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Open Source - Why Do We Do It?

Cliff posted about 13 years ago | from the open-source-meets-capitol-hill dept.

United States 378

mikosullivan presents us with a unique opportuinity: "This Saturday, Sep 8, I have an appointment to meet with Congressman Rick Boucher to discuss open-source software. I made the appointment after talking to the congressman at a town-meeting here in Blacksburg, VA. During our short talk he asked a question that (not being a particularly talented public speaker) I found difficult to answer: why do open source software developers devote their time and talents to something they give away? That's the question I'd particularly like to answer: why do we do it? Answering this question may be the key to resolving public FUD about open source. This meeting is part of the efforts."

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Only one reason (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259168)

last post

Because it was like this at the start... (-1, Offtopic)

Quebec (35169) | about 13 years ago | (#2259177)

Yes, from the point of view of an external observer, if I recall my GR correctly. However, even before it crosses the event horizon (e.g. in a finite amount of observer time), the comet/gas/whatever will still be compressed and heated by large gravity gradients. That, rather than the actual event-horizon crossing, is probably what was seen. (Real GR experts can now clarify.)

Some ideas... (-1, Offtopic)

Telek (410366) | about 13 years ago | (#2259184)

... just remember that SVG is not compiled as Flash is. There's a lot of discussion regarding the scalability of SVG. SVG may be cool for some simple graphics, but the most annoying banner ad pop-ups may need flash to run smoothly.

It's deeper than because we can. (3, Interesting)

LenE (29922) | about 13 years ago | (#2259195)

Many of us started writing software that we wanted or needed to use individually, but soon found that it felt better to give it to friends who could use it and improve it as well. It's kind of like an ego trip without having people acknowledging your ego, hence not becoming known as arrogant or egocentric (not that that still doesn't happen). YOU know that other people depend on you, and YOUR work is appreciated.

If others improve on your work, you still made it possible for the improvement to happen. If you improved someone elses work, you still feel ownership of making it better. In short, it makes us feel good.

-- Len

Re:First? (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | about 13 years ago | (#2259196)

Looky here, cum sponge: If I ever meet you, I will kick 100% of your ass!

Re:First? (-1)

motherfuckin_spork (446610) | about 13 years ago | (#2259399)

I had rice for dinner last night!

Personal Reasons (1)

Telastyn (206146) | about 13 years ago | (#2259197)

Well, of all the code I've written I've made 3 semi-available. 1 I did as an assignment for work, which was then semi-released as part of a toolkit. The other two were things that did not exist, and I wished to due largely because I wanted to learn something each program required (socket code and libGMP respectively).

After they were finished, and cleaned, I figured that since they didn't exist before, someone might be interested in them if for no other reason than 'it has been done'.

Two reasons to kick off with... (5, Insightful)

Simon Tatham (66941) | about 13 years ago | (#2259198)

... well, I suppose they're related reasons really. But anyway.

First reason: suppose I have a problem with a computer, which needs code written to solve it. Once I've written the code and solved my problem, it seems a little unfair to make everybody else have to write their own solution when there's already one here. So I give the solution freely to friends who ask for it - and it's only a small step from there to putting it on a website for everybody.

Second reason, which I suppose is implicit in the first: I get a kick out of feeling I've benefitted everybody. Not just those people who pay for my code, to the feeble extent the licence agreement permits them to benefit; but anyone with a web browser who wants to download useful stuff off me. By contrast, when I work at my day job I'm always conscious that I'm primarily working to benefit them, and that any benefit that comes to people outside the company is a necessary side effect and not the actual goal.

(Yes, I know I'm not benefitting absolutely everybody, because there are people who don't have computers, or don't want to do the same things as me with their computers, who have no need for the stuff I write. Doesn't bother me; what I like is the idea that anyone who wants my stuff can get it. It's not necessary for everyone in the world to want it. People who don't want it don't have to have it, and hey, that's cool too :-)

Demonstration... (3, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | about 13 years ago | (#2259199)

I actually several potential answers to your questions. These are:
  • To demonstrate one's expertise in a domain (many Open Source Project Leaders found jobs that made them famous)
  • Because they do it just for the fun of it (I am currently reading Linus' "Just For Fun" biography). They consider the fun of exrcising their brains and would just give away what they did so that it has a chance to benefit from one another's point of view...
  • Because everybody does it (do't blame me on this but I see people who don't even know why they do it but just do it because they don't care. There's no real sign of altruism here.)

One word... (4, Insightful)

Kombat (93720) | about 13 years ago | (#2259200)


People write free software for the same reason they want nice cars and big houses - so people will notice and envy them. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's no big mystery.

Quite simply, people write software of the highest quality they're capable of, then give it away, in the hopes that it will become popular, and they'll become a household name (even if only among geeks). People want to be able to go into an IRC channel, or make a Usenet post, and say something like "Oh yeah? You're saying I don't know anything about software? Well, you know vi? I wrote that."

Sir Edmund Hillary (4, Interesting)

bricriu (184334) | about 13 years ago | (#2259202)

"Because it's there." Or, the geek version of it, perhaps, "Because we can."

Which is obviously no different from the views of commercial developers. The turning point isn't why such energy is put into it, it's why you give it away. And that should be self evident: in an increasingly, hideously commercialized society, developers are forced every day to work with things that don't work right, cost exorbitant amounts of money, and make you forego many of what should otherwise be your usage rights at the behest of whoever's selling said thing. Why give it away? To counterbalance the lunacy of current sales policy. Why put so much effort in? No-one likes working with junk.

Why! Cause we can! (1)

WillRobinson (159226) | about 13 years ago | (#2259206)

Computers, cars, it doesent matter. We want to know what goes on under the hood. We have the feeling that we can 'soup it up' make it better than the person who origionally came up with the idea. And more often than not, it is so.

because not everyone is money-motivated (2, Insightful)

jbarr (2233) | about 13 years ago | (#2259207)

We do it for the challenge.
We do it for the sense of community.
We do it because we are altruistic.

These are definatly not motivating factors in the business world.

Re:because not everyone is money-motivated (5, Insightful)

radja (58949) | about 13 years ago | (#2259390)

And we do it becaus it means less time spent reinventing the wheel. over and over and over again, Open Source projects have allowed me as a developer to roll out stable and working applications for the company I work for. Applications with few bugs, most of which can be fixed easily and quickly either by my company or by the maintainers, resulting in higher quality software for less time spent. We want the best we can get, and the only way to know is to look under the hood and tweak the engine to maximum performance, minimal sound, or best fuel-consumption. Open Source allows us to do just that.

I just have to wonder... is the same question asked of Microsoft.. why do you close your source?


Re:because not everyone is money-motivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259590)

> because not everyone is money-motivated

Really? How do you pay for your bills?

Why do charities exist? (4, Insightful)

bluGill (862) | about 13 years ago | (#2259208)

Why does one friend of mine spend a couple hours a week visiting a couple prison? He specificlly is visiting prisoners in for life without parole, they didn't know each other before hand, and they are not relatives.

Why did one guy I work with spend one of his weeks of vacation in Mexico with habbitat for humanity building houses in Mexica? He doesn't speak spanish, has no mexican roots, Mexico is 1000 miles away, and he went in summer, not winter when you would want to leave home.

