Is OpenSource volunteer based or employee based?

Think of open source and most of us have visions of developers doing selfless work in their free time and contributing only because of their passion for the technology and a burning desire to learn.

Although that might be true for small and relatively insignificant open source projects, it certainly does not seem to be the case with the big and popular open source projects. For example, in a recent interview, Mike Milinkovich the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation said that “Over 90% of the committers on Eclipse projects are full-time paid employees of member companies…”

“If you look through a lot of the open source projects out there, a lot
of the committers in general are full-time employees. So, the typical
profile of an Eclipse committer is a software developer that works for
a software products company.”

Even with JBoss and MySQL, to the best of my knowledge, most of the work is done by full time paid employees.

So can we conclude that most popular open source software is developed primarily by paid employees?

What makes the picture hazy, is the nature in which open source is promoted / marketed. You have a gathering of students or any non-decision makers and the open source guy will wax eloquent on how the community works and how 1000s of unknown individuals are selflessly working to make it a better world.”

Change the audience to a management / decision maker type and suddenly the pitch changes. “Open-Source is developed by highly qualified and full-time paid employees and so there is no compromise on quality”

So what is the real nature of open-source?

Do open source projects need to prominently display stats about the nature of the contributions, the percent contributed by employees of a certian company and such other figures that will give the user a truer picture of the project?

Related:
>> Open-Source keeps me coding fit

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  • Noname

    Why chose between the two models? They are both great 🙂
    I experimeted mostly the ‘passion driven’ one and the ‘patch man’ one, and I’ve never been paid to write open source, but it’s quite evident that every approach has its own merit. Let them coexist and face the fact that the open source model lives on all of them.

  • Noname

    I recently blogged some similar thoughts on this issue.[URL=http://weblogs.java.net/blog/johnreynolds/archive/2005/07/who_will_pay_fo.html]John Reynolds’ Blog[/URL]

    –John

  • Noname

    I think Marc Fleury is an ass in thinking to speak for the whole OSS ‘community’. I’m a professional programmer involved in several projects. Of my 40 h paid week, I work say 5 – 10 hours on OSS. I can do that because we use the projects in my company, and it helps my company perform better. Besides that, I work 20 – 30 h a week on those projects in my free time. Partly as a hobby, partly because I want the projects to succeed. I NEVER EVER did it for the money. I am not a hippie idealist to any extend, but I have enough money to get by, and I just don’t care enough for it. For me the sense of trying to acchieve something and just plain having fun is far more important.

  • Noname

    I think to understand the mix between volunteer and full time it is important to understand why people contribute. I think the view that most of the code is written by full timers is true; they have more time for it and is a higher priority for them (since that is what their job is).

    Next would be the contributor that is using the project for the day time job. They normally are submitting bug fixes and minor enhancements as their day job requires. Their motivation is not necessarily for the love of the project or open source, but to be able to get things done for their day job (which is perfectly fine and appropriate). There may be many that fall in this category, making up the majority of the contributors, but since they usually only contribute what they need it ends up being a small percentage of the over all code base.

    Finally, there are those who contribute purely out of their own personal motivation (call it based on passion if you like). This is more of a wild card because requires a great amount of personal drive to do. Many don’t get very far with this approach because there are just too many other things in life that take priority (just take a look at all the dead projects on sourceforge). There are the rare few that have the will, vision, and skill to persevere. These are the ones that typically embody ideals of open source as most of us view it. In most cases, they are hired to be full time volunteers and it comes full circle.

  • Noname

    I think Marc Fleury is an ass in thinking to speak for the whole OSS ‘community’. I’m a professional programmer involved in several projects. Of my 40 h paid week, I work say 5 – 10 hours on OSS. I can do that because we use the projects in my company, and it helps my company perform better. Besides that, I work 20 – 30 h a week on those projects in my free time. Partly as a hobby, partly because I want the projects to succeed. I NEVER EVER did it for the money. I am not a hippie idealist to any extend, but I have enough money to get by, and I just don’t care enough for it. For me the sense of trying to acchieve something and just plain having fun is far more important.

  • Noname

    Marc Fleury of JBoss said in an interview ‘Think for a second, who works for free? I think it gets perpetrated because it’s such a nice myth — you would get love and peace, the old hippie dream you know?’

    So if the premier Java open source company says so, volntary participation in open-source should be miserably low.

    Making it mandatory to present statistics about how many developers are paid professionals and how many are free volunteers, is a good idea. But there are no open source certifications or standards that can enforce such a rule.

  • Noname

    A lot of Opensource begins by volunteer/s chipping in just for the fun of it and as the project grows, it gets transformed into something bigger, companies either get created around the s/w or bigger companies come in and take over the project and the creators of the project.

  • Noname

    The idea of Plug and Play is good, But do developers really want web services based SOA?