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The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

An anonymous reader writes: Most software developers are intimately familiar with having to waste time implementing something they probably shouldn’t need to implement, or spending countless hours making their code work with bad (but required) software. Developer Paul Chiusano says this is because the economic model we use for building software just doesn’t work. He writes, “What’s the problem? In software, everyone is solving similar problems, and software makes it trivial to share solutions to these problems (unlike physical goods), in the form of common libraries, tools, etc. This ease of sharing means it makes perfect sense for actors to cooperate on the development of solutions to common problems. … Obviously, it would be crazy to staff such critical projects largely with a handful of unpaid volunteers working in their spare time. Er, right?? Yet that is what projects like OpenSSL do. A huge number of people and businesses ostensibly benefit from these projects, and the vast majority are freeriders that contribute nothing to their development. This problem of freeriders is something that has plagued open source software for a very long time.” Chiusano has some suggestions on how we can improve the way we allocate resources to software development.

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