Why is open source so successful? Why should I contribute to open source?

TedLeungOpenSourceTed Leung recently shared his thoughts on open source with PythonThreads.com. Ted is an open source veteran and has been involved in open source initially via the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), and now the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF). He is the author of the book Professional XML Development with Apache Tools.
As a follow up to this interview, do have a look at Henri Yandell’s interview “Open-Source keeps me ‘coding fit'”

PythonThreads >> What factors do you think contribute to the success of Open Source & Open Source Languages like Python?
Ted Leung >> I think that we are just starting to understand why open source really works. I don’t think that the open source process/method is just limited to “hackers doing it for love”, although certainly that is happening.

“Open source is not limited to “hackers doing it for love…”

Professor Yochai Benkler at Yale has written a very good paper “Coase’s Penguin“, and now a book, “The Wealth of Networks“, that explains why open source works. I think that his notion of commons-based peer production is much more rational explanation of what is happening in open source software and also points the way to applying these ideas in domains other than software.

As far as open source languages, I think that there are a combination of factors. Open source languages tend to not be designed by committee, so we don’t have, for example, ANSI Ruby, or ANSI Python or any of that sort of thing. The owners (benevolent dictators) of the languages don’t benefit directly from their position, so they are able to focus much more on technical merit.

“Perl, Python, and Ruby, the designers have stolen liberally from other languages…”

In the cases of Perl, Python, and Ruby, the designers have stolen liberally from other languages. Another reason that languages have been particularly successful is that languages and their environments are really a commons, thus making a perfect match for the commons-based peer production (open source) method.

PythonThreads >> You are working with Open Source Applications Foundation (a non-profit organization), Is open source always free work or developer actually make money by contributing to open source projects?
Ted Leung >>
I know many developers who are making a living doing open source. That includes being paid to contribute to a project, or working on a project and getting paid to do custom development or support.

“Many developers who are making a living doing open source…”

If you look around many of the big open source projects, Linux, Gnome, Mozilla, MySQL, Apache, etc, you will find developers who are getting paid to work on those projects. The projects themselves may or may not have money to pay the developers, but some companies do see the value of paying developers to contribute to projects that they use.

PythonThreads >> You are in a good position to tell our readers why they should contribute to open source projects?
Ted Leung >>
1. Contributing is a way to work on something that really interests you.
2. Contributing is a way to build a reputation and portfolio for yourself outside of what your paid job is.
3. Contributing is a way to learn and work with technologies that you don’t get to use at your day job.
4. Contributing is a way to learn how to work in the geographically distributed workplace of the future.

Read the complete interview >> The state of Python and XML is not as good as it could be.

>> Open Source for Tomorrow Program
>> One open source software defect fix every six minutes
>> Open Source CMS project in trouble
>> New Open Quality Initiative to Improve Java Software Quality.

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0 thoughts on “Why is open source so successful? Why should I contribute to open source?

  • July 20, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Open Source is successful because every human always wants to be the good guy, the one sharing knowledge for free, doing good work for free and helping others get started.

    I guess open source makes us feel good, the kind you get if you teach something to a poor kid or help the old or underprivileged.

    You also learn in the process, making it an even more attractive option

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