Why does my dad run the 4-h food stand at the fair, and then take the money he is paid for that and donate it back to 4-h?

Open source by comparition is easy, I need a program, and by going open source I get others to help me with it, making it better. Its not about non-programers using it (note that bug reports are useful and put you as part of the process), it is about programers doing something that alone they would take longer to do. Unfortunatly this obvous answer is wrong, open source has the same reasons at the root as the others.

Re:Why do charities exist? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259617)

> Why did one guy I work with spend one of his
> weeks of vacation in Mexico with habbitat for
> humanity building houses in Mexica? He doesn't
> speak spanish, has no mexican roots, Mexico is
> 1000 miles away, and he went in summer, not
> winter when you would want to leave home.

He could have come to Phoenix. It would have been
the same, only closer.

Why does it matter? (1)

KingJawa (65904) | about 13 years ago | (#2259210)

I'm not trying to be defensively obnoxious here (heck, I'm not defending anything!), but I don't really understand why the Congressman is interested in "why" of open source. Part of this stems from my take on American politics; that is, there should be no fixed constellation of political orthodoxy, but mainly, I'd like to know of what concern it is to Boucher.

If it comes up, could you ask him why he wants to know? I'm more curious than anything else, but it seems that "why" really shouldn't matter, just "that" people do, indeed, code to give the code away.

because it is fun. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259213)


I can fathom a guess.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259215)

While this is only true for the balance of free software developers, perhaps it's the fact that people who are able at programming computers are generally not able at having 'a life', thus leaving them with lots of time to fill. Thus, free software.

Because (2)

Luke (7869) | about 13 years ago | (#2259216)

it's there.

And it's addictive.

And it's how the world should work.

We lead by example.

For The Internet (1)

Alpha Prime (25709) | about 13 years ago | (#2259219)

I do it because of the internet. It was built by people much more knowledgable than M$'s and is being maintained by those same people. M$ wants to take that over and control it, all the way down to the packet level if they have their way. Those of us in a free country cannot allow that level of control over our lives.

Gift Culture (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 13 years ago | (#2259220)

I think ERS has kinda hit the nail on the head in this one. We do it because it makes us feel proud of ourself. When we write or contribute to a kicker of a project , and it ends up on a Redhat CD or something, and get an email to the effect of "Wow thanks for that little app, it saved my ass the other day at work". You know it's a good thing

Humans are status seeking beings, where not unlike other critters in that being top dog is something we'd like. Maybe it's some sorta latent mate scoring thing. Maybe its post-animal displaying psychology, but either way putting out the most (excuse the silly s'kiddee phrase) leet app and geting kudo's for it makes us feel valid

We do it because we see ourself as being important in the comunity. And we like our communities, that's why we want to give our little pieces of (questionable) genius to it.

And maybe we might even score (hmmmm).
Perhaps a little MS-fear helps too. Valiantly ahead for linus* and country :)

*or RMS or ESR or your old CS professor or whoever get's your admiration.

Why not? (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | about 13 years ago | (#2259221)

I can't speak to open source directly, but there are other things that I do that I could do for money but don't. Because -- as astonishing as it may be to some people -- I have found that there are some things worth doing, for which money is inadequate compensation. (Or even, in some cases, would make it less worth doing.)

Definition of FUD? (2)

Kasreyn (233624) | about 13 years ago | (#2259222)

From the jargon file:

FUD /fuhd/ n. Defined by Gene Amdahl after he left IBM to found his own company: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products." The idea, of course, was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. See IBM. After 1990 the term FUD was associated increasingly frequently with Microsoft, and has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.

(my bold)

You said: "Answering this question may be the key to resolving public FUD about open source."

My question is, are you meaning MS-instilled FUD, or is there now a new definition of FUD, for mere FUD that has arisen on its own rather than via propaganda? Or are you just using it wrong? =P

OK, I'm done being a dictionary nazi for the day.


I do it because it feels good (-1)

motherfuckin_spork (446610) | about 13 years ago | (#2259223)

yeah, baby, do it, do it! oh yeah...

Lots of reasons (3, Insightful)

dant (25668) | about 13 years ago | (#2259224)

Altruism is certainly part of it, I think, but there are many reasons:
  • Fun - A lot of us just plain like to tinker with our computers. Having the finished product is often less important than the act of writing it, so you may as well give it away when you're done.
  • Satisfaction - It's a bit of an ego-stroke, having something you've written be used by lots of people all over the world. That's how you know you did a good job.
  • Politics/Advocacy - Geeks can get pretty passionate about The Way Things Should Work. As programmers, we're uniquely able to actually make things work the way we want (at least on a practical level) sometimes. We'd be fools to pass up that chance.
  • Altruism - This is the most obvious one. Most people want to feel that in some small way, they've made a contribution to humanity. Writing a nifty little tool and giving to the world is hardly curing cancer or devoting your life to starving people in Calcutta, but it's something we can do that contributes (in however small a way) to the progress of technology as a whole. How could you not?

the canonical answers (3, Insightful)

dutky (20510) | about 13 years ago | (#2259225)

My top five reasons are:
  1. to scratch a personal itch (you need the software for something you do)
  2. contractual obligations (you were funded by public monies, you are under court order, etc.)
  3. as a value added item (drivers, utilities, etc. related to a primary source of funding)
  4. for instructional purposes (programming tutorials, prototypes, etc.)
  5. for the fun of it (my favorite reason)

Returned value (4, Informative)

Analog (564) | about 13 years ago | (#2259228)

Several years ago, I got so fed up with Windows that I decided to try to write myself an operating system. Very, very basic, not at all fancy, but something I'd have control of, and that I could fix problems with as they came up.

About that time, on a whim I picked up a book which had a Linux CD in the back. I installed it, played around a bit, and I've never looked back.

Now you can only imagine the complete lack of functionality my home brewed OS would have had relative to Linux. But with Linux, I have all this amazing functionality, and with all the control and ability to change things I would have with a home brewed system; the only caveat is that if I do make an improvement, I should contribute it back to the community. That is a small, small price to pay for what I'm receiving.

As well, how many people have the time to write a system like Linux on their own, even if they have the knowledge? Not many. But by being willing to contribute what time they do have to a larger effort, they get a far better system than they could ever hope to have otherwise. Practically speaking, it's a no brainer.

because it's more efficient (1)

al3x (74745) | about 13 years ago | (#2259229)

We "do" open source because it's a better development model - the end product is stronger (most of the time). Say what you will about infighting and the group politics that can be found in any setting: there's a reason more and more "mission-critical" applications run on open source platforms and technologies.

Re:because it's more efficient (2)

doctor_oktagon (157579) | about 13 years ago | (#2259309)

We "do" open source because it's a better development model - the end product is stronger

I'd say this is a rare exception rather than the rule. Don't confuse the world of commercial software with IIS.

There is no evidence "more and more" critical systems run on Open Source ... a press release about Linux being deployed as the OS for a messaging system on the NYSE does not mean everything is going that way.

Mozilla is around the biggest Open Source project I can think of: where the hell is it going? It has no focus!

