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Havoc Pennington

Havoc Pennington is a computer engineer and entrepreneur known in the free software movement due to his work on HAL, GNOME, Metacity, GConf, and D-Bus.

Havoc Pennington Tidelift

Open source has a working-for-free problem

Open source isn’t a charity case. We can’t expect to attract and retain level 10 players into a level 2 opportunity. So why are we treating open source maintainers and contributors like they owe us something and not finding ways to enable them to maximize the rewards they can get for playing the game?

Let’s abandon the notion that open source is exclusively charity.

In the software industry, we’re normalizing spec work in a way that the design industry successfully rallied against.

The narrative around open source is that it’s completely OK—even an expectation—that we’re all doing this for fun and exposure; and that giant companies should get huge publicity credit for throwing peanuts-to-them donations at a small subset of open source projects.

There’s nothing wrong with doing stuff for fun and exposure, or making donations, as an option. It becomes a problem when the free work is expected and the donations are seen as enough.

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