Misperceptions of Open Source

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Tim Bray writes to correct misperceptions of what “Open Source” is about.

They both paint a picture of misguided innocents who believe in some starry-eyed vision of post-capitalist intellectual collectivism, but are actually pawns in the hands of larger economic forces. They’re both really wrong. Granted: Open Source is not a nation or a corporation or a political party or a religion. (While there are “movement people”, organized into the skeptical-of-each-other Open Source and Free Software sects, they are a tiny—albeit noisy—minority.) Absent those things, what is left? A collection of people who like working on software and actively seek out opportunities, preferably but not necessarily paid, to do so. If that is isn’t a “community”, what is?

Tim hits it on the mark. If Subtext is a pawn in some larger economic force, I’d be curious to find out which major corporate power seeks to gain, and perhaps ask them for some funding. ;)

In truth, there are many reasons people work on open source software, and they are not all the same. Many just find it fun to work on something more interesting than the boring data-in data-out systems they build at work. Some want to have a hand in building a better mousetrap. Many enjoy participating in a community and perhaps gaining a bit of recognition among their peers. A few see it as a political movement against capitalist interests. Yet others are paid to work on open source projects as it benefits their employer. None of these reasons are inherently wrong, misguided or amoral.

Many of these articles criticising open source focus on the big projects. What they fail to look at is that the majority of open source projects are very small. Many fill very niche markets that corporations have no interest in filling, but that there is yet a long-tail demand for.

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