Motivations for participating in Free and Open Source software development

A survey showed these statistics about the highest educational degrees of participants in the Free and Open source software movement- 3% PhD, 21% Masters, 48% graduate college, 24%- Non college and 4% other. Let us see a few motives that might be driving the diverse set of people in a voluntary contribution setting.

Intinsic motivations

Personal need for a particular software: “Scratching a developers personal itch”

A single developer may be motivated to kick start a project simply due to the lack of adequate software solutions for the problem in hand. Linus Torvalds need for unix for his PC lead to Linux. Eric Allman’s need for a more efficient email server lead to “sendmail”. Larry wall’s need to automatically generate web pages resulted in Perl. Another example is Don Kluth’s document setting needs gave way to TEX.

Just for the fun of it!!

Homo ludens refers to the playing human. Programmers often confer that programming is like a leisure time activity i.e playing around with the different possibilities and thrill of mastering a challenge. Torvalds often said he did it for the joy and fun in it. With more eyes watching, errors are better scrutinized and thrill is greater.

kin selection Altruism

The free and open source group is a community of highly skilled selfless people. They consider their work a gift for the community and the general public.

Pure Altruism: Stallmann believes that the motivations are pure selfless ideas and beliefs is creating and distributing free software that anybody can modify or use.

Participation in social events

History has shown that voluntary involvements in social movements be it civil rights or gay rights stems from personal identification with the people involved or personal belief to support the cause.

Social status upgrade

Programmers maybe motivated to participate for peer acceptation and recognition. There are levels in the community and promotion to the next level is based and pure merit. This gives good credibility and respect to the programmer.

Extrinsic motivations
Job signalling/Self marketing

Participation might be used as a signal to potential employers. Source code acts as a window to the programmers performance capabilities for those scouting for talent. Active participation helps to catch the attention of employers who otherwise might be tough to contact. Freelance programmers might showcase their work as a profile to potential employers.

Expecting revenues from related products/ services

RedHat offered commercial consulting, training, distribution and implementation services. The software itself can also be sold for a price or its upgrades or customizable features may be charged

Expand their skill base

Gain a better understanding. Exposure to a wide variety of techniques and projects.


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