Ever wondered, what is the motivation of Open Source Community?

Open Source software development has drawn increasing attention as its importance has grown. Open source communities have been able to challenge and oftenopensource--t outperform proprietary software by enabling better reliability, lower costs, shorter development times, and a higher quality of code. But the question/fact that “why would skilled programmers, devote their time, effort and knowledge for an opensource project, where they might not get any reward interms of money?” So what are the motivations? Continue reading!

To discuss this eccentric phenomenon Hemetsberger (2002, Fostering cooperation on the Internet: Social exchange processes in innovative virtual consumer communities-Download the Book) established a set of five categories of motives, in his research work, to explain why individuals voluntarily engage in collaborative online projects such as open source communities. These five categories include:

1. Gaining knowledge needed for personal use;

2. Achieving a common goal with other members of the virtual community;

3. Experiencing joy in the challenge of the task involved;

4. Developing/valuing communal relationships;

5. Solidifying/ validating the individual’s personal definition of the meaning of exchange.

Lakhani and Wolf 2003 (Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software) report that the largest and most significant determinant of effort (hours/week) expended on a project was an individual sense of creativity felt by the developer. They surveyed 684 developers in 287 F/OSS projects on SourceForge.net and found that more than 60 percent rated their participation in the projects as the most (or equivalent to the most) creative experience in their lives. Let’s look into the motivation of contributors in detail.

Dimension of Freedom: The freedom of a community mainly attracts volunteers. When working for a company or organization one has to follow the policies laid down by the authorities that might restrict skilled people in fully exercising their creative talents.

Modularity: Another notable factor pointed out by Shirky (in his famous article The two pieces social software must have, 2004, www.corante.com/many/archives/2004/09/30) that stimulates volunteers to contribute in a joint project is modularity. This is, large projects which seek to harness volunteer efforts have a intrinsic capacity of being broken down into a particular smaller & rather achievable elements. Any volunteer willing to contribute can easily undertake such small tasks. Modularity of the projects motivates individuals to accomplish the task solely and without being intermediated by the size of the entire project.

Sense-of-belonging: Another major reason why people contribute to open source projects is “attractions of belonging to a community”. For any volunteer one of the prime motivations, besides achieving sense of accomplishment is sense of belonging to a community. Every member is now being recognized and valued by that community. As Open source community is completely non-hierarchical and inclined towards collaborative form of organization, every member is motivated to contribute. Unlike any other organization where hierarchy exists, members are usually reluctant to contribute as the credit of creation is attributed to high0level employees. Membership gives participants a sense of belonging, of common purpose, and offers mutual support in achieving the aims of the group.

Trust & Benefit of Society: Members of the open source community are confident that the product they are collaboratively creating will not be used for commercial purposes and it is for general benefit of the society.

Open Source softwares are growing with time, and it is due to the hardwork and motivation of skilled individuals that the community is flourishing with the passage of time.

  • http://www.twitter.com/absinthesyringe Adnan Hodzic

    Besides these the real answer is mastery :)


  • Joseph

    I thought the real answer was the inability to play nicely with others and the need for control and love of starting flame wars. :-)

  • http://www.betterinteractive.com Zvi Epner

    contributing a single small function that doesn’t work right is still valuable in an open-source project because peer review and critique will yield a more mature script which may be used in a larger module supplying the larger application with more, better, refined functionality. The resulting application can be used by this amateur programmer in all of his projects, providing higher quality output for all of his clients.

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