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Boredom Drives Open-Source Developers?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the not-that-far-from-the-truth dept.

IT 199

Henry McClyde writes "Chris Anderson of The Long Tail posted an article yesterday in which he claims that "spare cycles" — or boredom and the tons of people who wish they had something better to do — is what drives Web 2.0.... and the open source development community. While Web 2.0 in general is driven by "the long tail," NeoSmart seems to have taken up issue with Anderson's claims that open source developers (and other freeware programmers in general) do what they do because they're bored and have nothing better to spend their time on. Same with Wikipedia contributors, and bloggers in general."

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Duh (-1, Offtopic)

otacon (445694) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019753)

that is all.

Re:Duh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020329)

Speaking as a shareware/freeware developer who has been featured in many magazines, newspapers, & books in this field (above & beyond website articles or ratings of softwares) since 1997-1998 up to around 2004?

(2004 is around/about when I stopped doing freewares/sharewares, due to lack of energy and time to do so anymore as well as need to do so (in that that apps I have done are finished, per user tests/critiques long ago, & they work "perfectly" (purely relative term imo) all the way from Windows 9.x - VISTA currently as of this writing, & this is the prime example thereof: http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/389/foowhatev ermakesgooglehappy.html [techpowerup.com] ))?

Shareware/Freeware helped me to understand more than just what I do for a job/livelyhood in this field (which is MIS/IS/IT database coding mostly), primarily, as to bettering myself in this field of endeavor.

Shareware/Freeware construction basically truly helped me to improve my skillset as a coder, no questions asked: Practice HELPS make you perfect!

(Perfect? Ah, there is no such thing especially considering "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", especially in software development, without user critique & feedback that is - nobody can 'spot it all' as to useability issues or bugs, w/ out help imo & experience - you cannot please everyone however, this IS "the rub").

Doing shareware/freeware has also aided my resume to some extent (because some of my wares went into commercial products for Microsoft partners) and also got my name around this field as well, in written publication (as well as on websites).

Personally? I never considered doing shareware/freeware a "waste of my time"!

To myself, it amounted to time spent improving myself on more fronts coding (other than databasing work) & doing so aided in my understanding of how Operating Systems work as well as improving myself on how to use, for instance, the Win32 API & also custom 3rd party controls (mostly .dll, .ocx, and .vcl addons).

It has paid off (literally AND figureatively) in many ways.

Idle hands are the "devil's workshop", but I personally would not call software development of ANY kind, idle hands. If anything, it is far better than blogging or writing articles only for example, because it improves you and is basically on-the-job-training of a sort you are doing independently.

This is what I gained by this, personally, in the doing of freeware/shareware over time the past decade or more (as of this writing of this post).

Additionally: How many products over time have come from the "freeware/shareware" area, which I consider the "farm teams" semi-pro leagues of software development? Quite a few:

Example: Norton GHOST's origins? Freeware/Shareware, iirc.

There are far more, but that is a "classic case-in-point/example"...

APK

P.S.=> And, as far as larger projects (other than shareware/freeware utilities such as I have done)? Look @ LINUX: The damn thing's pretty awesome (though I am truly a Win32 person mostly), especially considering it was created at the expense of MANY contributor's personal time - Linux is a construct based on freely given time mostly, and it is a socio-cultural/technological phenomenon that proves people CAN & WILL do great things, for free, voluntarily on occasion (without being paid), that is impressive in & of itself... apk

Wrong (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019769)

Spare cycles power Slashdot...

Re:Wrong (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19019815)

In Soviet Russia spare cycles... profit!

Slashdot is on another scale (4, Funny)

DrYak (748999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019839)

Slashdot is playing the gamt at an entirely different order of magnitude.

A couple of spare cycle is what you need to build Linux.
On the same scale, the amount of time wasted on /. should leed us to find a cure for cancer.

Re:Slashdot is on another scale (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19019997)

the amount of time wasted on /. should leed us to find a cure for cancer.
or at leest leed us to lern how to spel.

Re:Slashdot is on another scale (0)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020149)

Maybe it's the quality of the cycles?

hehe, this coming from me. Eye kant spel eyether.

Re:Slashdot is on another scale (0, Offtopic)

Illbay (700081) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020407)

"LEED"? What has LEED [usgbc.org] got to do with it?

Re:Wrong (4, Funny)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019935)

I would say that slashdot stand to boredom as a black hole stands to matter. So highly concentrated it distorts reality.

Re:Wrong (1)

badc0ffee (969714) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020173)

If they are spare, and they are used, are they really spare cycles? The CPU cycles you do not use today are gone forever.

Re:Wrong (5, Funny)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020377)

I disagree.

Take me for example: I'm so busy I can't even post right now.