Why I do it... (3, Interesting)

Ruis (21357) | about 13 years ago | (#2259230)

I like getting email almost every day from people thanking me that I saved them so many weeks worth of work and that they appreciate what I've done. I like the attention. I like the community.

Some Reasons (3, Offtopic)

Nater (15229) | about 13 years ago | (#2259231)

why do open source software developers devote their time and talents to something they give away?

Often, it is because they need the software they are writing.

Often, it is because they are curious about a particular technology and "just playing".

Often, it is because of a principled decision to shun proprietary software.

Often, it is because a particular piece of software would fetch no money in a commercial market.

Often, it is to impress chicks.

Why I Do It (2)

smack.addict (116174) | about 13 years ago | (#2259233)

Generally, I build Open Source software to address one of three concerns:
  • To scratch an itch, so to speak. In other words, there is no reasonable solution to a problem I want solved, so I solve it myself. An example of this is would be my mSQL-JDBC driver. At the time, there simply was no way to access a database using JDBC.
  • To empower previously disenfranchised people. For example, I wrote my mud code because at the time (1991), building new muds was very much an elitist endeavor. I wanted to remove the technical irrelevancies and empower people to be creative.
  • To reduce the cost of a product group that is outrageously overpriced. A good current example of that is digital asset management solutions. IBM and others charge fortunes for their digital asset management products. I wrote xS to compete with these guys.

It just feels GOOD (1)

MicroBerto (91055) | about 13 years ago | (#2259234)

I think a lot of it is because it simply feels really good to put something out to a community where everyone is very warm and receptive to new, open programs! It just gives the designer a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, a feeling of accomplishment that some unrewarding wage-slave job would not give.

This is why many programmers supplement their tasks and education with an output to the Opensource coummnity - it feels good!

My experience of Open Source (4, Offtopic)

doctor_oktagon (157579) | about 13 years ago | (#2259238)

Apart from a few evangalistic & talented individuals I think most Open Source projects are started by relatively young hackers who want to develop their coding skills and try and write an application they feel would better their lives or their workstation.

I spent months of my free time trying to hack together a personal organiser/scheduler that could cope with my busy life before I gave up, sold my Amiga, and moved to a more modern platform. I must have started 100 different "projects" that I would be ashamed ever to show anyone *grin*

In my old days as a developer I worked with a guy who contributed a significant account to XEmacs and he done it because he was a power-user who was talented enough to be able to code in Lisp, and he felt compelled to help as he relied on Emacs for coding commercial apps. People like this are few and far between, and few have the comittment and long-term motivation required to take development through to completion, unless they are working in a paid, competitive environment with real customers, deliverables, and deadlines.

The problem is that not enough people band together, start a (semi) formal development programme with solid requirements, and then code/test it to completion ... I'm sure Source Forge is littered with thousands of "Version 0.001" releases that will never make it to the actually useful stage.

Vanity (-1)

sucko (257144) | about 13 years ago | (#2259243)

One of the reasons overlooked is vanity. It's a chance at some level of fame. It's a chance at recognition from your peers. It's a jerkoff session.

Alternatives to money? (3, Interesting)

onion2k (203094) | about 13 years ago | (#2259244)

People do lots of things for reasons other than money. A personal challenge, a project that isn't financially viable but is worthy and helpful, simple fame and glory.

All these things are fantastic for open source software, and in the main they keep the projects going. BUT.. they'll only keep the project going while the creative people have enthuiasm for the thing they're doing. If that motivation ever disappears then the project disappears with it.

This, in my opinion, is why the GPL is ultimately bad for free and open source software. The GPL forces software derived from other open projects to remain open. While this doesn't stop people making a decent living supporting and maintaining their work, it does stop the 'traditional' business model of selling your software. This elminates the source of motivation that keeps many projects going long after the original excitement has run out. In the long term, I feel this will stop many talented developers taking projects to their maximum. Truely free software is not restricted in any way. If people want to close the source and sell their work they ought to be allowed to.

Let the flaming begin..

Re:Alternatives to money? (1)

Jodrell (191685) | about 13 years ago | (#2259357)

Truely free software is not restricted in any way. If people want to close the source and sell their work they ought to be allowed to.

Erm, they are allowed to ;-)

Re:Alternatives to money? (2)

onion2k (203094) | about 13 years ago | (#2259372)

Not if their work is derived from a GPL project they aren't.

Re:Alternatives to money? (2, Insightful)

Jodrell (191685) | about 13 years ago | (#2259417)

Not if their work is derived from a GPL project they aren't.

Well yes, that's because they would then be closing the source to someone else's work, that the author has already decided they want to keep open.

I believe there are licenses out there that allow what you want. Maybe you should only develop code released under them.

why I do it... (1)

Capt. Beyond (179592) | about 13 years ago | (#2259248)

I do it because I am a god-damned Birkenstock-wearing hippy-freak, intent on sharing open love, free books, and free education for all!

I do it because there's more important things in life than money! Ideology!
For the same reason why I give out my music recordings for free.

Screw Wall Street, man!

Because we don't JUST give it away. (1)

Mercury (13121) | about 13 years ago | (#2259249)

We do it because we actually USE it.
I am a firm believer that software is best written by the people who actually use it and need it to work for them.
(I also like the ability to fix problems myself instead of relying on others to get it done, or at least knowing that I can. A personality qwirk perhaps.)

Plus: LNUX & RHAT stocks hit all time lows tod (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259252)

VA Linux down to $1.15 from its previous low of $1.25 and getting closer to being delisted. RedHat down to $3.11 from its previous low of $3.41. Ouch!

Linux: Where do you want to cash your unemployment check today?

Homesteading the Noosphere (3, Informative)

smallpaul (65919) | about 13 years ago | (#2259257)

ESR's writings on this topic are recommended reading for open source hackers no matter how you feel about ESR. Homesteading the Noosphere []

We relate that to an analysis of the hacker culture as a `gift culture' in which participants compete for prestige by giving time, energy, and creativity away.

Why we do it. (1)

Water Paradox (231902) | about 13 years ago | (#2259259)

We are geeks. As youngsters, we were isolated from the popular people BY THEIR CHOICE. We sat alone at lunchtime, ignored. We played by ourselves on the playgrounds, we read books and found libraries, instead of all the cool things that popular people do. We took electronic things apart, rather than hang out with friends, since we had no friends. We are geeks.

Then one day, the whole world started looking at us, wondering what we would do next. Popularity is not why we are here. We are here to be kind to those folks who were mean to us. We do it because we want to be nicer to others than they were to us. We sat there and watched you popular people for all those years, thinking, gee, if only I had friends, I would be nice to EVERYONE.

Not just the ones who give us money.

We do it for love, clear and simple.

That's why.

-Water Paradox

Making Stuff For Free (1)

MH (25322) | about 13 years ago | (#2259267)

I don't do open-source dev work, but I have done stuff for free in the past (websites, pc support). Why? Personally, I'll do stuff for free simply because I enjoy doing it. It's more of a hobby than a job, and I don't expect, nor have a need, to get paid for it.

