, with agents, and managers, and widgets on as many sites as you can dream up.  You can integrate the app with Twilio and a VoIP number for next to nothing.  It's incredible.

Footprints on escalator
Automation can be VERY rewarding! Andrea De Santis / Unsplash

n8n is an automation engine like Zapier of IFTTT.  While those platforms are really cool there are limitations to the free versions of them.  With Zapier especially, be prepared to pay!

With open-source tech, you pay for your raw cloud computing space.  In full transparency you can buy the same server we deploy on your behalf for as little as $8/month!  If you know how to deploy the open-source apps or want to DIY and learn it yourself, this is the way to go!

If not, you can pay us $25/mo to do it for you.  A shortcut indeed!

Build your own Mechanical Keyboard
Automation is about shortcuts. Juan Gomez / Unsplash

Back to n8n.  You can think of it simply as a way to connect triggers and actions.  For example, you can say when I get a text message from a prospective customer, I can then send that text message to your Rocket.chat instance or fire off a welcome e-mail.

There is so much power under the hood of n8n, you really can do almost anything with it!

Library Database
This isn't your Grandma's database app. Jan Antonin Kolar / Unsplash

Baserow is a code-free database app.  It's an alternative to Airtable.  Airtable is awesome but their free plan sucks and has some major limitations.  When strapped for cash, go open-source am I right?  That's where Baserow comes in.

What blew me away with Baserow is that it comes with like 185 templates, many of which are perfect for a new business or startup.

Marketing strategy on glass close-up
Don't let "database" scare you. Think SUPER spreadsheet! Campaign Creators / Unsplash

A code-free database is like a spreadsheet on steroids.  It looks like a spreadsheet but it has lots of amazing things going on under the hood!  My favorite thing to do is to add a webhook to a piece of data in said "spreadsheet."  With that webhook (which is basically a way to add a URL to a piece of data so that you can integrate it with other apps), I can put real-time info from a database somewhere onto a website, or into a newsletter, or pipe it into my mobile app.

Code-free is a big part of our digital future.  Baserow is a great way to prepare for this future!

Taking an evening Zoom call teleconference meeting. Needed a cup of coffee to stay up late to check in with my co workers.
Your own virtual cafe. Compare Fibre / Unsplash

Jitsi is like Zoom (but without that awful piece of Zoom software you have to install on your machine!).  It runs completely in the cloud.  It has all the same features like screensharing and whiteboard and can be encrypted for privacy.

While it may not seem like much, having your own self-hosted web-conferencing server is just cool!  Imagine your own virtual cafe, or boardroom, a place where you can tell others to go and meet, work together, or just hang out.  You're not at the mercy of Google or Microsoft or Zoom because you have full control over the experience.

Flame is a simple repository that will likely become your favorite.  It's the dashboard app featured here:  

The Revolution's in Your Mind.  Get a Dashboard.

Imagine a web-page that's running an app that has a collection of bookmarks that you have full control over.  You can point your browser to open up to this page, where you will find all the apps, tools, and links that you want to see.  No bullshit ads, no experience dictated by big tech companies that couldn't give a shit about you.

A pure and unadulterated dashboard and the gateway to the open-source apps that we deploy for you onto your server.  It's simple but looks so slick, it's small but powerful, and it's all yours.

The Flame dashboard is simple yet a beauty to behold and can be a powerful way to organize your digital life.

Ghost, well, you're looking at it right here!  I wish I hadn't made the mistake of deploying the Workmates ".LIVE" network across 100s of Wordpress sites!  No joke!   You could read more about why we moved from Wordpress to Ghost here:  https://blog.cofounder.live/why-we-moved-from-wordpress-to-ghost/.  If I could turn back the hands of time I would go all in on Ghost!  Why's that?

Simplicity.  Ghost UI is so clean looking.  Adding posts is a breeze.  Adding Unsplash images to posts is easy peasy, even on mobile.  Ghost has memberships BUILT-IN.  Grow your audience without worrying about about going from a $9/mo Ghost Pro sub to a $25/mo one (because remember, we deploy the self-hosted version of Ghost for you, which is open-source and free!).

Ghost also has newsletters BUILT-IN.  When you publish a post you have the option to send it out to your e-mail newsletter subscribers at the same time!  The post goes out to them and onto your Ghost blog at the same time.  It's just so easy, so smooth, and it really does look so good in my opinion.

Ghost is about growing an audience through blogging.

These are just a few of the open-source apps we deploy onto your own server.  Want more?  Brows the r/self-hosted subreddit from just a few weeks ago to learn about some of the best open-source apps people are using these days!

Hint hint, many of them are in our default stack that we deploy for you onto your own server.  From that point, you're off to the races!

Chat with me to learn more about how we do what we do, how we can help you do you, help you do what you want, grow your business, grow your influence, take on the digital world in style and on-the-cheap.

I'm Kevin and I'm here to serve you.  Welcome to the world of open-source technology!  Hop aboard, it's gonna be lit!

My work is 100% community-supported. You can fund my next photography adventure at Patreon.com/rvrmakes
Light up your world with open-source technology! Robert V. Ruggiero / Unsplash