Re:Wrong (2, Insightful)

alittlespice (934609) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020425)

I would argue that procrastination powers slashdot, case in point, I have a 3pm deadline that I can't possibly meet and yet I'm posting here.

First (yawn...) Post (0, Offtopic)

LittleBigScript (618162) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019777)

This comment has been made open source.

First Post
  Witty sig

well yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19019783)

I mean of course hobbyist programmers have nothing better to spend their time on, but that's because making something is satisfying and we like doing it :)

How about calling avoidance of other boring work? (5, Interesting)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019801)

maybe it is not about being bored but more about not wanting to do that crappy assignment your boss wants you to do? Maybe creating a better disk partition method for detecting NTSF, sizing correctly, and loading GRUB efficiently feels better to do than that cover sheet for the TPS report?

People want to feel useful at work. Certainly the greatest percentage doesn't do it for the money so what about doing something useful with your time than being a cog in someone else's soulless business machine?

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (4, Interesting)

packetmon (977047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019967)

Actually, I develop stuff for myself out of... "I wonder if I can automate this so I won't have to do it again..." Typical lazy sysadmin stuff. Most of the times I end up creating my own little program of sorts and at times I usually post stupid/handy little scripts. Does it qualify for open source, perhaps. Maybe that's why I'm always bored, I've been automating my work for too long

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020315)

Next step is to develop artificial intelligence so the computer will do it all for you.

Then you will have truly mastered the art of the sysadmin.
 

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19019969)

or people just find creative ways to procrastinate.

I'm one of them.

-jl

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (4, Interesting)

loconet (415875) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019971)

I totally agree. I have personally, in several occasions, taken a break from my job as a programmer by coding something else. Maybe in a different language, something totally unrelated to my day to day projects and usually something that I would release as open source. In a way, it helped me maintain my sanity while I did something I love to do. However, nowadays I rather go out for a run and enjoy real sun light.

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (2, Insightful)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020055)

<i>maybe it is not about being bored but more about not wanting to do that crappy assignment your boss wants you to do? </i>
<br><br>
Well, in order to stop me giving in and getting a TV I wrote a book. Now that's finished my next project is a risk management toolset. In my case it's not so much boredom, it's the fear of distracting myself in non-productive ways when I could be doing something interesting.

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (2, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020155)

Still sounds like boredom to me: boring job. Note that while the job might be boring it can be still useful.

Re:How about calling avoidance of other boring wor (2, Interesting)

jnowlan (618290) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020453)

Boredom is what got me started. My mindless job was driving me crazy, but then I realized it was up to me to change it and started working on stuff that I thought was important. At first, I thought the chances of success were 0, but now I'm seeing buyin and I'm engaged. Not always, but it is much better. One of the biggest benefits has been the participation in an open source project. It is cliche but I can't believe how helpful the people are and how important that community is to me. Something I used to get from work, early in my career but don't now. I say participating quite deliberately, because I am mostly just benefiting from the expertise and productivity of others, but it makes me want to be a 'good citizen' and help the community in whatever limited way I can. It is a debt that I am proud to owe.

I do what I like (1)

garaged (579941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019811)

so, if you do what you like, then you are bored, and don't have nothing better to do, that makes sense

girlfriends and OSS (3, Interesting)

AndyST (910890) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019819)

I was about to start an open source project, mostly to educate myself as my current IT jobs is custom one-time software only. Well, to make it short, I recently got a girlfriend. No more OSS coding for me.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (5, Funny)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019907)

HAHAHA, like we believe that. Let me give you a slashdot translation lesson:
 
Post says, "I recently got a girlfriend". Post means "I recently found a porn magazine".
Post says, "I was about to start an open source project". Post means "I was using an open source program and I thought it was decent so I considered writing a MAN page for it".
 
Lesson 1 completed. Tomorrow's lesson, how to talk to a n00b.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (1)

mdboyd (969169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019965)

Yes, however if you two ever get married, you'll probably be begging for an OSS project to spend time on.

This would prove my theory that women eventually drive men insane.. and into OSS projects.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (1)

Bardez (915334) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019999)

Ditto. It is an uphill battle for me to find the time for OSS... hell, even for drawing a damned rectangle to my PSP screen.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (4, Funny)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020301)

Just wait till you have a wife. I try writing my own stuff and I never have the time to. I actually have stuff to do at work, so I can't work on anything there, and when I go home my wife insists that I "spend time" with her. And, apparently, tapping away at my Powerbook while she watches TV doesn't count.

I'm hopeful that once we have a kid I'll be relegated to the role of grocery courier and she'll have someone else to bother all the time. But I'm not going to hold my breath. (First kid's due in October.)

