Ulterior Motives

What drives programmers to contribute to open source?

At first glance, the work seems so noble. After late nights and long hours, bleary-eyed programmers take their valuable code and toss it onto the Internet as a gift to the world. The ultimate sacrifice? Not exactly.

Upon closer examination, the motives often are less pristine and the vision cloudy. Although every contributor is drawn to the open source community by some altruism, most are also driven by more ordinary desires. Some programmers work for companies that use the free software to gain a competitive advantage. Others hope the free software will attract attention and bring consulting work their way. Then there are those who really do see it as a political crusade against commercial giants like Microsoft. Every programmer in the community is driven by a different mix of motives. Heres a look at why and how three open source contributors do what they do.