Open Source Software as Self Service

“Open source soft­ware devel­op­ment is the ulti­mate self-ser­vice industry”, says Jeff Atwood in an art­icle look­ing at pos­sible reas­ons for the OpenOffice.org project’s dwind­ling devel­op­ment com­munity. How­ever, it’s Atwood’s thoughts on self ser­vice super­mar­ket check­outs that I found most inter­est­ing:

What fas­cin­ates me about self-ser­vice check­out devices is that the store is mak­ing you do work they would nor­mally pay their employ­ees to do. Think about this for a minute. You’re play­ing the role of the pay­ing cus­tom­er and the cash­ier employ­ee. Under the watch­ful eyes of secur­ity cam­er­as and at least one human mon­it­or, nat­ur­ally, but still. We con­tin­ue to check ourselves out. Not only will­ingly, but enthu­si­ast­ic­ally. For that one brief moment, we’re work­ing for the super­mar­ket at the low­est pos­sible pay scale: none.

That’s the para­dox of self-check­out. But to me it’s no riddle at all: nobody else in that store cares about get­ting Jeff Atwood checked out nearly as much as Jeff Atwood does.

On the top­ic of open source devel­op­ment com­munit­ies, I also found this quote to be quite poignant:

If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­culty get­ting soft­ware developers to par­ti­cip­ate in your open source pro­ject, I’d say the com­munity isn’t fail­ing your pro­ject. Your pro­ject is fail­ing the com­munity.