Paying for open source

by daniel on March 29, 2009




This post by Jeff Atwood talks about giving money in exchange for features or bug fixes in open source projects. Although there is a long explanation for why most users can’t really help open source, the basic understanding of open source is lacking. Well Jeff, this time you just don’t get it.


The phenomenon of Open Source is heavily discussed and analyzed, mainly in “the Cathedral and the Bazaar“, but also in printed newspapers like the Washington Magazine, where which motivation of open source developers is analyzed.

The main reasons of motivation are:

  1. Doing something that hasn’t been done before
  2. Making things that really work
  3. Prestige – being reviewed by peers


There is difference between sizes of open source projects. There are large like Mozilla or Apache that are backed up by a company, and there are small ones, like Zlib and others. Large projects, having full time developers might benefit from money given for fixes / features.

For small open source projects, the idea of paying developers is questionable at best due to several reasons:

  1. Contributors work on the project on spare time and not as full time job.
  2. The reasons people are motivated are not money, as mentioned above.
  3. What people need is more time, to be able to implement their own ideas and to react to the community, as they see fit.


What if a developer becomes for hire? Can he follow the paradigms of open source?

I believe that a programmer for hire in open source is a dangerous thing, because of the different motivations. A for hire programmer night not code the solution bet for the project, but might look for a short term solution. The contribution might not be accepted by the maintainers, giving additional problem for the client.


Regarding the post itself, Jeff “forgets” his own experience in donating money to open source projects, where the money given to an open source project is left unused.

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