Remember how when we were kids, we'd always create a fuss to have our way? Mom's chocolate cookies had to have the chocolate sprinkles, the jacket you were getting had to be the one you wanted (no matter what the fashion nazis said), and Sundays always meant that it was time to visit your cousin.
Proprietary software is like the the chocolate you buy at a store, which comes wrapped up, and all you can do is taste it, and then recommend it to your friends or distribute it to your class on your birthday if you liked it. Under far-fetched circumstances, you may try to reverse-engineer it.
Open Source Software, in contrast, is like the scrumptious chocolate batter you come up with when your friends are home and you decide to make something awesome! When Mom isn't around, you enter the kitchen, look around at everything there, pick out the best looking ingredients, mix them in a bowl, take a deep breath and give it a taste. Yuck! Tastes awful, doesn't it? What do you do? You call your friends to help! But Mom can't have a mess in the kitchen, so you've got to have some order, right? So you distribute the batter among your friends and let each one experiment and taste what they have made. You can always merge the best ones and have the most delicious batter, right? Could you have ever made this batter all by yourself?
In all its glory, the Open Source Community is a huge family that is based on
the purest human intention of helping others, contributing to society and, in
general, trying to make the world a better place (or the best chocolate batter!
With Open Source software, you have the freedom to run it, study how it works and adapt it to suit your own personal needs.
In this world, the contact you'd make with your friends would be over an `IRC` ( Internet Relay Chat ) where they'd ask you what you're doing and how to get started on it, and you'd redirect them to a `Repository` having whatever you've done so far and give them advice on how to continue from there.
Once they've made changes on their branch, they would send you a `pull request` which you could then `merge` into your `Repo` if you feel you like it. Before you know it, you have the best collaborative effort!
OpenVPN, Mozilla, Xchat, OpenStack, Tor are just a few of the thousands of orgs that have gone the Open Source way :) We hope to find you on the IRCs soon!