Re:girlfriends and OSS (1)

Rainer (42222) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020599)

And, apparently, tapping away at my Powerbook while she watches TV doesn't count.
Tell her she has to spend time with you. Watching TV while you need her attention doesn't count.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020607)

Coding is actually *easier* when you have a wife... I prefer(red) coding to listening to her bitch. Coincidentally (or maybe not), i'm single now, and it's harder to get projects started when you have all the spare time you need... one of life's little ironies.

Re:girlfriends and OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020589)

Well, to make it short, I recently got a girlfriend. No more OSS coding for me.
I can't say I've found these two things to be mutually exclusive.

All I can say is Wow! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19019827)

Wow! Who'd've thunk?! People do things because they think it's more interesting than not doing them! People go to the beach because they are bored. People have sex because they are bored. People have families because they are bored. People read books because they are bored. Wow! This is like the most amazing explanation of everything I've ever heard!

352 webcam drivers? (4, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019831)

325 webcam drivers anyone? [slashdot.org] I mean, what else other than boredom would prompt someone to write 523 webcam drivers?

Re:352 webcam drivers? (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019897)

I mean, what else other than boredom would prompt someone to write 523 webcam drivers?
Just a wild guess, but perhaps interest in the fair lass who's window is across the way from your own + a disdain for Windows?

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

jmac1492 (1036880) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020085)

Just a wild guess, but perhaps interest in the fair lass who's window is across the way from your own + a disdain for Windows?
Windows bad, windows good. Film at 11.

Re:352 webcam drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020005)

A little bit lysdexic are we?

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020119)

Maybe his daughters had 235 non-working webcams, keeping them busy, thus keeping him bored?

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

Chysn (898420) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020169)

> I mean, what else other than boredom would prompt someone to write 523 webcam drivers?

I thought that was a million webcam drivers. I seem to remember it being a million.

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020335)

I mean, what else other than boredom

Necessity.

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020347)

I dunno. I could've sworn the phrase was "Boredom is the mother of invention."

Re:352 webcam drivers? (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020489)

No, not invention, masturbation.

it's true (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019835)

on a particularly slow week at work i wrote an incremental backup utility in C. it doesnt do anything special; it was mostly because i wanted to re-learn C. i'm planing on releasing it under a BSD license, but that probably wont happen until i get another slow week.

Procrastination (4, Interesting)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019837)

I edit Wikipedia, "tinker" with programs and graphics, and blog all as a means for relaxation from whatever work I should be doing (homework, in my case). Gaming tends to take long periods of time... and that's a prime formula for guilt trips about laziness ;)

It's the same with READING Web 2.0 content... And why I'm reading /. and posting here.

What? (3, Funny)

packetmon (977047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019843)

You know... I was bored and decided to read this article then got an idea... Instead of wasting my life read /., what I should be doing is writing code....

wget -qO - http://www.infiltrated.net/slashdot|\
ruby -lne 'puts STDIN.readlines.reverse!.slice(0,2).reverse!;#suck er'|\
perl -p -e 's/[0-9]//g;s/X/ /g'|\
ruby -pe '$_ = $_.chomp + " " + gets if $. % 2'

Re:What? (1)

Stephan Seidt (803125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020107)

I just had some spare time, so I decided to optimize your code:

ruby -e 'puts "slash dot"'

more simplification (0)

packetmon (977047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020121)

echo "slash dot"

True by definition (5, Insightful)

Diomidis Spinellis (661697) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019845)

open source developers (and other freeware programmers in general) do what they do because they have nothing better to spend their time on.

This is by definition true for any activity we undertake. If there was something more profitable, enjoyable, pressing, useful to do, we (as rational thinkers) would be doing it.

Re:True by definition (2, Insightful)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019923)

I think the only thing that even makes this noteworthy is the inflammatory slashdot summary which claims "wish they had something better to do". It makes it sound like the article is from a person that can't comprehend someone would program for enjoyment. But then again the article doesn't use that terminology at all...

Re:True by definition (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020689)

Exactly what I was thinking. This seems to be something along the lines of:
Cool dude: "I water-sky, hang-glide and play soccer for fun man!"
Nerdy guy: "I program because I'm bored."

OH RLY?!? (1)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019855)

Honestly, I would've thought the majority of people who don't get compensated to write open source software sacrifice all their time and energy into its development like me! What would you need a job for? What is this ... this ... "sustenance", you call it? I need not any of that. Nor any material objects. I have transcended that.

Except for the occasional bottle of Bawlz. Man, that shit is good.

So what? (4, Insightful)

Bueller_007 (535588) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019867)

So what's wrong with that? What's wrong with converting one's boredom or downtime into a product that benefits people?

I haven't read the article, so I don't know if this is supposed to be a slam against open-source contributors or not, but I think it's safe to say that people who choose to do this with their free time are certainly being more productive than those who just sit and play Evercrack for hours on end.

