20 July 2006

Indian Summer of Code

I wrote earlier today about the fallacy of assuming that once you start offering money the spirit that informs the world of collaborative efforts like open content evaporates, leaving crass cupidity. It occurred to me afterwards, that we have already been here before.

Back in 1998, the first wave of open source IPOs hit. One of the main beneficiaries of the VA Linux IPO was Eric Raymond. As he wrote at the time:

A few hours ago, I learned that I am now (at least in theory) absurdly rich. ... VA had indeed gone out on NASDAQ -- and I had become worth approximately forty-one million dollars while I wasn't looking.

He then turns away from this typically self-centred story to examine (with characteristic insight) the wider implications of the IPOs that were happening:

Reporters often ask me these days if I think the open-source community will be corrupted by the influx of big money. I tell them what I believe, which is this: commercial demand for programmers has been so intense for so long that anyone who can be seriously distracted by money is already gone. Our community has been self-selected for caring about other things -- accomplishment, pride, artistic passion, and each other.

This is still true. As proof, witness the Season of KDE 2006:

As in 2005, KDE again was a participating organization in this years Google Summer of Code 2006. Many interesting and much needed project ideas were submitted and students from all over the world began to apply for them. The KDE project received more than 200 student applications. Sadly Google's capacities are not limitless and thus, only 24 students were selected to participate in Google's Summer of Code under the mentorship of the KDE project.

Driven by the urge not to let many good applications go to waste the KDE project decided to give many of the rejected students a chance to realize their ideas after all in the first Season of KDE. Since KDE does not have Google's financial capacities the students will not get paid for their efforts. Still it is a very good opportunity for students to get involved in KDE development while being mentored by an experienced KDE developer and as a result be an active part of the Free Software Community.

In other words, no Google moolah is flowing, but the aspirants coders are still coding - out of sheer hacker love. Kudos to the students for doing so, and to their mentors for giving their time. That's what this open stuff is all about.

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