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From Emmanuel L├ęcharny <elecha...@apache.org>
Subject Re: Are devs who work on or use open source happier in their employment?
Date Thu, 23 Sep 2010 17:07:41 GMT
  On 9/23/10 5:37 PM, Grant Ingersoll wrote:
> One of the things I've noticed in my day job, which is admittedly self-selecting since
I work for a company that engages with people deploying open source, is that I routinely hear,
how shall I say it, more enjoyment from the developers in their work as compared to the old
days when they worked on a proprietary equivalent, and I think it even holds true when working
on "troubleshooting" engagements where something is broken.  Since, most of us here likely
work on open source, I'm curious as to what others think?  Are devs who work on or use open
source happier in their day jobs?  And I don't just mean committers/contributors here, I mean
people who are using the software to solve some bigger problem for their company and who may
never do anything more than ask a question on a mailing list from time to time.  Has anyone
seen _independent_ studies that say one way or the other?  (References please.)  I do think,
that some of the answer depends on the quality of the software they are working on (just as
it likely does when working on proprietary software), so perhaps I should separate out what
could be called hobbyist open source versus open source that has a large community of followers
(regardless of license) like Linux, ASF projects, Eclipse, etc.  Therefore, assuming two different
pieces of software, one being proprietary and one being open, both of which will solve the
problem, are developers who solve the problem with open source happier in their job?
> At any rate, my motivation for asking is that I'm writing an article on some thoughts
in this area spurred by something a client told me (at a very old, established company, mind
you) about why they wanted to get the word out that they were using open source:  they felt
it would help them attract and retain developers b/c they would be more satisfied in their
jobs b/c they got to work on innovative open source technologies.

Interesting questions. Being somehow an old-timer developer now (45 yo, 
damn !), I can tell you that working on OSS makes me happier by at least 
an order of magnitude :)

Everything Sylvain said are very valid points, and I share his opinion.

But I see also extra advantages, probably more related to the fact I'm 
working on an ASF project :
- First of all, and it may perfectly well be specific to France, a 
country where people value diplomas, and other things like 'he wrote a 
book on the subject !', being an ASF developer help you to get a social 
status in the development team you are working in. In other words, you 
are likely to be a star (that always puzzled me because I'm not better 
than I was before starting working on an OSS project, or slightly 
(thanks to what I have learned at the ASF !), and also because I was 
certainly not better than many of my co-workers who are not involved in 
- As a direct consequence of the previous fact, you don't have to 
*prove* yourself when switching from company A to company B. And that's 
a relief ! In this world, people are extra cautious (again, may be a 
cultural bias in France, where hiring someone can take longer than 
firing someone, assuming that it takes usually 3 months at least to fire 
someone ;)
- Another consequence is that you can still be a developer even if you 
are more than 28 yo, which is the deadline here : if you are not a 
project manager at 28, you are probably a loser (anyway, those days, we 
don't develop in France, we 'manage' developers - well, Indians or 
youngies - )
- As France is not specially known as a country where we develop 
software (with a few exceptions), being an OSS developer gives you an 
opportunity to work on interesting pieces of code, instead of doing code 
reviews or managing schedules.
- Last, not least, developers have a very strong ego. It's sometime 
painful to have to fight with other developers to push your - valid - 
point, and being able to relax and use your 'OSS developer' super power 
to shutdown an ego fight is frankly a relief. Of course, as soon as the 
other peeps find out that you are not any better, this competitive 
advantage will vanish, but up to a point, it will spare you a hell lot 
of energy !

Ok, take all those elements with a grain of salt, but I have experienced 
each one of them in previous positions for various companies (big or 
small). And it helped to get focused on code instead of paperwork and 
useless 'social interactions' (disputes, or anything not related to what 
you are paid for : developing).

Last, not least, OSS is about developing the best possible software, 
when closed source is about developing the software that has been sold 
to the client. Sometime, you even discover what has been sold when you 
are facing the client who complains about a missing feature you don't 
even know about... I have once sat down in front of a computer with a 
program crashing because the code wasn't even terminated, with the 
client beside me waving the bill he received...

Developing OSS makes me happier, that's clear !

My 2cts ...

Emmanuel L├ęcharny

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