If these people were charging for their product, you'd call their motivation "entrepreneurial spirit", but since they're giving it away, you slight them by saying that they contribute only because they're bored?

Re:So what? (1)

thpr (786837) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020221)

What's wrong with converting one's boredom or downtime into a product that benefits people?

I am an open source developer. I don't think it reflects *at all* on the challenge in my job (which is interesting and I'm very busy), but it *is* a reflection that software development is *different* than my day job, and by using a different part of my brain, I can find the development challenges in an open source project to be relaxing.

Maybe one could argue that is a form of "boredom", but if so, does volunteering to build a Habitat for Humanity house also qualify as boredom? Under the definition of "spare cycles" in the article where is the line between choice and boredom? I can't find it.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020629)

So what's wrong with that? What's wrong with converting one's boredom or downtime into a product that benefits people?

I haven't read the article, so I don't know if this is supposed to be a slam against open-source contributors or not,


Congrats on making me laugh. "I disagree vehmently with this article that I have not read"

Conflicting title and summary? (1)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019881)

The title talks about Open Source, while the summary talks about Web 2.0. Mutually exclusive I would have thought?

Re:Conflicting title and summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020103)

or not.

Both revolve around the idea that quality can be achieved by taking the best that results from a massive quantity of individual and volunteer work.

If people had good work (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019885)

As a software developer, I have learned that without little side projects to distract you from the mind numbing development process developed by managers, that we would all go completely crazy.

Management-driven software development is what drives developers to extend their free time and more importantly their imagination and talent to open-source projects and freeware.

I was amazed at what I accomplished on one slow month. I made a Java version of that old Gorilla's game written in QBasic... ... just to prove that I COULD!

OSS (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019895)

I don't know if it's boredom, that's probably part of it. Sometimes you see a need in an area and are feeling generous, sometimes you need something done and the tools aren't available, or free. And probably sometimes, we're just bored and are looking for something to do. I think most contributors are either trying to fill a gap in their set of applications, or just simply want to contribute to OSS.

well, in part (4, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019901)

It also involves wanting to help others out, or make something better for themselves.

Some similar things outside of computers:

1) (this is a bit in excess of what OSS typically has in terms of altruism) - I have friends who do Habitat For Humanity on Saturdays. One could say this is out of boredom, but it is also (and one case) more believably out of desire to help others.

2) I know a lot of people who do their own home maintenance and "upgrades". This is not only less financially burdensom, but they typically get things done somewhat faster and better than a contractor would.

All these mindsets mindsets (altruism, desire to have direct control of the quality, and greed) can also cause a person to develop OSS, with or without the presence of a "I have time and don't know what to do with it" state.

Re:well, in part AGREED 110%, & more... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020649)

"It also involves wanting to help others out, or make something better for themselves." - by jimstapleton (999106) on Monday May 07, @09:29AM (#19019901)

OR, to improve one's self, & skillsets as a coder.

Speaking as a shareware/freeware developer who has been featured in many magazines, newspapers, & books in this field (above & beyond website articles or ratings of softwares) since 1997-1998 up to around 2004 (2004 is around/about when I stopped doing freewares/sharewares, due to lack of energy and time to do so anymore as well as need to do so (in that that apps I have done are finished, per user tests/critiques long ago, & they work "perfectly" (purely relative term imo) all the way from Windows 9.x - VISTA currently as of this writing, & this is the prime example thereof: http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/389/foowhatev ermakesgooglehappy.html [techpowerup.com] ))?

Shareware/Freeware helped me to understand more than just what I do for a job/livelyhood in this field (which is MIS/IS/IT database coding mostly), primarily, as to bettering myself in this field of endeavor.

Shareware/Freeware construction basically truly helped me to improve my skillset as a coder, no questions asked: Practice HELPS make you perfect!

(Perfect? Ah, there is no such thing especially considering "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", especially in software development, without user critique & feedback that is - nobody can 'spot it all' as to useability issues or bugs, w/ out help imo & experience - you cannot please everyone however, this IS "the rub").

Doing shareware/freeware has also aided my resume to some extent (because some of my wares went into commercial products for Microsoft partners, which ended up being bought from myself) and also got my name around this field as well, in written publication (as well as on websites).

Personally? I never considered doing shareware/freeware a "waste of my time"!

To myself, it amounted to time spent improving myself on more fronts coding (other than databasing work) & doing so aided in my understanding of how Operating Systems work as well as improving myself on how to use, for instance, the Win32 API & also custom 3rd party controls (mostly .dll, .ocx, and .vcl addons).

It has paid off (literally AND figureatively) in many ways.

Idle hands are the "devil's workshop", but I personally would not call software development of ANY kind, idle hands. If anything, it is far better than blogging or writing articles only for example, because it improves you and is basically on-the-job-training of a sort you are doing independently.