For some people (a lot?), just the sense of accomplishment and pat on the back is payment enough. And sometimes it's worth more than money just to know that somebody has a use for, and possibly enjoys using, the product you provided them at no cost.

I make enough at my day job to pay the bills, buy neat stuff, etc., so it's not imperative I get paid for every little thing I do in my freetime. Sometimes I just need to enjoy it.


It is fun to work with other good people (1)

cs668 (89484) | about 13 years ago | (#2259275)

I think it is hard to find talented people on the job. But, in the open source world there are many.

Don't take this the wrong way. It is just that employers measure success differently. Is it on-time, on-budget, and does it work? They are not equiped to measure the quality of the design/code. So they never succesfully build a great team of people. You are always carrying some of them.

That means the only place you can both do a good job and work with good people is in the open world. Because, the people who choose to do development in their spare time are usually the talented ones.

A better way to tell him why (2)

truthsearch (249536) | about 13 years ago | (#2259283)

The first sentence is perfect. I think the rest needs to be reworded for the congressman: "Many people are not satisfied with the quality and features of software provided by corporations. Many open-source developers see the free market as not fostering the best-of-the-best in the software industry. Most are also disatsfied with the monopoly which is providing most of our software options. These feelings motivate them to make high-quality, useful software."

Why do we scratch.... (2)

RalphTWaP (447267) | about 13 years ago | (#2259285)

In all the cases I've seen, and in my own case, the answer is that we have *some* interest in the outcome of our effort. Be it that we want to write a piece of code 'better' than we've seen it written. Be it that we simply have it in our heads to do a certain thing.

However, you state it, it's important to note that we write code because we want to see the outcome of writing that code. We write open source code because cooperation is often preferable to competition.

As to not getting much/any monitary remuneration from our work in this area, when's the last time you got paid to do yardwork around your own house? Did you ever get tipped for washing/waxing/detailing your own car? Most likely not, but you got something out of the activity, yes?

If you'd just insert another column in those spreadsheets you use to track revenue. Ok, now label the column "Satisfaction"....

Tell him (1)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | about 13 years ago | (#2259286)

Open Source developers do it for the same reason ALL volunteers do it: because they see a need that they are passionate about filling.

I recently volunteered to help out at my local elementary school's computer lab (first meeting is next week). Ask Senator Boucher if I'm crazy communist or a valuable citizen. Now tell him that I wrote and GPL'd an app that literally dozens of people have thanked me for (some calling it a "godsend"). Then ask him again if I'm crazy...

Because we love what we do! (1)

mir (106753) | about 13 years ago | (#2259288)

I love my job but it's a job: it's got deadlines, weird requirements, the usual constraints. When I work on Open Source software I find myself more of a craftman. I think artist would be a tad strong, but craftman is definitely appropriate. I have complete freedom in the requirements. I can take my time, release only when I think it's ready, try alternate solutions and only keep the best one. In short I am proud of what I create.

The added bonus is when people then email me saying that they really use my tool, and then they show me the cool stuff they built with it, which I could never have written myself.

Writing Open Source Software makes me feel like coding is a noble trade and not just a race against the clock to output the crappiest software that will pass the acceptance test.

Re:I Don't Give It Away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259289)

You also developed Open Source Martians, IIRC:

Or is the Martian-keesh an imposter???
o o
/ \
| |
\ ______/
/ \
| [@][@] | __________________
| ^^ |_/ \
\_______/ \ HONEST... /
* | | \________________/
/ ___/ \____
|| / \
|| | | *** | |
|| | |* *| |
|| | | *** | |
\\ | | | |
\\ | |_____| |
\\ VVV _[_]_ VVV
\\ / \
\\__/| | |
| | |
| | |
| | |
__/ | \__

This Martian is Copyright © 2001 keesh. You may redistribute it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 or later.

Re:I'll Tell You Why (1)

Ruis (21357) | about 13 years ago | (#2259291)

I wouldn't say we were cheap bastards.. More like resourceful.

Re:I'll Tell You Why (2)

Hammer (14284) | about 13 years ago | (#2259297)

It's a great way to market yourself and looks impressive on a resume.
It's a great way to learn design and programming.
And it's definately egoenhancing :-)

Quality (1)

nowt (230214) | about 13 years ago | (#2259300)

over "Market ME" features.

Depends on the person (1)

si1k (38767) | about 13 years ago | (#2259304)

There are a lot of reasons why someone might help code an Open Source project for free (remembering that some lucky bums get paid for this, too).

Some people do it to prove what they're capable of, whether just for the geek point or possibly in the hopes that a great employer will see what they've done and hire them to do something similar.

Some people just enjoy sharing, and others just enjoy creation. Maybe in the beginning the programmer didn't even think the end result would be worth paying for.

I think one of the original reasons, though, was that it's a way for you to potentially get the help from other people to finish a project. Say you're a programmer and you really wish there was a Swahili word processor out there. So you start making one yourself, but your objective isn't to make money--you'd be willing to pay for the program if it existed.

So instead, you put a bunch of work into it, and distribute the source, hoping that there are other programmers who also wish there were a good Swahili word processor available (maybe there is, this is just a lame example). So instead of spending $100 on the program, you spend a whole bunch of your time doing something you enjoy anyway, and sharing the work with other people who like doing this stuff.

If you enjoy programming and the feeling of creating something useful, then it's almost a negative cost--you're deriving enjoyment from creating it, instead of paying money for the right to use it.

In that case, asking why someone would participate in an Open Source project is much like asking why someone would choose to play chess or rugby.

My reasons (1)

mmcshane (155414) | about 13 years ago | (#2259306)

1. I'm cheap
2. I'm a show-off.

not necessarily in that order.

Because I want to help mankind. (5, Informative)

jorbettis (113413) | about 13 years ago | (#2259307)

I know it sounds corny, but it's true.

I want to do something bigger than myself, something that has a real potential to help people in a serious way. I want to leave behind a legacy of good will when I'm wrom food.

I realize that programming free software is perhaps not the most noble thing one could possibly do, but it is what I'm good at. Free Software gives me the ability to use my skills as a programmer to do something really great, even if it is small in the big picture.

Laugh at it if you want, but that's the reason I write Free Software, not because of ego, or because I can, but because I believe that I am helping people --and that makes me feel good.

Turn the question around... (5, Insightful)

Ami Ganguli (921) | about 13 years ago | (#2259310)

Politicians make a decent salary, but generally much less than they could make in private industry. You might just as well ask the congressman why he puts his time and energy into public service.

The answer is probably similar for Open Source/Free software people 1) there's a certain satisfaction in doing something you feel is worthwhile, 2) the desire to leave the world a little better than when you found it, 3) recognition by your peers is very motivating, 4) even if you don't make money directly, it can help with your later career.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of us entered the IT field because we have a passion for the technology. The reality of most corporate work is that we never get to do the really cool stuff that we dreamt about in school - real work is pretty mundane. Working on something more interesting on the side lets us do the stuff we dreamt of doing when we entered the field.

For fun. (2)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | about 13 years ago | (#2259311)

I know a retired Grumman engineer who builds model planes in his basement. Nobody seems shocked.

I've got a friend who builds model trains in his basement -- not for profit! Imagine that!

