[Techtalk] opinions wanted again! why would anyone code for free?

R. Daneel Olivaw linuxchix at r-daneel.com
Fri Jul 24 21:47:34 UTC 2009

Hi there,

Well, I'm not a programmer, but as a Linux Sysadmin, programming is
kinda useful hobby ;)

There are some things that I like in open source software.
When you write an app for your job, it has to ... just work ! Often,
mainly in small companies, the code is reviewed only by yourself ... or
the programmer who replaces you. In such cases, coding ugly is an
option. No one will evaluate you correctly about your work, and if you
manage never to patch or reuse the code, you seem to have "won" the

If the code is released, there is a chance some other programmer will
read your code. There is, in my view, something exciting about that. It
means that some other "professional", a peer, may evaluate your code,
maybe even learn from it. Knowing that, I'd be encouraged to write
something clean, stable and, in some extent, smart.

Also, releasing the code in the wild, will need you to harden it : you
never know what setup will run your thing, and I'd be fierce to know
that "my" code was able to get through any platform. Therefore, the code
has a chance to be better and cleaner.

Last but not least, there may be people that use your code. They may see
it lacking a function or notice a bug. They may even write you back to
get things fixed. But your free time is valuable, so the better the
original code, the easiyer it is to fix errors. If the code is clean
enough (always comment your code!), some other programmer may even patch
it for you. And you won't waste your free time patching badly written

What is it all about ? A sort of positive loop: you need to code better
so you save time and permit others to learn and enhance what you've
done, others that are also encouraged to code better so it will keep
that level of quality.
The opposite is the negative loop, that you already meet at your job :
code a quick and dirty program so your boss is happy; a program that you
will loose time to patch (but that time of yours is paid), and
eventually, no one else will be willing to patch because it's too ugly
(but they will be eager to re-write it all up, doing their own quick and
dirty work, starting the whole loop again). And if a programmer
(including yourself) accepts to maintain the bad code, he will be
wanting to "just fix it" instead of enhancing the whole thing (too
complex, too dangerous: you may breake more things, will never become a
good program because of design flaws, ... )

Finally, the reward: when you post some code on a list or a forum, some
other people you do not know, may compliment you for the "professional
and solid work", while it is just a hobby of yours to code on your spare
time (happened to me once, I then noticed that I was very easy to
satisfy ;p).

Now, this is just a point of view ... with bits of what I see on a daily
basis in the "real" world ;)

nite nite ...

R. Daneel Olivaw,
The Human Robot Inside.

Le vendredi 24 juillet 2009 à 06:39 -0700, Carla Schroder a écrit :
> hey all,
> I've received some great responses off-list, thanks! It's OK to share them 
> on-list if you like, and all Techtalkers are welcome. Not just the girls :)
> thanks much, this is going to be a great article.
> Carla

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