I am thinking this might be one of my more provocative titles but I would ask for some latitude. I have recently committed to a couple of open source projects and I have been wondering why, in general, people with otherwise busy lives would commit precious moments to projects that disproportionately benefit others. This was my short list:

  • The innate human desire to solve intellectual challenges.
  • A practical desire to gain experience and systematically increase your level of competence within a given discipline.
  • You have a vested interest in the software you contribute to, may be that will translate into monetary benefit or just simply that your software will persist in a useable state.
  • Love

Yes, love. Try not to get side tracked by the word. I was not quite sure how to communicate this idea but I was watching the Matrix recently and this interchange seemed particularly appropriate (emphasis mine):

Neo: I just have never...
Rama-Kandra: ...heard a program speak of love?
Neo: It's a... human emotion.
Rama-Kandra: No, it is a word. What matters is the connection the word implies. I see that you are in love. Can you tell me what you would give to hold on to that connection?
Neo: Anything.
Rama-Kandra: Then perhaps the reason you're here is not so different from the reason I'm here.

The idea of love and open source software development do not naturally fit together, I know, but love is just a word, and that word accurately describes the act of sacrificing our most precious commodity (time) for a community of loosely connected strangers, especially when we know we may get nothing in return.

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