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carlos123
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 2:39 am    Post subject: Justification for time working on open source projects? Reply with quote

I may be setting myself up for a few slaps but something has been on my mind a lot lately and I thought I would open it up for discussion.

Overall I have been thinking of potential involvements in helping out with various open source projects (Smoothwall, KDE, even Gentoo :)) but I have had to weigh whether I can afford the time to do so. Given my overiding need to make a living from what I do. And the very limited time I have to do anything.

One thing that has seemed obvious to me is that if there was more in the way of personal benefit to be gained in doing so, I would more inclined to make the time to get more involved in open source projects.

Today I was thinking of how nice it would be and of how much I and possibly others would be motivated if we could attach a link to our web sites to those things that we contribute.

For example take KDE tips that pop up when a person starts using KDE for the first time. Anyone can contribute tips. And credit is given for each tip thus contributed via a name added to the tip. But, I think so many more tips would be contributed if one's could not only contribute the tip but also add a URL to their web site at the bottom of the tip. As a way of generating some much needed extra traffic.

Same with all kinds of other open source contributions. The level of motivation would go up substantially I think and overall the open source movement would be enriched if such things were more promoted and encouraged.

Here is another example on a more personal level. I have been thinking of revising the installation instructions for Gentoo such that even a relative newbie to Linux could at least get a working Gentoo installation the first time! I believe with all my heart that I could devise such instructions. Yet I have had to ask myself...how can I justify spending the time to do that. Given that I have to make a living?

The only way I have been able to come up with is to host those instructions at my site. Which in the long run should result in more traffic to it as people use my revised instructions successfully and as search engines pick them up.

Again I am talking about motivations here. My own personal motivations for contributing or not. If I am not too far off others have considered contributing too but lack the motivation to put much effort into it (unless they can come up with some aspect to motivate themselves such as my instructions at my site idea).

Although the idea of open source is great I think on a practical level most people need to see something in it for themselves in order to get highly motivated to contribute.

Any thoughts on how I or others could be more highly motivated to contribute? Not only to Gentoo but to open source projects in general?? I mean even with Gentoo, once I get my system running really, really well what's to keep me from being satisfied and dropping my idea of helping others through better installation instructions? Unless I am able to somehow attach my contribution to some personal benefit in terms of making a living (i.e. more traffic to my site = more chances to have someone subscribe to it or otherwise visit one of my affiliates).

Lest anyone think I am just being selfish let me just say that I don't believe I am being selfish. I need to make a living for my family's sake. That involves time. If I only have so much time and am not making the kind of living that I need for the sake of my family I cannot spend much of any time contributing to open source projects. Not for myself but for my family's sake.

Sometimes I get the impression that the open source movement is sometimes like an ostrich who sticks their head in the sand and denies any knowledge of something they could see with their eyes. In the sense that the open source movement seems to believe that people can continue to be motivated from altruistic and idealistic motivations of contributing for the common good of humanity or some such thing. As opposed to a more practical down-to-earth and practical motivation. Like the "evil" need to make money.

Most people that talk of contributing to the open source movement from a philosophical motivation alone seem to be in positions that are very beneficial to them within the open source community (Linus, Stallman, and others). Where they don't need to worry too much about making a living. Others are in college or otherwise have the time to make contributions (there's a lot of young ones here in Gentoo for example :)).

But the average programmer of middle age needs to spend their limited time making a living or if married, hanging out with their family. And oftentimes just doesn't have the time or motivation to contribute a whole lot.

I would be curious to know how others justify spending some of their limited time on making significant contributions to open source projects.

Carlos
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jlg
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about it looks good on your resume!

resume looks good = better job = $$$$$
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CountZero
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Usually a personal motivation is where a lot of software is born for Open Source. For example, the creators of GAIM wanted to create a client for a protocol not being fully supported in the *nix world. Now with the cvs versions of GAIM on the horizon it will work in windows too. That was the personal motivation for it all, from there it becomes making software for public use.
You're right however, everyone needs to make a living. So what would be your motivation for revising the instructions to install gentoo?
  1. You would get the practice
  2. You would get the recognition (which looks good on a resumè)
  3. You would get the self-satisfaction of knowing you would help a lot of people

If you have the time, the will (and/or need) to create something, and the desire to share it and benefit users everwhere then those would be your motivations of going OS. Otherwise, just keep doing what you're doing. It's not like everyone that uses OS things contributes back to them. I haven't contributed to any OS project yet. However, I really would like to, but my skills aren't good enough yet to produce anything that would be halfway useable or helpful. OS is an ideal. If you beleive in the ideals and have the ability to help then that's your reason to contribute.
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carlos123
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always wondered what motivates some open source people to spend so much time contributing to open source projects when they seem to have so little to gain by it. I guess I need to realize that for some, things like recognition and the satisfaction of knowing they helped others are very high on the list of motivators. They are for me too but not as high as the need to make a living.

