Monday, July 9, 2007

Does Open Source Pay Off?

Depends on who you're asking.

As you can see, big corporations are simply ecstatic with it. Why, you don't have to go through expensive interview and trial and error interview process, and all you have to do is to ask a candidate for the list of Open Source projects they are or have been involved in and then spend fifteen minutes googling the projects to figure out if the candidate is any good. Or, even simpler, just steal the idea and/or the implementation, if the project is obscure enough and your subject matter area is guaranteed to never see the public scrutiny. Within reasonable timeframe, that is - all you've gotta do is to generate profit that will allow to hire the best team of lawyers before the poor sod even realizes he's been ripped off. If ever.

As for the other side... It depends, again.

In almost 7 years since its inception, DZ Donations page at SourceForge generated sixteen dollars and spare change. Yes, you've read that right, sixteen dollars in seven years. Not to mean any disregard to people who made the donations (I will always remember each three of you by name), this is just about how much someone in my profession makes in time that it takes to smoke a cigarette without haste.

So, again, does it pay off? As you can see, not really. At least when you're observing the direct benefits.

As for indirect...

Companies hate to hire. They only hire if there's no other way to ease their pain. Every time they have to hire, they have to spend significant resources on recruiters in- or out-of-house, tear people away from work to conduct interviews, face uncertainty since there are so many clueless people familiar with software engineering shop talk that they penetrate the entry barriers fortified by recruiters with such ease, and given the fact the software engineering itself is not an exact science, but rather art - it may not even become obvious that someone flashing buzz words and certifications is a complete fool until much later...

But situation is becoming very different when there are cold, hard facts that you can present to your prospective employer. Because by giving them facts you are removing doubts and uncertainty and becoming a credible, verifiable and predictable asset (just think of the fact that more and more employers are starting to pay attention to your credit score).

Achievements in their immediate subject matter expertise area are the best for them (but not the best for you: you will be forced to sign the waiver basically making them own everything you and your parents have ever created, and your firstborn too - so you may want to talk to a lawyer and craft the "previous inventions clause" before you even start looking for a job).

Achievements in other subject areas, no matter how bizarre, do count, though you'd never know whether for or against :) Which brings another note to mind - you'll have to insist that recruiters include your extracurricular activities in their version of your resume that they send out to their contacts - because they may not possess enough expertise to see what is relevant and what is not.

Coming back to the original question, does Open Source pay off? Let me just ask you to visualize the idea of Linus Torvalds going unemployed and watch you laugh.

As for donations... Well, will someone tag a black Squeezebox or, even better, Transporter for me, please? Don't expect me to hold my breath, though...

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