What is the reason behind the success of Open Source & Open Source Languages?

The Open Source wave is perhaps one of the bigger mysteries of the world. Nobody could have predicted that Open Source would be so popular and that Open Source languages and software will do so very well. In an attempt to understand the reason behind this success, we will have a look at a nice excerpt from a recent interview with Robin Dunn.

Robin Dunn is the creator of wxPython and the author of “wxPython in Action”. wxPython is an Open Source, cross-platform GUI toolkit for the Python programming language. Robin has been working in the IT industry for almost 2 decades and is a well known name in the Python world.

What factors do you think contribute to the success of Open Source & Open Source Languages?
RobinDunnPythonOpenSourceRobin Dunn >> The way I see it there are two main factors for the success of Open Source. First, Open Source allows the little guy or gal to feel like they are contributing something of value, that they are making a difference for the good of the world. It goes way beyond the scratch-your-own-itch theory, although a person’s involvement with Open Source may often start out that way. I think that it is a basic human need to feel like you’ve done something good that benefits others.

Open Source allows the little guy or gal to feel like they are contributing something of value

Open Source is one avenue that somebody with the desire and the ability can fulfill that need. The second factor is related to the first, as it also has to do with the motivation of the programmer in fulfilling another basic human need, the need to feel appreciated. In a corporate environment the management expresses their appreciation with things like raises, promotions, stock options, nice offices, dumb awards, trade show trips, big benefits, etc. Unfortunately, very often these things are doled out less because of the person’s skills and abilities, and more because of things like personality, good looks, interpersonal relationships, kickbacks, various political reasons, or butt-kissing.

In the Open Source world it is a completely different system. Praise and appreciation is almost never expressed in monetary or other physical quantities, and the reasons for the appreciation are almost always based solely on the skills and the abilities of the programmer, making it something that he or she can be proud of, and that righteous pride engenders a desire to get more of it. To sum up, it could be said that some form of greed is what drives almost all innovation and progression and work done in the corporate world. In the Open Source world it is predominantly the opposite situation, the driving factors are the desire to do Good and the desire to receive praise for doing Good.

“In the Open Source world praise and appreciation is almost always based solely on the skills and the abilities of the programmer…”

If the programmer is also able to pay the rent and put food on the table by working on Open Source then that is obviously a much better situation, but it should not ever be the driving factor.

I think the same model of Open Source programmers can also be extrapolated to apply to programming languages. The more freedom and ability that a language gives a programmer, the more it fits his or her way of working, the more it enables him or her to do, then the more he will praise the language, and the more she will use it to do good things.

“The more freedom and ability that a language gives a programmer, the more it fits…”

The more praise about the language and the more good things done with the language then the more other programmers hear about it and give it a try. Eventually the praise and goodness affects the language itself (via the programmers working on it) and it has the potential to become even better and even more widely used.

You can read the entire interview @ wxPython is a good answer for almost any kind of desktop application

If you would like to share your thoughts on the subject, do add a comment below.

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  • rajivprasadverma@yahoo.com

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    Rajiv Prasad Verma

  • ‘Guest’

    Some people are slowly recognizing that altruistic behavior produces happiness see: [URL=http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2006/03/06/monkey_see_monkey_help_is_it_altruism/]Monkey altruism[/URL].

    Of course for those people that believe the most fundamental law of the universe is love (except earth where that law is being constantly broken) that hardly comes as a surprise. Interesting how the ramifications of this show up in the most surprising places.

  • Open Source Man

    Volunteers start open source projects but decision makers at big companies who contribute to open source really deserve the credit for open source being so successful. Only becuase they managed to spin business models around open source has it been successful. Think of Linux without RedHat or Eclipse without IBM or NetBeans without Sun