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Motivation in open source


I responded to Alex’s invitation and I gave today a presentation to a few students about motivation in software development. I hope they liked it and found it interesting.

As my focus was mainly on discussing about open source projects, while I was preparing my presentation, I made a thinking exercise. And I noted down the motivational factors for developing open source applications. Let’s go through the list.

  • Passion. Remember that most of you are working in this field because you like it. Sometimes developers get to work in a company and in a project that they actually don’t like. Open source is their chance to do what they like. So, even tough this takes extra time and effort, the moral satisfaction pays it off. Keep the fire burning with Open Source!
  • Educational. Working in an open source is the best way to keep you up-to-date with the latest technologies. Due to economical reasons, the projects developed in closed profit-based organizations, are not up-to-date with the last technologies. Keep learning with Open Source!
  • Portfolio. What you developed as open source could be a very good showcase to obtain a better job. If you don’t have yet industry practical experience, this can compensate. Show off your Open Source!
  • Status. There is a special pride of being a member in a successful open source community. Be proud with your Open Source!
  • Networking. Working in open source communities is a great way to meet developers, designers etc that share common interest with you. Get together in Open Source!
  • Need. This is actually one of the main reasons for developing open source applications. Either there isn’t a software solution for your problem or it is too expensive, you can always make your own or contribute to other people effort to do it. Use Open Source!
  • Influence. This is somehow related to need. Because a company is needing some features in an open source application, they encourage their employees to take an active role in the development of it. In this way they can easily influence the direction in which the open source project is heading. Influence your Open Source!
  • Altruism/Knowledge sharing. Some people simply do it because is the right and moral thing to do. They used and enjoyed open source and now it’s time to give something back. Share by Open Source!
  • Quality. I know that it may sound like a paradox, but I really think that a successful open source project has a higher quality than a successful closed, private one. Usually an open source project has a more varied and wide pool of users. It means that it also have a wider pool of critics. And they will review not only the final products, but the source code too. Moreover, the commercial products will have to constantly improve because of the competition. Improve Open Source!
  • Economical. Open source is not entirely free. And here we have to talk about cost reduction and profit.
    Cost reduction. A company can develop a project, but due to the lack of resources, they decide to make it open source. If the project is not on their portfolio, but it was merely developed as a library for other projects or to support the internal infrastructure, this is a very good choice. Their business won’t be affected, but their winnings could be huge. In the first place, they win a huge amount of users, which are actually free ad-hoc testers. As the project is growing they can also gain developers or other specialists (like designers or documentation writers), thus tremendously decreasing the maintenance costs.
    Profit. A new business model has lately emerged. The organization is offering the product for free, but they are charging for related services, such as support, development on request or even specialized documentation (like books) etc. More and more companies are moving from a product oriented business model to a service oriented business model.
    Win with Open Source!

I also attached the presentation, but it is in Romanian. If you’re really interested I can translate it in English as well.

Enjoy Open Source!

P.S. Thanks to Alex and Razvan for giving me this opportunity. Thanks to Monica for recommendation.

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  1. behindblueeyez
    November 27, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Very cool, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see it.

  2. ana
    November 27, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    i was, and it was a very interesting presentation. also, thank you for posting it here. after school i got to thinking about it, and i realised i would like to go over it again, ifi had the possibility. and now i do🙂

  3. November 27, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Adrian, this is really insightful work! I read a lot of little tidbits here and there that I think are original in open source blogs, but each one of these is a really insightful point. Thanks!

  4. behindblueeyez
    November 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    oh come on, I don’t get any credits?

  5. December 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Sorry Monica for forgetting you. I edited the post and the thanks goes now to you too.

  6. August 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    A very interesting video about what motivates us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

  7. November 19, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Excellent! I love how Romanian looks close enough to English that there was very little I couldn’t understand!

    Great thorough analysis. Here’s some other related articles about open source motivation and developtment:

    http://www.lessonsoffailure.com/developers/autonomy-mastery-purpose/
    http://www.softwarebyrob.com/2006/10/31/nine-things-developers-want-more-than-money/

    • November 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

      What exactly haven’t you understood?

  1. November 27, 2008 at 11:02 pm
  2. April 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

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