Despite frequent speculation that corporate financing is dangerous to the ethos of the open source software (OSS) community, most Australian open source developers don't see payment as a primary influence on their contributions, a straw poll of attendees at Linux.conf.au in Melbourne suggests.
During her conference keynote presentation, Stormy Peters, the director of community and partner programs for OpenLogic, asked how many audience members were currently working in a paid position to develop OSS projects. Around one-third raised their hands. Almost exactly the same number said they would continue to work on OSS even if they lost their current position.
Peters said that was consistent with her experience elsewhere and with existing research on the topic. "Most people think they would continue to work on open source software, but I think it would be a different project."
While much research by psychologists suggests that people who are offered a reward to do something won't readily do it voluntarily, Peters suggested this had to be placed in context. "It depends on whether payment is normal. It's very normal to get paid to do software development. It doesn't change your internal way of thinking."
In contrast, paying someone to go to church might radically change their attitude. The question of why people would voluntarily work on an OSS project remains one of the key barriers to acceptance of open source within the enterprise, Peters said.
"This is the one thing that's most confusing when I go into companies and talk about OSS. People always ask: 'Why are they doing this with their evenings? Don't they have a life?'."
In practice, a variety of motivations apply, Peters said, including interest in the subject area, the desire for peer group approval, and personal needs to solve specific technology problems.
When companies do embrace OSS, they often fail to recognise the need to stimulate developer creativity, Peters added.
"When companies become involved, I think they leave out the design phase," she said. "You all are creators, and you need to bring that power into the company."