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Open source development has long been thought of as a hobby. Research as early as 2001 however has shown that not all open source is done on a volunteer basis. Organizations are involved in the open source community in different ways: developing open source software, sponsoring open source projects with grants our bounties. The effects of this financial sponsorship of a project is not always bliss, as can be seen  for instance on this  thread on the wikitech-l mailing list from September 2010.

Getting Paid for Open Source Development

Not all open source development is volunteer work (Lakhani & Wolf 2005: 40% paid, Hars&Ou 2001: 16% paid). So far I’ve found the following ways to get paid for open source work:

  1. Directly hired to develop open source by the main contributing organisation (e.g. Mozilla developer hired by Mozilla or a Mediawiki developer hired by the Wikimedia Foundation.
  2. Directly hired to develop open source software for one-of-many contributing organisations. E.g. a kernel developer hired by Intel
  3. Being allowed to work on open source by your employer. E.g. 20% time at Google and similar programs in other companies.
  4. Working under a grant extended to you personally. E.g. Google Summer of Code students
  5. Financial rewards for implementing a feature, solving a bug, etc. . E.g bounties used in several projects.
  6. Grants for attending conferences, ability to give talks etc.

Based on interviews with KDE and GNOME developers Berdou distinguishes four types of employment based on the way the reward is given:

  • Free sponsorship: Hired to continue doing what the developer was doing voluntarily.  Category 1 is mostly this, they might get a mandate from the organization that employs them but they’re working directly on the product.
  • Clear mandate:  Hired to develop specific features or other software for a company on an open source product. Matches most closely with category 2. Some might match with category 1.
  • Friendly jobs: developers are expected to work on the companies (closed source) products but are free to spend some time to work on open source products. This matches with category 3 above.
  • Contractor jobs: hired to solve a particular issue, for a limited time or scope. This would be category 5, and some of category 4 and 6.

Not all monetary rewards are equal. Krishnamurthy uses four variables to understand financial rewards:

  1. Distribution pattern: do rewards go to a few or to all?
  2. Type of provider: Non profit organization, individual, corporation
  3. Contingent or fixed:  Is it a one-time reward?
  4. Conditionality:  Are there conditions attached? E.g. reward upon implementing a feature

Literature Study

Most research starts with a literature study. It helps to clarify the question; makes sure the question hasn’t been answered already and provides enough background to be able to answer the question. While doing literature reviews two things matter, find (all) relevant literature and keep track of what you’re reading as you’ll need to cite the relevant literature later.

Searching for relevant literature requires having an idea what you’re searching for and then combing (online) scholarly databases for articles about it. The easiest starting point is ‘Google Scholar’, as it will often give a link to a freely available version of a paper. Additional use full features include exporting a citation (set this at the bottom of the preferences pane), finding other papers, limiting to recent publications and most importantly it’s search isn’t limited to one database. Other databases are often more field-specific (e.g. pubMed for medical information or ACM for computer research).

Tracking literature is at least as important as finding it in the first place. Well-tracked sources will lead to less time-waisted at writing time to find that citation again. Software to track literature is called ‘reference or citation management software’. Wikipedia has an overview of packages. For convenience sake, pick software that’ll integrate with the writing tool ( LaTeX, MS Word).

Hello world!

askja:~ Finne$ locate thesis_advisor
askja:~ Finne$ find thesis_topic;