Metrics of open source success

There is such a thing as enough money. And there are other drives, equally vital, that open source can satisfy. Some are drives felt keenly by people with lots of money, while with others money is irrelevant.

Linus Torvalds talking
Matt Asay has a great chart up today, showing traffic to open source project sites increasing throughout the year. With his ear to the ground he can detect no news drought, either.

Then he concludes with a provocative question: "The traffic is increasing to open-source sites. Will the money?"

For two generations now those who work with or on computers have seen money as the main metric of success. By "money" we mean "big money" -- IPO money, Robin Leach money, bling-bling-my-daughter-could-become-Paris-Hilton money.

Bill Gates money.

In traditional business models money is the end product, the measuring stick, the reason we're doing it.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the message of both FOSS and open source has always been that is not the only metric.

There is such a thing as enough money. And there are other drives, equally vital, that open source can satisfy. Some are drives  felt keenly by people with lots of money, while with others money is irrelevant.

Altruism, for instance. Money people speak of altruism as though it were akin to communism, but this drive is common to all religions, and even felt by people with no religion at all.

Accomplishment. Validation. These are what drive my own career. When I have enough money to keep a warm roof, an open broadband connection, and a cup of warm tea beside me, I think of these as being far more vital than a few extra dollars.

What's great about open source, in my view, is how it can satisfy all these drives.

Linus Torvalds has long been the avatar of the open source movement, much as he dislikes the attention. He is not rich. He is comfortable and, by all accounts, happy. He does work he likes, has interesting problems to solve, and he can buy a micro-brew in a Portland bar without being surrounded by sycophants.

Or consider my late father-in-law. Through hard work he saved plenty of money. But his life was about the kids he educated, the people he helped, and the support he could give to others. That's why they called it The Greatest Generation.

Anyone can do that, in this generation or the next. We can't all be Bill Gates, but we can all be Linus Torvalds, or Bennie Steinhauser. With open source we can all be successful.

You may not get rich, but you can do important work which helps people and could bring you a decent living.

Show me the money? Maybe not. Show me the validation? Yes, often.