Murphy's Law: 98 Percent of Companies Use Open-Source, 29 Percent Contribute Back. What?



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Open source does NOT automatically imply collaboration, as you seem to expect. I could release a piece of software and it's source, set up a download page for it and on it write in big bold letters: "ANY AND ALL BUG REPORTS, SUGGESTION AND CODE CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE STRICTLY IGNORED OR REJECTED", but the mere fact that I've released the source code, together with a permissive enough license makes it an open source application. And in fact, a lot of notable open source projects will not accept code contributions from just anyone, but most will at least review them and sometimes even accept them.

But you could take my example and say, "Well, I can just take your source code, put it on my own website that allows contributions (usually via a source control system), and have a group of people collaborate on making a better version of it - a branch." And you would be correct, but that's what open source enables, not what it's inherently about. Take for example, the definition of OSS from Wikipedia: Nowhere in its ten clauses is collaboration even mentioned. In fact, a collaboration-inhibiting clause exists (number 4), which says the author has the right to prohibit others from distributing modified version of the source code! That means that in some cases you can't take the source code and branch it off, without jumping through hoops (by using patches).

Of course the nature of open source creates a spirit of collaboration, and it has become the norm and even expected when talking about OSS. But you must remember that it is merely a by-product that emerges from the principles of open source. A very good and desirable by-product, indeed, but separate from the core concept nonetheless.



....then this IS an issue that needs addressing.  If not....change for the sake of change just silly.

@Donih2009...good point...69% of the "codemonkeys" NOT botching up open software...IS a good thing  :)



Just a guess here, based on my particular situation, but asking the company this question is like <insert witty and funny analogy that describes the lack of awareness something massive has of one of it's smallest parts>.

I have no idea if the company I work for would have answered this yes or no.  It's simply too massive to even guess, but I can certainly picture some high level managerial type person, thinking to himself that there is no way he's going to go on the record as giving his companies code away for free.

Yet, here I am, some 4 or 5 or more hops down the chain from him.  My job is providing a service to my company that consists completely of open source software (even though we're paying for the enhanced version and support for the main application).  I often work closely with the developers of that application, and for certain, contributions I make can and will make it to the open source version of their application.

So, while a "Company" may not say they contribute back, I'm guessing that there are a fair number of employees who can and do contribute, directly due to their work on and with open source software as part of their jobs, or in the course of doing their jobs.

I don't trust polls anymore anyway.  You don't know how the question was spun...or the answers interpreted.




This can be spun as good news too: open source software, as is, meets the requirements at least 1/2 the companies that use it.






You posted an article shaming people for not financially contributing to the creators of software that was offered for free... on a website that many people come to who openly admit to stealing software/media from creators who ask to be paid for it.  I agree that the 29% number seems high. 



Who said anything about financials?  I'm talking about code.  You modify code, you have to give it back--that's the core tenet of open-source, but it's a rule that can be skirted around.  I'm suggesting that one closes the loophole.

On a side note, I didn't realize the MPC audience had such a huge piracy binge going on.  That's news to me, and I've been here quite a bit longer than you have.  ;)



You are correct sir, I read into your post the financial aspect.  My mistake.  Regarding the piracy thing - you should read more comments on David Gerrold's copyright posts, your tenure at MPC notwithstanding.



Murph, are you sure about have to?  I can't remember the specifics, but I think it may based on what the license states (MPL, GPL, LGPL, BSD, etc.).  I think most have clauses about modification and release and (I may be incorrect...too lazy to check right now) only if you intend to release the modifications made (especially if they are specific to your environment) do you need to have those mods under the same lic. (and hence return contribution to community).

If you've muck around and made mods that benefit your company there a requirement to contribute?

Of course, one can also contribute by fiscal, or other means (documentation, translations, etc.).



The whole point of software is that a few smart and dedicated developers can produce something used by one person to several million people with very little change in effort.  Its not like the developers of 'ls' have to do double the amount of work when the number of active linux installations doubles.

The key here is that a few smart people are at the reigns of each OSS project, and that's working out great so far.  I mean think about the chaos if 28% of everybody using Excel was submitting their own half baked code into the source tree.  Yikes.  As the current set of developers move or on burn out, there will be a new set of folks who find problems they are passionate about solving and the code will continue to mature and advance.




Ahh, but people tend to get annoyed when one forks a core project and refuses to contribute code in a timely fashion back to said core project.  cough google android cough.

Still, I think the point is perhaps better illustrated thusly--of those using open-source in more than just a "i click the program to make it run" fashion, they should be mandated to contribute code back to the original repository from whence it came.  None of this "oh, well we run it in private, so whatever" crap, and none of this, "ehhh well we need to keep it secret because..." crap.


Michael Ellis

Yes, yes, that is a very small percentage of companies that return the favor, but you yourself noted that the figure was to be expected. Developers must go into this knowing they aren't going to have a very large return on their investment. This is just the nature of the game.


ps MaxPC is so much better than Gizmodo when it comes to the quality of posts and the EASE OF COMMENTING. My only complaint is that you guys don't do more articles. Keep up the good work!



98-29 = 69% of corporate developers will not introduce their mess in OSS projects.

The spirit of open source spins in its grave; that’s practically theft.

Given that the initial cost is $0, the theft is minimal.



Hell no! If you can get some code monkey to solve your problem for free, that's simply shrewd business practices. Just as long as the cheques are made in my name I DON"T CARE.

Now going back to finish watching Glengarry Glen Ross.




"I realize that not everyone is a full-fledge codemonkey"


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