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Sat, 07 Feb 2004
More on developer responsiveness and motivation
Jay at makeoutcity commented on my post on Extra Suites:
I love it when people "discover" the magic of incentives. At first it may not be clear that companies wanting your money is a good thing, but once you realize they can't just steal it--you see that they have to provide you something good in return.

This is not to say that open-source projects have no incentives (Linus Torvalds will ALWAYS be employed,) just that they are not as clear to see as commercial products. (Things like "honour" or money from book deals, scholarships, etc.)

The issue of developer responsiveness is related to many factors. Even the notion of incentives is elusive. I've certainly dealt with "commercial" software developers who should have had a financial incentive to be responsive, but weren't. It's also the case that the financial incentive for commercial software developers can also work against consumers -- we can all think of software that should have shipped a few months later in order to let the bugs settle out -- but couldn't -- due to that financial incentive -- which in these cases has become a penalty (at least by some metrics).

Another factor that impacts developer responsiveness is the size of the developer. It can be easier for a small developer to react quickly than for a large developer. One person working on a small project doesn't have the dependencies that are involved in a large project -- while some small open source projects might be able to turn releases and features overnight, it's less likely to happen on a larger project like the Apache httpd, Mozilla, or the Linux kernel. It's also not clear that developer responsiveness is an important metric. I probably would have been just as happy if the version of Extra Suites with the screen count feature in it had appeared a week later instead of overnight.

It has been an interesting exploration for me to be back in the Macintosh world, which has a long history of small independent (and highly creative developers) after a few years in the open source world. As you can see from my tips and tricks page, my Mac environment is a mix of open source and shareware/commercial software. In each case, I made my selections based on the quality/functionality of the software, and then on the basis of developer responsiveness/project health. But I'm an odd person: for many of the programs that I am using, I'd be happy to pay the developers for their efforts, even if they are open source. To me, open source isn't about free-loading, it's about innovation, short feedback loops, higher quality, and the development of a community. As time goes on, I'm realizing the innovation is the high order bit. But that's a topic for another post...

[17:16] | [computers/open_source] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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