Recent research suggests that much of the core development work on open-source projects is done by paid developers. Is this a bad thing?
The answer is in the data. I just finished reading Evangelia Berdou's Ph.D. thesis "Managing the Bazaar: Commercialization and peripheral participation in mature, community-led Free/Open source software projects," and highly recommend it to anyone seeking to understand how open-source communities operate, especially in light of the increasing encroachment of commercial interests into open-source development communities. Berdou looks at paid vs. unpaid developer contributions to GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) and KDE (K Desktop Environment) and reaches some interesting, if unsurprising, results.
Berdou starts with four primary hypotheses, only two of which end up making the grade:
Paid developers are more likely to contribute to critical parts of the code base. Paid developers are more likely to maintain critical parts of the code base. Volunteer contributors are more likely to participate in aspects of the project that are geared towards the end-user. Programmers and peripheral contributors are not likely to participate equally in major community events. (134)
Only Nos. 2 and 4 end up surviving her analysis, though her data (and my experience) suggests that No. 1 is also true.… Read more