My sister likes to bake things. And get this -- she does it just for the sheer enjoyment! Can you believe it? The mind boggles!

Re:Same reason men do everything (1)

Water Paradox (231902) | about 13 years ago | (#2259312)

Naw, we don't do it for beautiful women. That's a troll. Any geek knows that beautiful women are attracted to money, not the fruits of the labor of Open Source.

Some say we do it for hubris.

We do it because we don't wanna grow up. Grown ups do things for money. We do it for love, pure and unabashed. Like children do what they do.

-Water Paradox

Why do we support and use open source? (1)

penguinfreedom (448635) | about 13 years ago | (#2259313)

We support, contribute to, and use open source because we all thrive on the increased knowledge base. A good analogy could be when you have friends and family over for dinner. Most people don't go the cheap route when entertaining, and we don't charge admission. However, the idea stands that those people will do likewise at some point and invite you over for a nice dinner. With open source, it's like a buffet of knowledge, and most of the items are very decent. I can go to this buffet of knowledge and expand my own mind--what a high that is! As my knowledge grows, my contribution back to the buffet is greater. In the end, everyone dining at this knowledge buffet has become a more intelligent person, and not just through coding--we have social interactions at conferences, via email & chats, etc., so we learn about other people as well.

We all want a better world to live in, and many of this believe the way to get there is for people to become more educated. Open Source software is but one approach to this (although it is a major one, given how automated the world has become and how much more automated it will continue to become). Companies who hoard their knowledge and code are analogous to the scribes during the Medieval Times who were the only ones who knew how to read and write, and refused to share that knowledge in the belief that commoners lacked the capacity to learn (hoarding this knowledge was a tool to maintain power, as well).

Why do we do a lot of things? (2, Insightful)

Matey-O (518004) | about 13 years ago | (#2259314)

I've found that, as I get older, money isn't the all pervasive motivator I thought it would be.

Once I had enough money to 'get by' on, the raises didn't have as big an impact on my life. I found that I wanted to do things not to increace my financial bottom line, but for other motivations.

Why did I give away my last car? Because it was 'worth more' to someone that didn't have a car than the 'financial worth' I could get from selling it.

Why do people 'donate' to the open source movement? Because they're motivated by things other than money. That's a hard concept for some people to accept.

Its fun!!?? (1)

JRaines (165491) | about 13 years ago | (#2259321)

Being in my mid fifties, I can remember that back in the old days people did things that evoked the same questions (built telescopes, ham radio & so on). I think the basic answer is the same as then, its fun, I enjoy it, the challenge is exciting & so on. And as hobbies go (does anyone use that word anymore) you get to show off your end product, be appreciated for you cleverness and otherwise display your multitude of talents. Certainly that seems more rewarding than, say, crossword puzzles which consume a huge amount of human effort. Throw in some of the more obnoxious software vendor behavior (lead by Microsoft who, I am sure in my heart, would really like to charge a fee every time you turn on your computer) and the easy colaberation offered by the Internet and you have a combination that is impossible to resist. Something challenging & constructive, a chance to interact with your peers and defeat evil. Who could ask for more from their free time!

Fun, simply fun (2, Insightful)

DarkDust (239124) | about 13 years ago | (#2259324)

I'm developing open-source software because I enjoy programming. That's it. And it is fun to work with other enthusiasts, unlike office programming where most developers don't even know how to format a disc (at least in the company I work, it amazes me how little all those programmers know). The reason to publish the source is simply that it increases the chance of being known as a programmer, it enhances my "fame", if you'd like to call it this way. Others are able to correct my errors and mistakes, so I also learn WHAT errors and mistakes I make. It's no use writing some closed-source app as a hobby that is full of bugs, design flaws and release it as Shareware or whatever, 'cause noone would use it. If it's open-source, it gets corrected and grows faster, thus gets more useful. Marc Haisenko The 3Dsia Project (

Because we can. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259326)


maslow's hierarchy (2, Insightful)

johnrpenner (40054) | about 13 years ago | (#2259332)

because with humans, after you get past
the first tier of needs (money, security,
place to eat and sleep), you get higher
level needs kicking in, and those include
needs to contribute and be part of a community.

Social Threefolding []

Because it feels good (2, Insightful)

stonewolf (234392) | about 13 years ago | (#2259333)

I've done a lot of different kinds of volunteer work. I like it because it makes me feel like I am helping the world be a better place. Writing free software gives me the same feeling, only better.

Why is it better than volunteering at a school or helping set up a public education event? Because those things can only reach a small number of people and then they fade away. Open Source software can help many many people from now until... well, forever? And what I do can either improve something that already exists or it can become the basis of new things that help even more people.

On a purely selfish note it is also a way to advertise your expertise. And, a great way to learn. What better way to learn than to write something as well as you can and then expose it to the world and be told what is wrong with it and how to fix it?


My answer (2)

hrieke (126185) | about 13 years ago | (#2259342)

Well, if I was Willie Sutton, I might reply "...because that's there the money is", but the truth in the matter is that I enjoy the challenge and mental activity in the same fashion that my friends enjoy the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
It's a game with myself to see how well I can write a program to do foo, and it builds my skills and cognitive thinking abilities, from which I do earn a paycheck from. If someone else can learn from my example, or find use of it, or even build a billion dollar industry from it, great!, just send me a nice thank you card on the way (if it's the billion dollar industry I'll settle for a Z8 from BMW, red please).

If I would give software away (1)

shd99004 (317968) | about 13 years ago | (#2259348)

It would probably be because I couldn't make any money out of it, ofcourse... If I could do that, I would.

Re:this definitely has been answered... (1)

John F. Ketamine (454506) | about 13 years ago | (#2259353)

That particular sentiment just happens to produce better software.

And better everything else too.

Just one small-time open-sourcer's answer (2)

Salamander (33735) | about 13 years ago | (#2259362)

Basically what it comes down to, for me and me alone, is one of two things:

  • What the hell, I already wrote it, I don't want to be a salesman, why the hell not just plop it out there just in case it's useful to someone else?
  • Getting this idea (expressed as code) out there is much more important than profiting from it.

Obviously, the first motivation applies more to small projects while the second applies to larger projects. There's a little bit of "scratch an itch" about it, maybe a little bit of altruism, maybe even a little bit of ego (in assuming that the world needs my brain-droppings). What is absent, for me, is any thought of reward - either monetary or otherwise. Sure, it's wonderful when I find out that my code helped someone, or that they learned something by looking at it. It's also wonderful when someone else builds on your ideas and creates something else that's cool. I won't deny the "rush" that comes from these things, but it's just not why I do it. When it comes right down to it, I do it because I can.

A few reasons to write Open Source code (1)

RC Pavlicek (8145) | about 13 years ago | (#2259363)

1. For the same reason that many teachers teach (in the US anyway). It isn't for the money; teachers in the US are woefully underpaid. If teaching were done for the money, the only people who would teach would be the folks not smart enough to get a better paying job. Many teachers are driven by a passion to help kids and improve the world around them. Likewise, many Open Source people are driven by the desire to improve the world and help people.

