The unemployment myth and open source

Thanks to open source you can do the same thing writers can do, do just what you like between paychecks, prove your value in the context where you want to be paid. You could not do this in a closed source world, where you would be forbidden to see the code you had been working on once the pink slip hit your desk.

Rich Green - Sun Microsystems (from developer.sun.com)
Got work?

If you program with open source chances are the answer to that question is yes.

This was not always the case. Many open source projects were started in the wake of the dot-bomb. Many people contributed to these projects because they didn't have anything better to do.

This is no longer the case. And some folks, like Rich Green at Sun, are worried enough to want to pay open source community members for their work.

Don't you like it when bosses talk like that? We need help and we're willing to pay for it. It's not the 1990s, but it's big news nonetheless. It's great news. Don't you think?

Some reaction to Green's remarks display a common ignorance about open source, that it requires unemployment and excess programmer capacity. It's true that, for some creative people, lacking paid work doesn't stop you from doing your thing. Many artists, musicians and even journalists act this way, and the Web enables them all to seek an audience. 

The same is true for programmers, even support staff. Thanks to open source you can do the same thing writers can do, do just what you like between paychecks, prove your value in the context where you want to be paid. You could not do this in a closed source world, where you would be forbidden to see the code you had been working on once the pink slip hit your desk.

This is as much a paradigm shift as anything else, made possible by open source. It means your next job will probably involve work you like. Any programmer who wants to go back to a proprietary world should think about it carefully.