Will Open Source Developers be Well Paid?: Page 3

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Q: But community open source software is distributed for free. How can working on such a project be lucrative for a programmer?

“You can observe this as a strong trend: People work on company time, full time, for something that is open source, under a license that allows free distribution. So the company that pays the developer is not making any money directly off of that open source component.

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“Now this sounds like it’s Communist, or something. The point here is that the company is likely to have figured out a business model that is obviously not selling this software, but is something else, like providing consulting around this product, or having extensions, additional add-ons, or building a complex product around the open source component. And for the company to stay in business, and not be steered to the side, they really need to ensure their influence on their open source components. This is why they have to employ those folks – or some of those folks – who actually work on it.

“So PostgreSQL is a good example. There’s a company, EnterpriseDB. They provide all kinds of additional enterprise readiness features around the open source PostgreSQL community. Of the core team of 7 Commiters, EnterpriseDB employs 3, who work full time on the community product, and thereby benefit the community and not directly EnterpriseDB the company.

“However, because they work at this company, they have the knowledge of how to do proprietary extensions, and to make sure that nothing happens to the PostgreSQL community product that would be strongly against the desire of that company. So the company ensures some influence on the community product.

“It’s never control – it’s important that these are much more subtle influences and discussions that are going on, and in some sense are transparent and open and fair to the community. But because this company has a stake, and is making a valuable contribution, the community recognizes that it should not act against this company in a willful or bad way.

“So it’s a give and take, and I think it’s well understood in non-trivial open source projects.”

Q: If you were to advise a young person to choose a career direction based on income potential, would you advise them to become an open source or a closed source programmer?

“It’s not decidable, it’s not the right criteria for a choice. [Instead] the factors are how significant that piece of software is that you’re working on, and then, for yourself, at what point in time do you come in.

"If you can come in early and you get a Commiter’s position easily, always go for the open source. But if you’re joining a very successful commercial proprietary company – and why not? it could pay well – the knowledge you have could be worth a fair amount to that company.

“You need to look at the significance of the software – I think that probably trumps most of the things. And then, your chances of getting a powerful position with that software or project of company” is the other major deciding factor.

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Tags: open source, software, developers, IT Jobs/Salary, SAP

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