This is what I gained by this, personally, in the doing of freeware/shareware over time the past decade or more (as of this writing of this post).

Additionally: How many products over time have come from the "freeware/shareware" area, which I consider the "farm teams" semi-pro leagues of software development? Quite a few:

Example: Norton GHOST's origins? Freeware/Shareware, iirc.

There are far more, but that is a "classic case-in-point/example"...

APK

P.S.=> And, as far as larger projects (other than shareware/freeware utilities such as I have done)? Look @ LINUX: The damn thing's pretty awesome (though I am truly a Win32 person mostly), especially considering it was created at the expense of MANY contributor's personal time - Linux is a construct based on freely given time mostly, and it is a socio-cultural/technological phenomenon that proves people CAN & WILL do great things, for free, voluntarily on occasion (without being paid), that is impressive in & of itself... apk

Money (4, Insightful)

Davemania (580154) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019925)

There are alot of excellent open source project that have very good commercial potential. I remember alot of small startup gaming companies developed free mod for half life not because they were bored but they see it as a way to develop a customer base and as a mean to develop a commercial product.

I don't do open source (3, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019927)

but i do constantly develop outside of work. Work projects are absolutely BORING, doing things on my own engages my brain, allows me to learn new things, and allows me to create things i like.

I could read books, but I enjoy the architecting a solution to a problem more

Boredom (5, Funny)

Rovastar (822365) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019955)

Often boredom leads to half finsihed blog entries, projects and p

Hmph (3, Insightful)

debrain (29228) | more than 7 years ago | (#19019987)

[People contributing to open source] do what they do because they're bored and have nothing better to spend their time on

In a lot of cases, people are contributing to something really meaningful and valuable, and to imply that they have nothing better to do is flat out condescending. If one CAN make the Linux kernel (or whichever project) better, there are very few things to be involved in that would go to benefit the public.

The implication that people contributing their valuable time to something like open source is only out of boredom and lack of alternatives is absurd and insulting. That may indeed be the reason why some people contribute, to be sure, but to imply that it is of no value to them, or the world, is utterly lunatic. (On the same continuum and with the same absurdity, the opposing exaggeration is that people contributing to open source are doing it for the betterment of mankind, as against the unrelenting corporate machine.)

I'm fairly certain that the truth lies in the middle, and that for an individual contributing to open source is a valuable way to spend your time because it gives you experience, exposes you to new ideas and people and challenges. As a bonus to the world, these contributions generally improve the publicly accessible wealth of knowledge, ideas and software functionality.

Any implication that these people are doing something of no value to them or the world is disgusting.

Maybe for some... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020001)

boredom is the issues. But I think for many others it's Ego.

Here's where I'm coming from:

The folks who write that stuff publish it on line. And within the F/OSS community, at least, their names are recognized. They're moved up the programmer hierarchy of "greatness", if you will. I mean just see what happens when a F/OSS developer posts on this site, it's an immediate +5 Insightful or Interesting. And it's a way of proving how "smart" they are. It's a way of getting attention.

There's also this badge of entitlement or gratefulness that I can't get a handle on. If you criticize a F/OSS release, folks immediately come down on you like you just called Mother Teressa a whore.

And then there's their attitude. I recently un-installed a F/OSS application and part of the un0-install process was a web page that comes up to give them feedback. I did because it was the least I could do. I clicked the "I didn't like it." check box because that one fit the best. I commented that the program worked great, didn't crash, and everything, but, it just didn't fit my needs - there was nothing wrong with it.

A message popped up saying something like, "Didn't like it! You try to write an application like this!!"

Geeze! Get a grip! You think I called their Mother a whore or something!

Re:Maybe for some... (2, Funny)

SadGeekHermit (1077125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020471)

You sound like one of those people who, back in high school, complained about the "smart kids" because they were always "getting attention" from the teacher. I suppose you think the correct lifestyle is one in which you are completely invisible, do nothing with your life, and vanish into obscurity and the corner bar.

I think you're lost. This is Slashdot. The sports pages are over there.

Socialist World Order (0, Flamebait)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020015)

I do it because I want to see a Socialist world. By developing collaborately and productively for free, and by showing the world that that way of organizing the labor is wastly superior to the current Capitalist order, I believe the world will move closer to Socialism. So in a way, you are all part of this great Socialist scheme started by RMS whether you know it or not. :) I'm in the minority, but only similar to how most Capitalists didn't understand how their actions would bring about the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Free Software is the best verification of Marx' Historical Materialism there has ever been.

Re:Socialist World Order (2, Insightful)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020475)

I saw a documentary on PBS about the summer of love, and it struck me how much of that philosophy is present in the Open Source movement. Take, for example, the Diggers, who would get bruised and otherwise unsellable food from grocery stores, cook it, and give it away in the park to anyone who wanted it. They took things that would have gone to wasted and made them into something useful for others.

