James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

re: Fighting Raymondism: Software Realism vs Software Idealism

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It looks like this is very old content but ‘its new to me’ as the saying goes.

This site goes on at length about the Marxist, communist, and idealist nature of open source as described by Raymond James. I’ll refrain from calling it a rant, you make your own mind up.

It is interesting how different people can read the same text and come away with very different impressions. I think CatB is a great work and is quite accurate when it comes to describing the motivations of people participating in open source. My experience of open source (having spent the last four years participating full-time) is that open source participation is driven by multiple motivations.

In order of importance they are:
1) Pragmatism and self-interest
2) Ego and recognition

I have contributed bug fixes to projects because not contributing the fix would mean I would have to merge my fix into future versions of the software. My main motivation for contributing the fix is to lower my future costs. The same applies to documentation updates. When I found a fault in a command line instruction in the installation documentation for JBoss AS I could have either noted the correct version on my machine and remembered where I made that note every time I did the installation or I could (and did) hit ‘edit’ on their wiki page and contribute the fix. Again my estimation was that I would save myself time by contributing instead of keeping the fix to myself.

Some people participate out of ego. Whether you want to call it ‘bragging rights’ or ‘the respect of your peers’ this kind of participation is about ego and recognition. This motivation is self-serving: no-one is egotistical for the sake of others.

I have met hundreds of open source participants over the past few years. None of them has made any ‘I am trying to make the world a free software utopia’ comment. Sorry, I just don’t see this motivation in the people I meet.

I think the power of the open source model is that even when, and in fact because, all participants act out of pure self-interest everybody wins.

It seems to me that the ‘Fighting Raymondism’ group is a collection of people wearing blindfolds and fighting a demon that isn’t there. I hope they at least get some cardio out of it.



Written by James

May 24, 2008 at 12:56 am

Posted in open source

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