2. In a culture that praises beauty and physical prowess, geeks often feel out of step or second class. In the Open Source world, they get a chance to strut their stuff and be applauded for their technical talents. Praise goes a long way for a lot of folks.

3. Coz playing with technology is fun if you're a geek! And it doesn't cost nearly as much as the golf habit that many corporate executives have.

-- Russell Pavlicek

Many Reasons.... (0, Troll)

scotch (102596) | about 13 years ago | (#2259373)

This is a complicated question - there are many reasons. When I wrote Emacs back in '73, I was only trying to recreate an editor I was used to that was usurped by a greed corporation. This met with some success and community approval, which drove me to devote more of my time to free software. When I wrote BSD (and all the clones), I personally needed a nice secure networking operating system - little did I know that others would use my OS in Mission Critical enterprises. This was quite a stoke to my ego. At this point, I was beginning to get the hang of the game: write good software - get a natural endorphin high. Like a cloned white lab mouse, I was hooked. During the late '70s and '80s, I turned my attention to a myriad of small projects: GCC, make, awk, sed, vi, MSDos. All of these met with some moderate success, but they lacked the punch of my earlier successes. I needed a bigger score. Then I hit upon it: a unix for the masses! Early in the '90s I began this project which I titled GNU/Linux. Much to my pleasure, GNU/Linux met with huge success. From there, the rest is histrory. I wrote a nice free Web Browser called Mozilla (after my cat Mozzy) which out shone all competitors, I started a Desktop Environment for my various Unix projects which I dubbed 'KDE'. Later, I realized this was a poor name and started a completely different Desktop project called 'GNOME' - by this time I had developed a particular affinity for the letter 'g' (not to mention common $3 crack!). Where do I go from here? Well I have a few projects in the hopper - one is called OS X which is a derivative of my earlier BSD work. There are others that I'd rather save as a surprise (a hint: one contains the initials 'XP'). Hope this helps your interview.

Richard Stallman

Thought long about this (3, Insightful)

Dark Paladin (116525) | about 13 years ago | (#2259387)

I was thinking about this recently when checking out a news story on ZDNet, and reading someone's comment that "Open Source was communism".

The statement irritated me, but I didn't know why. Which is usually when I start doing some research, because not knowing why I'm irritated means there's something important to figure out.

I use open source in my own work - from development, web pages, graphical images, and the like. I could say "because it's cheap", and that would be true. I don't have a lot of cash, so most free (as in beer) programs appeal to me.

But there's two big reasons why I use Open Source software:

1: Free (as in speech) idea. Take Sun, who's setting up StarOffice to use XML as their default documents. XML - an open standard. What happens if 10 years from now I want to open a file, a story, an article I wrote in XML? I'd be able to read it, because I wouldn't be worried that MS went out of business/Caldera dropped Wordperfect/Lotus died out, or that the document editor I originally wrote didn't work on my new OS.

OS is democracy in its truest form (not like the US, which is a *republic*, thank you very much). Everyone has a voice, good, bad, or indifferent. It can't be bought out by business (which tries to force customers down a path to make it more money, sometimes when the customer doesn't want to go that way). It can't be subverted by government. The users, and the users alone, have the power to decide if a program lives or dies.

OS is also true innovation. The idea that "necessity is the mother of invention" applies here. If someone has that "itch they need to scratch" (like a program to edit tons of graphics from the command line (thank you ImageMagick!), it gets done. And just like the Internet is a place where you can find people that have the same interest as yourself, you can always find someone who has that same itch they need scratched, and sometimes people who are better than you at scratching it. (Which usually means you've got to have some humility to work with OS software.)

2: Most people comment on how OS software is so stable, and I've proven that time and time again. Why so stable? Because everybody can see the mistakes. Granted, your "ordinary users" (aka, non-developers) won't care. But to folks who's jobs deal with security, or reliability, the capacity to see why your program broke down and, even if you can't fix it yourself, at least tell other people why it happened so the developer can fix it makes the system that much stronger.

Right now, OS has overcome the first few hurdles of any system. First we had programs that work, now we have programs that work well. People have seen the need to make these programs more user friendly, and I see this being the next stage of OS software (companies like Mandrake are really setting good examples here). Interfaces will evolve - but they will evolve well, because thousands of voices will decide what works and what doesn't.
In the end, I truly believe that Open Source programs are the way to go. It makes business sense to do so (now I've harnessed the collective brain power of a *planet* to help with my projects - I just have to let go of the idea that I *own* the software, and I'll get software that will make my business better). It makes personal sense to do so (I know that my improvements to OS programs will help other people).

Of course, I could be wrong.

Pro Bono Publico (4, Insightful)

Paul Johnson (33553) | about 13 years ago | (#2259388)

For much the same reasons that lawyers do Pro Bono work:
  • Establish a professional reputation for quality work
  • Establish a social reputation as a nice person
  • Make the world a better place

(any lawyers out there want to add to the list?)

A congressman will be familiar with lawyers, and probably has a legal background himself, so comparing open source to legal pro bono work will put him on familiar ground and give you a shared context. Eg, ask "how would you feel if a big law firm called Pro Bono work 'unamerican'?")

Of course there are also all the commercial reasons why companies produce open source code. Its worth emphasising that many open source coders are actually employed to do it, so its not just a geek hobby. See [] for all the commercial reasons for releasing open source.


Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259395)

Yes, but at -1, not +2. Asshole. Yeah, check out my comments to see just how easy it is to grab mod points...

To push the limits of what can be done (1)

jumpfroggy (233605) | about 13 years ago | (#2259403)

One reason people do open source software could be compared to scientific research. Sure there are a lot of things researched to make someone a lot of money. But there are other things (a lot of times less glamorous but still important... think foundation work) that people work on simply because they know it can be done, and it'd be a shame to know that there's something that should have been discovered but hasn't been because no one's paying attention to it.

For me, the motivation is the idea that software these days can be so buggy and so non-intuitive (user interface), and there's really no reason why it couldn't be... no reason why we can't come up with completely new and different ideas on what it means to have a gui (are windows really a neccessity? could there be something easier? [resist the stupid doors joke]) or what really differentiates an OS from an Application. Stuff like that. If no company makes it, then I will.

That's why I'll always want open source.

I do it (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | about 13 years ago | (#2259406)

...cus the voices in my head tell me to.

I've given away very little code... (1)

mystery_bowler (472698) | about 13 years ago | (#2259410)

and modified even less (when it comes to open-source projects, at least). But I can say that one of the following reasons is always involved when I spend time or effort on developing or using free, open-source software.

- I like having an alternative. Where do I go if I'm not happy with Microsoft's OS and there are no alternatives?

- I like using high-quality products. But I can't always afford them. Adobe Photoshop is a prime example. I get to use it at work a bit, and I love it. But I really don't want to pirate it or use it illegally, so at home I use GIMP, which is an incredible piece of software.

- I want progress in software. If everyone locked everything down and never shared any innovations, software would evolve about as fast as humans have (no offense, Creationists).

- I want interoperability. All this openess means open standards. Open standards mean easier interoperability between software systems. Easier, more painless migrations from one OS or software package to another. Smarter software systems that can "talk" to each other easily.

