My Motivation for Doing Opensource

There’s been a lot of blogs, tweets, dents, podcasts, rants, etc about Canonical not giving enough back to the projects they use to build Ubuntu with.  I’m not going to go down that rathole, so if you are looking for a juicy quote to start a flame war on…you can stop reading now.

What I do want to comment on is why I personally like opensource.  It may shock some, but I don’t care too much about all software being free…just like I don’t care about all music, video content, or internet access being free.  It’s not because I wouldn’t love it if these things were, it’s just that I understand the people who create them might want to eat, or clothe their children, or have a home…and these things all require money.  The reason I like working in opensource is that I believe the fundamental core of it, is to give…that’s it.  Giving feels good.  I’ve donated my time and money to various charitable organizations, and while they are all good causes…helping people who needed…deep down, I do it because it makes me feel good (and I know I’m not alone).

When I was the maintainer for the Linux Test Project , while my initial reason for doing it was because my employer requested me to, the reason why I stuck with it for so long (even when my job and employer changed) was because I knew people needed it.  It felt good to know that I was helping to improve the “reliability, robustness, and stability of Linux”…it felt good to know that I was helping Red Hat, Novell, Terrasoft, and God knows how many other distros test their releases…it felt good to know I was helping IBM, Intel, HP, and loads of other technology companies test their hardware against Linux…it simply felt good.  Hell, I even created the infamous crash test tux logo over a weekend because I thought it would give the project more of an identity…which lead to shirts being printed…banners being made…and me sitting for hours in a 2 person booth in the “dot org” pavilion at too many Linux World Expos to mention. As a project, we were always happy to receive testcases, bug fixes, and improvements from our users and others looking to help, and not once did I ever point the finger at someone using the test suite to improve their for-sale product and say, “you’re not giving enough!”….because I wasn’t doing the work for that reason.  Now I’ll admit not participating as much as I should since passing on maintainership, but it’s not because I switched jobs, companies, or career paths…it’s because I got married, bought a house, and had 2 kids…and even got a dog…so how I choose to spend my free time has changed as a result of these life events…plain and simple.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that if the reason why you participate in opensource is because you want to push a utopian view of the world on to others, or berate those who you feel didn’t give you enough credit or contribute to your project in a certain way….well, then prepare to be disappointed a lot, I prefer to just give and be happy.


About Robbie

I live in the awesome city of Austin, TX and work for Canonical, sponsors of the best damn operating system in the world...Ubuntu.

Posted on July 29, 2010, in Ubuntu. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. +1
    Wonderful post, agreed! Don’t give to open source to demand something in return, but give for the sake of the giving!

  2. Dude, very nice post. Very nice post indeed. I have to agree with you. I do use open source, but I do understand the other stuff that you wrote. To be honest I like the freedom, that comes with gnu Linux, that is why I use it. I am not a purist, but I use it because at the core, I believe the fundamental principles. There is a difference when you know that you own the software, and that you can pay somebody else to make some changes. It is nice, when I see people paying $30, and $100 dollars on the net for software, that I use on Gnu Linux for free. I do not pay, because I do know how to compile it, but if someone wants to sell it, they can do that too. It is nice to have this freedom.

    Thanks dude.

  3. You contribution big or small is the engine of open source, and soon or later any utopia can be true.

  4. I think this world is moving towards “free” like it or not. We are in a transition state where some things are free and most are not (a mix of the two) the ideal world (in my mind at least) will be when EVERYTHING is free, when you wont even have to worry about making a living, a place where people will do things because they love to do them and to contribute.

    • The first lesson in economics is “there is no free lunch.” Someone, some group worked hard to produce what they and others enjoy. I’m guessing what you are trying to say is everyone one day will always love how they contribute. Whether they run the garbage trucks, finance the next mall, library, church or community park, volunteer at the food bank, or fix your toilet. That only happens in a free community without central planning running everything, where individuals get to pick how they contribute. Kind of like the United States now. My thanks to guys like Robbie Williamson–makes a living for his family and yet finds time to donate to his chosen community.

  5. “nice read, but 100% misses the point being raised by others about presentation & functioning in a collaboration based economy. ” sums up my take on this post. A healthy free and open source ecosystem is where every one works together and collaborate to make it better. It is not healthy where one party shoulders the burden of work while the other takes the credit and gives nothing back or work with the community at large.

    • That’s why you donate your time or get a paying job. Each and every organization I have volunteered for or job I’ve worked in could have used more resources, time and people. And more members certainly could have given more of their time and talents. The question is who decides and how do resources, time and people get allocated? I like the system where individuals choose, where individuals come together, agree on common goals and contribute their time and talents whether they get paid or volunteer. For more volunteers you have to encourage them one-on-one, connect their motivations and willingness to volunteer with your projects or for workers provide them a wage they agree is fair for their contribution. I do not want a Big Brother-like entity forcing me to contribute in a manner at a wage or non-wage Big Brother thinks is right.

  6. The problem with this post is that is assumes that Free Software means for free software. When in fact it’s about Science, peer review, quality control, ownership rights, trading standards, rights of distribution, rights of modification and perhaps most importantly the rights of understanding and education in all the tools we use as a modern society.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather like to be paid to do the right thing.

  7. when you wont even have to worry about making a living, a place where people will do things because they love to do them and to contribute

  8. glad to be visited in this blog ..

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