Subject: Re: Open source vs. Closed Source salaries?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 11:48:08 +0900

>>>>> "kms" == Karsten M Self <> writes:

    kms> on Tue, Dec 19, 2000 at 01:28:28PM -0700, Chris Rasch
    kms> ( wrote:

    >> Hackvan suggests that talented programmers leave the open
    >> source community because there are more well paying jobs in the
    >> closed source world than in the open source community.  To what
    >> extent do you think this happens?  The Datamation survey
    >> suggests that there are plenty of well-paying jobs for those
    >> skilled using open source tools.

It's true that the pay can be higher, and certainly if you've got
something really hot (eg, Mosaic), I would guess that the equity
compensation has a much longer fatter upside tail.  But money isn't
everything, and OSS money looks pretty good to me.

    >> Perhaps a more relevant question might be--how often do
    >> developers of open source software (as opposed to individuals
    >> who use the software) leave the open source community?

What do you mean by "leave"?  Did Marc Andreesen leave the OSS
community?  I'd say "yes," (but I'm not terribly well-informed).  How
about Jamie Zawinski?  I'd say "no" (his toys are still maintained, he
does take an interest in OSS politics), but he doesn't do it anywhere
near full-time any more.  Is rms in the process of "leaving" OSS
development by turning into a full-time manager and politician?  Of
course not, even if he really _does_ turn into such.  There are a lot
of roles in the community, and one doesn't have to do OSS development
to be a member.  Not even if one does development for a living.  IMHO.

    kms> Long-standing religious issue with Stig.  While he's got a
    kms> point, and ideologically pure free SW development may incure
    kms> a wage penalty (as does ideological purity in most arenas),
    kms> opportunities to work on and with free SW tools are eminantly
    kms> well compensated at present.

Except in one way: power.  Ugly word, yes, but why did Jamie leave
Mozilla and Netscape?  Because things weren't getting done, and there
was no way to _make_ them get done.  Ie, lack of power.  The great
developers are people with vision.  If you find a VC who likes your
vision, you can hire people to implement it.  People with vision have
historically been less than picky about how they implement it.
Developers are no different; some will accept proprietary business
plans if they think that's the only feasible way to get support for
implementation of their ideas.

No question about it---bad management in a firm can put more obstacles
in your way than any OSS project could imagine (FSF papers are about
as bad as it gets :-).  But it is tempting to think "why not grab the
`benevolent dictator' role, and get paid for it?  I can change
things!"  Especially if you're frustrated because OSS developers
around you in your project don't share your vision.  The extreme
bazaar model does not address this, and I've seen the concept abused
in some projects to where they can't get anything done.

I would suggest that there are three reasons for a perception that
"good people are leaving OSS".  First is purely psychological on the
observers part: it's a movement, and people leaving the movement are
noticable.  The second is statistical: with the rapidly increasing
number of people doing OSS, there are more potental leavers.  Finally,
the historical/sociological reason: some people will jump at an offer
that gives them the resources to accomplish a personal (technical)
goal, even though it means putting "advancing the free software
movement," or even a particular OSS project, on the back burner.

    kms> I'd suggest a better approach would be to survey key
    kms> developers in leading free SW projects -- Linux kernel,
    kms> Apache, Perl, Eazel, Zelerate <g>, as well as contract rates
    kms> through major job boards (Monster, DICE, calling
    kms> for FS tools.

This would be a good way to get information about wage differentials,
if they really exist.

But don't concentrate on wage differentials to the exclusion of
everything else; I think for most people committed to OSS, a certain
differential is acceptable.  (Actually, you could say that's the
definition of "commitment.")  rms got that right:  it's _not_ the
economy, stupid!  It's getting the social/technical environment right:
fun people to work with, and good things to work on that get done.

Ie, business models.  What we're here for.

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