Open Source contributors are continuing this tradition. They're taking spare programmer cycles and spare server space and turning it into something that improves the lives of people for free.

Re:Socialist World Order (2, Insightful)

demon driver (1046738) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020497)

From a socialist/communist perspective, the problem is: While you're still required to earn money by submission to exploitation through a regular job, while the capital owns the means of production and controls everything about your job, by using your spare time to produce things without getting money for it, you're doing things for free which could and should actually earn yourself a living.

Working for free producing whatever you feel like would be socialist/communist only if society/community would provide you with everything you need *without* your still having to do a regular job.

There is no right within the wrong, as T. W. Adorno used to say: unfortunately, it's impossible to have "a little bit of socialism/communism" in a world with its master conditions determined by capitalism. Free software is not socialism/communism (a fact that some will pity and others acclaim...).

True but, (1)

sepelester (794828) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020017)

Open Source contribution is about the most rewarding thing you can do, so of course dead time in between seems boring, what else is new?

It's the only time we can do something beautiful (2, Insightful)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020043)

Most professsional programmers, most of the time, are immersed in an environment where writing a piece of truly excellent software is simply not allowed. Writing Free and Open Source Software is one of the only avenues available to scratch this itch, if you have it.

sociology (5, Insightful)

Zarf (5735) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020045)

In your high school or college sociology class you might have learned that societies are created on the surplus food that a group of humans can create. In other words you don't get tributes to Zeus until there is a surplus of food lying around that the peasants won't mind parting with. The arts, religion, politics, and kingdoms all come from the ready supply of extra food.

The fewer people that are required to produce crops to feed the maximum amount of people frees those people for the pursuit of things like religion, philosophy, politics, literature, technology, or whatever other discipline doesn't lead to the direct creation of crops and cattle.

So basically, yes, Open Source is driven on free clock cycles that don't have to be dedicated to survival. This is even true for the company that commissions open source projects for its own use. If the company wasn't creating enough profit to allow for investment in future growth or any risky investment behavior then it wouldn't have the spare cycles to devote to the investment. And, software is risky it only pays off half the time.

You don't invest in the stock market with your lunch money. You might invest your retirement account in stocks, but not the cash you need to stay alive in the next few days. If the need is too vital it precludes any risk behavior.

If you want more open source, then create an environment where more people can take the risk of creating open source projects and even potentially waste their time on them. Consider that most projects fail. Most projects do not become popular. There must be enough surplus developer time to support those risks so that the one lucky project that changes everything has the chance to get created and have a few people waste their time on it before it becomes a product.

Obesity (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020367)

"In other words you don't get tributes to Zeus until there is a surplus of food lying around that the peasants won't mind parting with. "

In other words: Fat people are working towards an atheist society.

*grabs another snack*

Open Source takes commitment (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020061)

If i'm bored for a long stretch of time I might start a new project, but I _WILL NEVER FINISH IT_ unless i'm fully committed to the project, and forget about supporting it for years. The people that work on many projects as founders or major code contributors do it because they have a passion for it. Many that work on high-profile projects get their job contracts specifically modified to allow for funded development while they retain the rights to their code.

Not too far from these people are the contributors who submit bug fixes and new features and support. They don't work on this every day but they created a little something they needed and end up sending it back to the source (no pun intended) for the community to enjoy. They probably do it originally out of necessity and send the change back out of generocity and a sense of community.

The Greatest Comment in the World (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020065)

Well, as you can plainly see... no, I've got better stuff to do than this, this is boring.

Boredom? (2, Interesting)

TyFoN (12980) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020075)

Some of the most fun i have is when i work on my private projects.
Does a painter paint because he's bored?

I think not! :)

Being creative is giving me a feeling nothing else can, and I
think this is true for people since way back when man painted
on the walls of their caves.

I don't think it's boredom... (5, Insightful)

SadGeekHermit (1077125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020087)

Saying it's boredom cheapens it.

Previous generations had hobbies that let technologists use their skills in ways that gave them pleasure. For example, electrical engineers would tinker with Ham Radio sets, and build gadgets. Because at the time there was no internet, these hobbies tended to be personal and private, although there were some magazines that would allow submissions (and sharing of information).

Modern technologists are far less limited. They have the global internet and the open-source movement, plus a huge infrastructure for sharing information (like Sourceforge and Slashdot) available. It's like a hobbyist renaissance, or maybe the hobbyist version of the Enlightenment.

Who can resist participating? It's marvellous. Your average nerd (myself included) was picked on throughout his childhood, and surrounded by people who didn't share his interests. Now, suddenly, there's a whole world of people who would just LOVE to help you debug your networked application.

It's Nerdvana.

