silicon.com writer and IT analyst Martin Brampton says the open source movement isn't as collaboration-friendly as its proponents would like you to think. How can that be, when open source development is all about sharing code and helping each other fix bugs or develop programs? It's all in the characteristics of the individual developers, he says:
Studies over the past few years have shown that three-quarters of the participants were less than 30 years old. A clear majority were single and most had no children. But the most extreme characteristic was that almost all open source developers are male... Average open source developers are at a point in their life where they are driven towards achievement and the hope of recognition.
Those goals, coupled with these characteristics, don't lend themselves to a team mentality, in his opinion. First, he says, developers tend to "align themselves with a particular community" and distance themselves from, or "demonize" others. Moreover, most projects that don't have corporate sponsorship are controlled by a handful of people, so that even within those communities cooperation is limited. And those that are corporate controlled run into trouble as soon as income starts coming in.
He concludes by saying that if those involved in open source would practice more of what they preach, there's no telling how far the technology could go.
I'm certainly not the expert in how open source communities work, considering I've never been a part of one. However, I have talked to countless people and read a lot about said communities in the last two years, and something is missing from Brampton's equations, it seems.
Sure, there are examples of conflict within a community. Look at Sun Microsystems and the OpenDS founders, or Jeremy Allison's departure from Novell over its partnership with Microsoft. But that type of conflict happens in every walk of life.
On the other hand, there are also groups like the Open Solutions Alliance, or the Linux Foundation's desktop Linux workgroup. Members come together from different disciplines and a variety of companies to work toward a common goal. Similarly, those behind IBM's Higgins and Novell's Bandit -- both identity management projects -- are also working together.
Brampton may be missing the forest for the trees, in this case.