Simon Phipps made a speech at OSBC (he claims that, whatever was reported, this is what he meant). Ben Rockwood, who’s a really smart guy, is eloquently revolted by OSBC in general and Simon’s message in particular. [Ed. note: I have a bunch of technothings to write about which I’ve been putting off till midsummer braindeadness abates, but this is too urgent.]
Simon and Ben are both right. In particular, Ben’s right that effectively no Open Source software gets written for money. I’ve written quite a bit over the years (I suspect that Bonnie and Genx may actually survive me), all for some combination of these four reasons:
To solve a problem I was facing.
To solve a problem I heard a lot of people complaining about.
To win a point in a technical argument, by example.
The code was interesting to write.
Ben’s also right that there’s something off-putting about OSBC; it’s a show for hustlers, not developers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s just that developers shouldn’t go there because of the name and expect to find themselves among their own kind. Pitches are still pitches even when they’re in S5 not PowerPoint.
But Simon’s right, too, that a lot of money is swirling around; and in particular he’s right that the money happens when the software goes into production.
It’s easiest to make the argument by example. I didn’t write Bonnie and Genx and Lark and so on for money. But if I could figure out a way to get paid for maintaining and supporting that code, I might just do it. And I think that would be clean money; I wouldn’t have any qualms whatsoever about taking it. And if I were going to deploy a bunch of OSS code, I’d find someone to cut a support deal with.
But the next hacking project my Adult-ADD sidetracks me into, it won’t be for money.