Saying it all derives from boredom is equivalent to saying you don't share our interests, and don't "get" them. It's not cool. We're not bored, we're INSPIRED.

And it's WAY more fun than what we have to do all day at work.

I think I am nailed. (0, Offtopic)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020127)

By a huge one.

Isn't that what any hobby is? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020165)

Well, for anyone that has a kind of hobby, or something that they enjoy doing in their free time - isn't that what it is, 'something to do, because you don't have anything else to do (that they want to....)', and I don't mean this in a bad way.

Some people choose to spend their free time say. Watching TV, playing video games, playing cards, knitting, gardening, building tiny ships inside of bottles, listening to music, going to the gym, going for a hike - all things that *some* people may enjoy doing, so when they have free time and 'nothing else to do', its what they spend their time on.

Is it so bad that open source developers chose to spend their time on something they enjoy doing, are passionate about, and helps out thousands of others in the process?

I'd say an Open Source developer that is contributing to a widely used project is making far better use of their 'spare cycles and boredom', than the fat lump watching American Idol re-runs.

I need my coffee (3, Funny)

MechaShiva (872964) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020177)

Totally read that headline wrong. I was wondering what the hell a boredom drive was and why they would open source their developers and not the drivers. Damnit, now my brain hurts.

Without question it does (1)

neoform (551705) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020185)

This past year I was very bored.. spent a ton of time working on a PHP framework (http://www.phpneoform.com/php.neoform.v1.164.zip if anyone wants to try it out) that i used for my various sites like http://www.newsique.com/ [newsique.com]

now that it's nice outside and i feel less bored, I haven't been working on it at much..

Yes, of course (0)

Enselic (933809) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020191)

If I don't get to code I get bored. What's the news?

So... (1)

charlieman (972526) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020193)

So suddenly all this good will people who invested their time in giving us all a better computer experience just became some bored folks who didn't have anything better to do? :-/

One guy's release from boredom... (4, Insightful)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020199)

...is another guy's passion.

Look, this is a stupid argument, akin to saying that they're doing it "even though they're not getting paid for it." Of course open source developers do it to relieve boredom - if I have available time, and I get bored, know what I do? Something that makes me happy.

The author could have said that open source developers do it because of the joy it brings them, and it would have been functionally equivalent.

Not in my case (2, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020231)

Personally, with a wife and four kids, a 50+ hour-per-week job and lots of hobbies, boredom is not a problem for me. I do contribute to open source projects when I can find the time, but it's definitely something that I have to make time for, because "spare cycles" just don't happen. Mostly, my OSS development time is between 11pm and 2am, when I would (should!) be sleeping.

Like virtually any other characterization you choose to make about open source developers and open source development, this one is partly true and partly false. Lots of people really want to pigeonhole OSS developers, to fit them neatly into their existing worldviews, but it doesn't work because there is simply too much diversity. To say that there are as many motivations for OSS development as there are OSS developers is really only a small exaggeration. Some people undoubtedly do it out of boredom, some do it as a way to avoid other work, some do it to build a "resume", some do it because they love it, some get paid to do it, some do it for the admiration of their peers, some do it because it's the only way they can get software they like (this is me, mostly, along with the "love it" and, when I'm honest, a little bit of peer admiration)... I'm sure there are plenty of other motivations out there, and I'm sure every OSS developer does it for some blend of reasons.

If you insist on finding a dominant motive, one that is perhaps more common and leads to more code than any other, I'd nominate "for the love of it". People who don't understand just how much fun writing code can be tend to discount that reason, and for them boredom may perhaps seem a more plausible alternative, given that they have experienced boredom and been led to do useless things to fill their time, but have never experience the rush that comes from creating a finely-crafted and elegant piece of code. IMO, though, "because I can't find a better way to fill my time" is a very weak and unlikely motivation. There are always Star Trek reruns.

From the Department of Truisms (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020349)

open source developers (and other freeware programmers in general) do what they do because they're bored and have nothing better to spend their time on

You could say that about any pastime, from climbing mountains in Tibet, through to watching TV. We do it because we'd be bored if we didn't.

For further insight into the very, very obvious, check Miss Anne Elk's new theory about the brontosaurus [serve.com] .

Not 'spare' or 'Selfless' : 'Self-interested' (3, Interesting)

Zelig (73519) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020385)

Many FOSS types are functioning, simply, as moral and self-interested folks. They appreciate the huge leverage that's been gifted them, and feel both an appreciation and a debt. Both of these encourage contribution.

Appreciation of the code handed down to us encourages respect for the givers, and a desire to garner some of that appreciation for ones' self. The debt demands payback, or in this case, pay forward.

That's all you need for the 'moral' part. The 'self-interested' folks have taken it a level further, and understand they have future wins, not just present, if they nurture the value-donating culture.