Eh, just my opinions.

I don't develop it but... (2)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#2259414)

I USE OpenSource and other free software because I find it to be better than commercial software, and more responsive to users requests for a lot of different things. WinAmp - rocks. I hate Windows Media Player still. Plus, since everyone is able to develop for WinAmp, there are all sorts of wonderful plugins for it. Linux - love it! It may not be as simple as Windows yet, and yes, there's still plenty of little desktop features to be improved upon, but it's a huge project. I just installed Mandrake8.1 last night. Man the new KDE is sharp, and Konqueror is EVEN better than before. Even after installing win2k recently from Win98 I can't say I was all that wowed by it, just another Winblows OS.

So I can't offer insight on why developers do it, but as a user, I use it because it's better than paying for software that doesn't and CAN'T fulfill my needs because only a limited set of developers at the 'company' are allowed to make changes. I can't wait until the full Kapital release comes out. Yes, it's proprietary and a paid for program, but it's one of the last reasons I'm stuck with Windows for important personal stuff. And the KDE developers have so much other really wonderful completely free stuff, that paying $50 for one program out of an entire desktop full of OpenSource software is a very minute price to pay. This isn't meant to be a Windows rant, it's more of a slashdottian comparison of why many here find Linux and OpenSource in general so much better.

ESR has a good explanation (1)

spideyct (250045) | about 13 years ago | (#2259432)

I recently read "The Cathedral & the Bazaar" by Eric S. Raymond and thought he did a great job of explaining the motivations and mentality of the open source community. It answered a lot of the questions/doubts I had myself and motivated me to join the open source community.

I believe the majority of the book is available at Eric's homepage [] .

Very simple (4, Informative)

LordNimon (85072) | about 13 years ago | (#2259439)

People who support Open Source development understand the value of it. When you choose an Open Source product, you get the source code, which allows you to do whatever you want with the program, more or less. You can fix bugs or add features. You can determine how it really works, so there are no hidden "back doors". All of these are real benefits that only Open Source gives you.

IMHO, there are only three real reasons why people contribute to Open Source:

  • The GPL and similar licenses force you to share your enhancements. Sure, you can keep the binaries to yourself, but if you want anyone else to use it, you must give them the source code. There's no way around that.
  • Open Source developers understand that the only way Open Source works is if people contribute to it. So if you benefit from other people's work, it's only fair if you contribute to it yourself (assuming you're a programmer). If you use GPL software and create your own software, you understand that you promote the idea of Open Source every time you create new Open Source code and distribute it. It's a version of "voting with your dollars", except you're actually "voting with your code".
  • Most programmers realize that selling software they develop is difficult. The marketing and support issues are time-consuming and expensive. If you want to develop a piece of software that you don't think is going to sell well, you may as well make it Open Source. You lose almost nothing, and you benefit others. Reasons for writing this kind of software include:
    • You need the software for yourself, and no one is going to write it for you
    • As a hobbiest programmer, you just like writing code. Some people like ham radio, others like building models, you like writing code.
I don't relieve belive the "prestige" factor that much. I don't think programmers out there really write that much code just so that they can impress others. In a meritocracy, that sort of thing isn't generally acknowledged.

The Borg Rule (1)

cornbread_eater (513740) | about 13 years ago | (#2259443)

I use and develop opensource because I want our society to become a Borg Collective. I figure if we start small by sharing our resources to develop code and the like, it won't be long before we start networking our neural processes, installing really wild implants, and flying around in big square ships.

1 of 6,000,000,000

Why do I do it? (4, Interesting)

t_hunger (449259) | about 13 years ago | (#2259450)

Why do I spend time developing free software? That's difficult to answer... For a bunch of reasons:
  • I want to learn something. Not just programming in general, but how complex systems for textprocessing, graphics rendering, multimedia streaming, ... work. I found that actually doing one is the only way to understand what's going on inside those systems! IMHO participating in one free software project should be mandatory for any student of computer science.
  • I use Linux, mozilla, xchat, blackbox, ... exclusivly, no commercial software at all! That software is just great for me, I'm so happy that I don't have to bother with licensing and pricing everytime a new version of a program I like comes out!

    That's why I feel obliqued to return something to the community that provides the software I use. Others do webdesign, translations of documentation, organization of shows, writting new software, whatever. I'm rather good (I think) at writting software, so that's what I do.
  • I like the people: Most tend to be open to new ideas sharing their own and using those contributed by users. Almost everyone I meet so far was very friendly and willing to teach and/or learn. They tend to know what kind of work is involved with a big project and tend to respect those contributing their time and energie into one .
  • I like the ideas of free software. I believe its a good thing. Yes, that's rather idealistic, but that's how I am,


Salman Rushdie explains... (4, Interesting)

swm (171547) | about 13 years ago | (#2259470)

NPR had Salman Rushdie on The Connection today. A caller asked why some of his novels were, or were not, set in India. After circling around the question a bit, Rushdie said

In the end, you write the book that grabs
you by the throat and demands to be written.

That's more or less how I feel about writing open source software.

Keep it simple, stupid. (1)

gcr (4733) | about 13 years ago | (#2259472)

For the good of humanity

we do what we do because we have no alternative (1)

Drake42 (4074) | about 13 years ago | (#2259489)

If there existed software based on open standards
and of excellent quality that could be used to
complete our projects, we would not bother to
write open source. However, software companies
are motivated not just by profit, but by
short term, short sighted, ideals of 'easy to do'.
If a software company finds it can make 80% of the
money with 80% of the quality, they will do that.
The people who require software capable of working
in that top 20% have no choice but to write their

One of the main reasons why I believe we do it (1)

shmigget (459421) | about 13 years ago | (#2259515)

As developers, we seek the respect and recognition of our peers, with that motivation often taking priority over money. Open-source allows the prefect vehicle to show our work to and share with that peer audience.

Why do people paint? John Maddog Hall answers (2)

dudle (93939) | about 13 years ago | (#2259540)

John 'maddog' Hall, President of Linux International paid a visit to the florida linux user exchange [] to talk about open source in a business perspective. He said the following:

Why do people paint? Why do amateurs play an instrument? Why is it that they are, most of the time, much more talented than the professionals?

The quote is not perfect, I didn't write down his exact words but the spirit is here. We are amateurs. We are what Rock'n Roll was before the major music distribution companies took over the business and squeezed everything we loved about Rock out of it. We are amateurs, we tour the country in buses, not planes. We do it for the love of the game. If we get good at it, money and chicks start coming, that's good :-) but that's not the goal.


Boston Tea Party (1)

MikeySquid (309780) | about 13 years ago | (#2259549)

Open source is the Boston Tea Party for software developers. I went to school and studied on my own for countless hours (years!) to learn a trade I could market. I then find myself being controlled by major corporations (Redmond) and business owners (bosses). I have the power to free myself of this control which is forced on me against my will. I develop and support open source software for the Liberty it ascribes to my chosen lifestyle. With open source I control my destiny and strike a blow for freedom from oppression and control.

I just love doing it! (1)

warpSpeed (67927) | about 13 years ago | (#2259551)

Plain and simple.

