I was on a scrum master certification over the last two days, lead by Joseph Pelrine, and beside the enormous amount of knowledge on Scrum and the not lower amount of anecdotes and stories he experienced with [insert famous IT company here], he came out with one particular interesting hypothesis:
“Doing Open Source software is like having an affair.”
He argued that if people would have enough fun with their daily development tasks and would identify enough with their company, they wouldn’t have the need for doing Open Source, they would not spend their valuable time developing free stuff.
So, am I cheating my company?
Certainly I love Open Source and Free Software in general. One reason why I love it that much is because I come in contact with interesting and very smart people. For example, I learnt many things from the friendly folks in the monotone community over the last couple of years, things which I did not learn or even came in contact while doing my daily business. And guess what, my company participated and profited from this many times, because I carried a lot of this knowledge back to my day job.
Beyond learning another major thing of Open Source for me is recognition. I don’t get a lot recognition for my daily business – either because most people like my boss just don’t care how software is manufactured and how the process works (after all, its the money that counts, eh?), or because the artifact I’m developing vanishes anyway because some marketing guru of a customer decided to “well, not go into this direction any further”. Sure, the money is ok, everything is paid, but it just plainly demotivates you if you work for the trash can. With Open Source you work on stuff you or other people demand, you get the reward in terms of positive feedback if you help them solve their problems and you get public recognition for the source code you publish.
So again, am I cheating my company? I don’t think so. Open Source allows me to think outside of the box and try new things, for all of which would be no time in narrowed sprints or busy project plans, and my company profits from that. But yes, maybe this also opens the door for new employments in the future as well, but lets face it, doing Open Source work is often the only possibility to personally get ahead in this industry today.