Hobbies? (2, Interesting)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020387)

"(...) Anderson's claims that open source developers (and other freeware programmers in general) do what they do because they're bored and have nothing better to spend their time on. Same with Wikipedia contributors, and bloggers in general"

You mean, like every other hobby? You do it because otherwise you wouldn't have anything to do with your free time and would, therefore, be bored.

the guy's right -- and bored (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020391)

The author descibes a well known phenomenon. It's called creativity. His article is nothing else than bashing people for using their creativity. And he is bored, otherwise he would not have written that article.

cb

I would say... (1)

nocynic (907095) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020409)

It probably starts off with inquisitiveness or need (in my case it was because of an academic related project).

Then it takes some getting used to, during which you learn a lot of things which you previously read in textbooks but never really understood.

Then in Rasmus's words it's Oxytocin! :p

completely true (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020441)

Indeed, trying to avoid boredom drives open source development, just like it drives flying to the moon, writing a great symphony, or doing anything else worthwhile. (The other motivations for doing something are being forced to do it, or doing it because one needs the money.)

Boredom, hobby, what's the diff? (1)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020479)

Doing something because you're bored and have nothing better to do... sound like the definition of a hobby to me. If I have nothing to do for several days in a row, I'll consider starting a project. If that project lasts for several days in a row, I'll consider doing it on an ongoing basis; and thus, a hobby is born.

If what this guy means to say is that "Several people weren't spending their free time driving race cars, collecting model trains, teaching pole dancing classes or saving the world, so they decided to dedicate that time to writing code." Then, yeah, he's pretty much correct.

There are other reasons too, but hobbyist developers are definitely a large portion of of the FOSS contributors.

Spare cycles power TV too. (1)

Anarchofascist (4820) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020491)

...yet it's not written in such derogatory terms.

Boredom powers the book publishing industry, the video game industry... hell, just about everything defense, procreation, shelter and food.

Half right (1)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020499)

"because they're bored and have nothing better to spend their time on."

That's half right.

A programmer in his downtime can play video games, watch TV, get drunk, or contribute to open source projects. Being an amateur open source contributer is a great hobby, and is a very good thing to spend your time on. Everyone has spare time once in a while; it doesn't mean they're bored.

Boredom Drives Progress (3, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020539)

If you look at history, people who have no time to be bored generally don't find themselves making great leaps in progress. Workmen are certainly hardworking as a class, and many are certainly not dumb, but if you are working all the time on your assigned tasks, it gives you little time to take your notion to fruition. And if you are very focused at your current job, which usually represents some sort of status quo, you're not making progress.

The fact is that a leisure class with the right motivation and philosophy, can be a real benefit to the rest of society. They have the time and money to "follow their dream", for the most part. Many artists, writers, and scientists in the past held down more or less sinecure positions that paid cash even though they really never actually did the job as specified in the job title. A significant portion of notable contributors to progress and art have been outright aristocratic.

Boredom can be aimless and cause no end of trouble, but in the right sorts of people, can lead to progress where it could not otherwise exist.

Exactly the purpose of boredom (1)

jesterpilot (906386) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020561)

Feeling bored is what drives people to do anything else in spare time than conserving energy. It drives creativity and out-of-the-box thinking better than anything else. An extremely useful feature, brought to you by Natural Selection.

Note how often doing creative work is accused of being driven by boredom, and how seldom watching TV.

Naah! (1)

varunvnair (891012) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020577)

How can anything driven by boredom produce many instance of high-quality of software and be so vibrant?

maybe all cycles are "spare" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19020581)

I guess I'll just live, there's nothing *else* to do.

(The whole premise is a troll.)

Better boredom than deadlines... (1)

r3b00tm0nk3y (806499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020587)

Boredom by it's very nature gives the creator time to think of what would be a worthwhile endeavor.

On the other hand, deadlines cause editors to pontificate on the obvious because they have editorials to write, news aggregator sites to point to lame articles because they have quotas to fill, and so on.

Recycling (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020675)

Jobs are tedious and not challenging or playful enough. For the political fears of others, we spend extra time on metrics and social/political games, which generates a whole lot of phantom work that is not necessary. Every job I've ever had could be done in three solid hours of work per day. Those extra cycles need to get recycled into something, and Open Source software is one of the few you can do from your desk.

A prime example of this from years gone by is the mailing list. You could get detailed replies to queries that were often better than professional documentation (and on some lists [chrisblanc.com] , you still can). Employers paid for that effort. Why? Because it was more fun, challenging and interesting than what we do as wage-slaves.

Not for me. (1)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 7 years ago | (#19020719)


The biggest contribution that I made to open source did not come from boredom at all. It was more of a political thing. Like all the people you see who donate some of their time to a cause they believe in. They do it because they believe in the cause.
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