Not that I get to do it much. But there is a thrill in hunting down a bug and submitting a bug report, knowing that you are contributing to the greater good of mankind.


Communal effort. (1)

SuperguyA1 (90398) | about 13 years ago | (#2259554)

Despite the rhetoric. Communal effort can have a good effect in a democratic capitolist society(before you flame I am not anti capitolist, quite the contrary). Supply and demand economics require a limited supply, in software great effort is spent making the appearance of limited supply... hence much of the stuff we 'love' about MS.

The fact is software once written is extrodinarily cheap to copy. In a communal software enviornment everyone benifits. People who wish a better product have the right to make any product so, and they don't lose anything(as in a commodity) by giving it away. This of course will not work with cars or any other material item as there is an actual limit on supply.

Just because something can make a profit doesn't mean it neccisarily should. Some unnamed companies say they are innovating but if they would let the open source community do their thing they could make something new and actually innovate and then EVERYONE would benefit.

Why doesn't this happen? When you have a product that is making gobs of money why bother! Now the interesting thing is IMHO this is not the corporations fault. This is what the corporation is supposed to do, make money and provide jobs. It is the CONSUMER's responsibility to make sure they are not being abused by the corporation and the GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE's responsibility to provide the consumer with the channels to do so.

So get off your chairs and make a stink!

For me... (2)

update() (217397) | about 13 years ago | (#2259562)

I started because there was an app I used all the time in MacOS and didn't have in Linux. So I ported it to KDE (source was available!) and figured if I found it useful, others might also.

I'd say the reason I continue is that I enjoy coding and software development, and since I don't work as a developer, or in IT at all, joining a project is kind of like the coding version of those sports fantasy camps -- I get to work, hang with and learn from some really skilled people and at the end, my work is on CD's and hard drives all over the world.

I don't do it because I hate Microsoft, and I've never met anyone who does. If they're motivated by hate, it's of a competing free software project! ;-) I don't do it because I want to destroy paid development and put people out of work, and I've never met anyone who does. (I do wonder if I coded for a living, whether I'd be so willing to work for free.)

Eric Raymond says people work on free projects to get girls. Eric Raymond should generally be ignored.

Now, if I can ask a question:

Answering this question may be the key to resolving public FUD about open source.

Huh? How?

Why I do it? Good question! (1)

premus (519564) | about 13 years ago | (#2259563)

Why I do it? Good question!

The simplest and best answer is because it gives me pleasure. I don't think any other answer would be true. It involves daily work, sometimes in crazy amounts. I have no hopes that this work will make me rich, also I'm realistic enough to not believe that I will be one day as prestigious like ESR or others.

It is my passion, it always was. I like to stay in front of my computer 12 hours a day, I like to write software, I like to give it away, I like to be critiqued about my mistakes, I like to surf the WEB, these are the simple things which make my day, and I am happy about them.

On the other hand, it is something related to some specific "cultures". If you look, OpenSource/Free software is more pregnant around specific platforms (Linux, BSD, Be, ...) and specific programming languages (C/C++, Perl, Python, Java). Before the Linux revelation, when I was just a DOS/Windows user, I didn't know about sharing, giving away and this seems to be related somehow with the Proprietary Software Culture. Even today, you will still find very few free VB or Deplhi programs.

Why do anything (1)

da_Den_man (466270) | about 13 years ago | (#2259579)

Because you can.
Because it is there.

Because the best hack is the one that does the same job, only in less time with fewer lines of code.

Re:Open Source - Why Do We Do It? (1)

DeVilla (4563) | about 13 years ago | (#2259595)

Why do the schools and universities give away information. Sure, teachers get payed to do it, but after you've been taught how the operator of addition works, you are free to apply it as you see fit. Fortunately for all of use, the people who build bridges, design cars, and build houses have all gotten rather good at applying addition. They use a lot of other technique and methods taught to them by people who could have kept a tight lip and made an extra buck by imposing unneeded scarcity.

Software is not a bridge or a house or a car. To have a house I have to get a group of people, a mess of materials, and take a good amount of time to construct it. To have another house just like the first, I have to get another group of people, another mess of materials, and more time to construct it. It is the only way it can be done, at least until we master some form of science that will allow us to will objects into existence.

If I want to have a program, I have to get a groups of people, a mess of resources (computers, etc.), and take good amount of time to code it. To have a second program just like the first, I have to make a copy of the media containing the original. Any other restriction is artificially imposed.

Suppose we treat software like the information that teachers give students. In order to do that, you have to include the source, since it is the only form of a program that really makes sense to people. Any other format is dependent on the platform where it will run. Teaching the information with student when it is in a binary format would be, at best, liken to teaching a student calculus in a language that is foreign to the student.

Now if we are going to treat the information in software like the information that teachers share with students, what would be possibly get out of it? How would software benefit? How would people benefit? Since it is not the mainstream, it is kind of hard to point at something concrete and say "There! That is the benefit." There are plenty of reason to that people give as to why they believe Open Source is better or why people do it, but nothing that some one else could brush off since the is no hard evidence yet. Instead, let's looks at what we could gain.
How safe would you feel if our architects had to discover addition on their own? No one taught them because the teach would loose an edge over any one he taught. Suppose that the bridge designers were not allowed to look at other bridge to learn how to build one for you. Suppose the person who made your car wasn't allowed to look under the hood of another car before designing a "better" one for you. Suppose your mechanic wasn't allowed to know how your car was designed. Supposed the carpenter who build you house wasn't allow to even touch a hammer due to legal regulations.
This is were the software industry has gotten itself. By share source code to programs, some feed up people have realized that they have more to gain if they share their ideas. This sharing requires that they people whom they share with be allowed to apply those idea in the hopes of producing better ideas that would again be shared with others. These people don't have to build bridges without ever having seen one before.
So why do open source. My wife might have to fly on an airplane some where and the air traffic control system must work. My son might end up on a naval vessel and he could not afford the ship going dead because of divide by zero error. My mother may have to go into the hospital for surgery and she wouldn't want to have the wrong operation performed due to an error in the doctor's calendar system.
If you've every had to drive on a large bridge over a river, consider how you would feel if you were told the bridge made by someone who had never seen one first. Would you enter any skyscraper made by some one who had never so much as walked in one themselves? That's why you do Open Source.


Why do artists paint... (0, Redundant)

nysus (162232) | about 13 years ago | (#2259599)

or sculpt? Why do musicians make music? Not all of them do it for the money. Sure there's a few that hit the big time, but the vast majority, even highly competent ones, struggle to make ends meet and pursue their interest because it is what they know and love.

The act of creation itself is what pays and rewards open source programmers. While programming has a much more practical side to it than the "purer" arts, it certainly isn't a hard science. You can a great sense of satisfaction from knowing that out of nothing you have forged a new tool that others can use and find useful or get enjoyment from.

Once all this hype about capitalism blows over, we will begin to realize that life isn't always about making a buck. It's also about doing stuff you really love.

Why do we prefer not to be paid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2259612)

As I understand his question, he wants to know why we do it for free, not simply why we do it.

And the reason I think is: because it's much deeper in human nature to create for fun, than simply to produce for profit. This makes us closer to God.
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