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Who Needs Sleep?

Posted by editor on June 19, 2008 at 6:54 AM PDT

Why stay up late hacking on Open Source?

A question about open source: what's in it for you? Some would argue that open source depends on a give a little / get a lot mentality -- you contribute something you're good at, and then dip into the pool of everyone else's output. Problem is, this doesn't address the "free rider problem". There's not much about using open source that requires users to make any form of contribution. And in the big picture, most don't (indeed, OSS users surely outnumber capable developers by several orders of magnitude). So for anyone to be creating open source software, there must be some other motivation.

Bruno Ghisi takes on this question in the weblog Why do we write open source code?, in which he produces survey results from 2002 showing four general groups of OSS developers -- believers, skill enhancers, fun seekers, and professionals -- and the factors that motivated them.

I can understand this group segmentation, but I think the time has definitely changed and we - communities, companies and softwares - have definitely evolved. Some years ago, Java was not open source, Firefox and were getting more adopters, Ubuntu was not out, companies were not doing contests and giving prizes away, etc, etc, etc. But my big question is, why do you write open source code? I mean, why do you join, for example,, SourceForge, Google Code or freshmeat and commit your code there in order to create a whole community around it? Why do you send code to help a current open source project? Answering this question, I would say that I am a believer because I do it for the knowledge sharing between people, but I definitely do it for the fun too. How fun is sharing your ideas, getting new ones, mixing all together and creating something even more nice?!

So what do you think? Are you in it for the fun? The prestige? The renown or the improvement in your own skills? Or something else entirely?

Also in today's Weblogs, Collin