A sense of creativity is the main driver for developers behind the open source movement, according to a survey published this week at LinuxWorld in New York.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that 63 per cent of open source enthusiasts said that their programming project contributions were at least as creative as anything they have ever done.
Three quarters admitted that when they were programming they lost track of time, and 60 per cent said that, if they had another hour in the day, they would spend it programming. Half compared it to composing poetry or music.
In addition, respondents said that having fun and enhancing their skills were the reasons for giving up an average of 10 hours a week to open source programming.
The survey was based on the results of online interviews with 526 "open source community" members from around the world who are registered users of the SourceForge.net development website.
"This isn't about money, it's about doing something that is cool and useful and then displaying it to others," said Bob Wolf, a senior manager at BCG and co-author of the survey.
Just over half of respondents were professional programmers. But only 26 per cent said their open source skills were core to work projects, and 46 per cent did not contribute to similar projects at work. The average age of respondents was 28, and 98 per cent were male.
"The $64,000 question is how can companies get that level of creativity and enthusiasm for work projects? The thrill of excellence can be a huge motivator," said Wolf.
Karim Lakhani, a consultant at BCG and the other co-author, said: "Companies need to find a way to foster these kinds of development communities while maintaining the same sense of freedom. These are the kinds of issues that firms are only now starting to grapple with."
Survey respondents came from 35 countries, but there was a proportionally low representation of UK programmers at just 33.
"Germany was notably high but the UK representation was lower than per capita figures would lead you to expect. In some cultures, issues of community are more obvious than in others," explained Lakhani.
Other regions were also notably under-represented. "We were surprised by lower than expected levels of response from both India and Japan," said Wolf.
The study is available at www.bcg.com/opensource
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