Understanding FOSS

So, I’m hooked up with Quora these days. I came across this question,

“How can I understand the idea of the Open Source movement better? — I want to know what motivated you to move to using Open Source-d technologies, Open Source-d stacks, and anything Open Source related ?Also, I want to understand how the Open Source community works, and why, as a CS student, should I at least be familiar with the idea of Open Source.”

I spent a decent amout of time writing the answer (and I loved what I wrote). I thought my answer should definitely be on my blog. Here it goes.

Why use open-source technology?

The ability to create new applications quickly, reliably and economically is drawing businesses big and small to open source and emboldening them to use it for ever-larger projects. Open source is helping to bring back custom development of applications, an option that has decreased in popularity. If code is flawed, the developer community can identify and address the problem quickly, where a single coder might plod on unawares, at least for a while.

Closed-source software forces its users to trust the vendor when claims are made for qualities such as security, freedom from backdoors, adherence to standards and flexibility in the face of future changes. If the source code is not available those claims remain simply claims. Open source provides auditability. Open Source software provides further flexibility through freedom.

What motivates open-source development?

Open source is an idea. You might agree with it or disagree. It depends on person and perspective. The term “open source” requires that no one can discriminate against a group in not sharing the edited code or hinder others from editing their already-edited work. This approach to software development allows anyone to obtain and modify open source code. These modifications are distributed back to the developers within the open source community of people who are working with the software. In this way, the identities of all individuals participating in code modification are disclosed and the transformation of the code is documented over time.

You might say, without pay or royalty licensing, there is little financial incentive for a programmer to become involved with a project in the first place, or to continue development and support once the initial product is released. But if you think for a developer perspective, Personal satisfaction also comes from the act of writing software as an equivalent to creative self-expression — it is almost equivalent to creating a work of art. The rediscovery of creativity, which has been lost through the mass production of commercial software products can be a relevant motivation.

What’s for a CS Student, you ask?

You get to work on real-world problems, learn from experts, build a network and ofcourse, get discovered (that, in many cases, is the biggest hurdle). Your code is out there. If you’re up for a job, It shows recruiters that you are thinking about the greater context of your life and knowledge… and not just about yourself. It shows you can work (minus, any training).

I am a newbie myself and just started contributing for FOSS. It’s great in here.