Open Source Software and Propaganda
All too often a store clerk responds to questions about Open Source Software (OSS), “With open source software, you get what you pay for”. Putting aside that they are hourly employees or commission sales people selling a product/service, this is the biggest source of mis-truths of OSS. Companies that produce proprietary software want people to believe OSS is written in someone’s basement haphazardly. Obviously because it affects their bottom line.
There is some truth about code being created in a basement, but it is hardly bad code. A lot of great companies started in a garage. Anyway, all good programming starts with the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). The basic process is identifying the need, implementing a test model, implementing the production model, updates/patches, and end of life. Revision control systems usually show program_name #.#.# or program_name yy.mm. No matter what kind of program it is, you’ll find this or something similar. Even software developers just starting out in their basements will write code with this style.
The business models for OSS developers is different than that of tradition software. They all share code with other developers as well as the end users. This encourages “getting under the hood” of the application and customizing it or even making it better. This sharing helps make a solid foundation and creates a Community.
The next step in the business model is getting information from the community on how well the application is doing. Reporting bugs is the best way to help “pay” for the developer’s work on this project (although they do love cash). The devlopers will take this info and make an upgraded version. When they do this, they post the bug(s) fixed with the application.
Now for the bread and butter of running an OSS business. Purchases of support for the product. Usually such purchase includes support, source code (and binary install) and sometimes even the developers installing the product for the buyer. The support includes updates/upgrades. Be sure to read the Terms of Service (TOS) before purchasing as with any Software development services.
Other ways to pay the developer is to buy the licensed good, ie… t-shirts, mugs, little squeak toys, etc… The developer may not make much, but it will build the curiosity of potential new users and grow the community. Don’t forget to tip (a lot even take paypal).
“What’s in it for me?”. Plenty. The developer’s websites usually include details on installing & using, requirements, community support (blogs, wikis, bulletin boards, email lists, irc chats, etc…), FAQ’s and screenshots.