Open source definitely works! I'll say that much. And I am thankful that it does or I wouldn't have Apache, mySQL, and the many other programs that I use. Not to mention Gentoo :).

I think that making a living though, must be one of the least motivators since it appears that most open source contributors don't make a living from it. At least not directly.

I could be wrong but I don't think that even Daniel Robbins (who I think founded Gentoo) for all the time he has put into Gentoo, makes a living from it.

It's been my impression that almost everyone in open source has some kind of job working for a company that is hiring them for some kind of proprietary application. Kind of ironic I think. That the very thing that open source or GPL software aims at changing, the way software is currently created and distributed, is the very thing that puts the food on the table for open source developers.

Makes me wonder if anyone would make a living in software if all of us worked 40 hours a week developing open source projects :).

Thanks for your thoughts.

Carlos
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pjp
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You keep mentioning "making a living". Do you not have a job? If not, then thats the first thing to resolve ;)

If you aren't employed in a manner that enables you to work on an open source project, then IMO, it is a hobby. Juggling work, family and hobbies is life. If working on open source doesn't fit in there, well, it doesn't fit in.

In your example of the instructions, I would say that keeping them only for your site is a bit selfish. I've read that a particular linux distro doesn't always send bug fixes upstream (to package maintainers) and keeps them to themselves. Yes the source is available, but the patch should still be sent upstream IMO. I would consider improved installation instructions similar. If you were to submit your instructions and they were declined, that'd be different.

MAYBE (I have no idea what the policy is) the instructions could include a link back to your site mentioning you as the author.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 7:36 am    Post subject: I've wondered too Reply with quote

Would open-source truly be viable mainstream. What would normal companies gain by having their project's freely downloadable, sources up and people working on them? Would it be possible to sustain an economy on OSS?

I heard there was a book about this cathedral and bazaar or something, but I'm not sure where I can get it.
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carlos123
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your input pjp. I truly appreciate it even though I am not quite sure I agree with your viewpoint that we should consider improved documentation the same as we would consider a knowledge of bugs. As things that should be freely shared and given away.

I think of those who write books and publish them through O'Reilly. If such an author were to publish a book on Gentoo which is easy to follow and over which they have labored long and hard, should we expect them to just give away the books contents? Is that not also a form of improved documentation?

I am curious as to what the difference between an O'Reilly author writing a "Gentoo for dummies" type of book and selling that book and me writing improved documentation and giving it away at my own site would be? Are they being selfish too for wanting to make some income from the sale of their books? As I suppossedly am for wanting to drive traffic to my site by hosting better and easier to follow instructions at my site? So as to gain more traffic?

I don't say that sarcastically or anything pjp and I am not taking your thinking I am being a bit selfish personally. I am sincerely interested in hearing more on what the difference would be between an O'Reilly author and me would be. In terms of our motivations and in terms of wanting to gain the most that we could from our contributions in the form of documentation.

You mention that I should be willing to give such improved documentation away yet I don't quite understand why I should be willing to do that if I can still provide the improved documentation for free, from my site and derive much more benefit from my work. Albeit a lot less benefit than O'Reilly authors who publish and sell their "improved" documentation would gain.

Not trying to be argumentative pjp. I just have some legitimate questions about your view that I would appreciate further input on.

Perhaps I will come to see things more in line with what you are saying. I don't know pjp. To get input like yours (and that of others) is exactly why I started this thread :).

Thanks.

Carlos
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You get all this great software, docs and loads of helpful people, for free (as in free beer in this case).

I feel obliged to do my part in helping the ( open source) community as much as I can: for some people, helping means programming or writing docs, for others it could be promoting linux, maybe even donating some money, helping out people in the forums, "spreading the word", etc.
I feel I just have to "give something back" to the community. Some people will be able to contribute more than others, but that does not matter:
the community benefits from your efforts, however large or small.

That's quite close to The Meaning of Life in my humble opinion.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2003 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have a look at Eric Raymond's series of essays on open source called 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar', its a very interesting look at what makes open source development so popular
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