Is a FOSS contributor=A nice person?

February 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm (Uncategorized)

The concept of giving things away for the good of others is a noble one. It is philanthropic in nature and a generous thing to do. That is the case with commodities and money. How is it different when it is applied to knowledge?

With money, if you share it, you lose some part of it. With knowledge however, sharing never decreases it in any amount, and as a result of feedback from those you have shared it with it may increase. This is the core concept of sharing source code in Free and Open Source Software paradigm.

Knowledge however does have a monetary value attached with it. If you can hide it from others and sell the results, you make profit. That is the core concept of how proprietary software works.

So does this mean that someone giving away source code to his application is always a good hearted person? Maybe not.

Lets analyse what a student stands to gain on releasing the “recipe” to his application:

  1. Popularity/Fame

  2. Feedback from better people

  3. Solutions to problems that he himself can not fix

  4. Industry standard skills in documentation and planning

  5. Online code portfolio for potential recruiters

  6. Extending the skills acquired to grab fellowships/Summers of Code

  7. And hence…. money…….

Call me blind, but I can not see why any student would not want the 7 things on the list above. What has it got to do with a good heart? Well, there was a time when it did. Those were the early golden days of the hacker culture, when a geek would write his own drivers simply because he needed them. It would mean 2 things to him

  1. Satisfaction

  2. His job gets done

Thanks to the salient features of the open source business model, incessant struggle of people like Richard Stallman, industrious and adventurous organisations such as RedHat, Novell, SUN and the current economic slowdown, proprietary software is slowly but surely on its way out.

So if you are a girl and your guy is a open source geek, do not assume he is a nice man. He is just on the right track to earning a lot of money.



  1. Pramode C.E said,

    Nice post!

    Just to make sure that there is no gender bias:

    “If you are a guy and your girl is an open source geek, dont assume she is a nice woman … “

  2. sankarshan said,

    and, it still is “Red Hat” 🙂 nice post by the way.

  3. svaksha said,

    For me, being a Libre software contributor is all about the philosophy of returning something to the pool whence I draw from. I still remember arguing with a DD over not using my real name and he insisting that an anon nick (like mine) would rob me of due credit… but I still use a nick anyway 🙂 so its definitely not fame and fortune that makes me tick in the Libre community. JFTR, you might want to reconsider the last line as not every woman contributes to Libre software because of the man in her life or vice-versa.

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