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Linux Programmer Numbers Clarified
Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 06:03 PM EST

PC Pro's Matt Whipp did a good thing. Instead of parroting Microsoft numbers, he actually went to the trouble to find out if what he had been fed was true. It wasn't. The question was, how many programmers there actually are contributing to Linux and Open Source. It seems Microsoft's Nick McGrath, head of platform strategy for Microsoft in the UK recently told him that IBM has just 'handfuls' of such developers.

Whipp did what journalists are supposed to do. He asked IBM and some others who would know, and they told him that there are millions of programmers worldwide working on FOSS.

Here's a bit from his article [reg. req'd]:

Adam Jollans is IBM's Worldwide Linux Software Marketing Strategy Manager, and begged to differ. 'Right now, our Linux technology centre is about 800 strong - developers paid by IBM working directly on open source projects,' he said.

He said this had doubled in the course of a couple of years and that overall there were 8,000 to 9,000 IBM employees working on the company's Linux strategy.

Bill Weinberg, Open Source Architecture Specialist and Evangelist at Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) said, 'To cite a some very visible examples, there are 95,982 registered projects on and over 1,000,000 registered users. OSDL member companies alone employ over 2000 Linux developers.

'The total number is, of course, difficult to estimate with any precision, but even pessimistic assessments place the number of FOSS developers worldwide in the millions.' . . .

The strong presence of open source developers on the payroll of commercial companies, does not undermine the integrity of the open source movement. Both Jollans and Weinberg agree that it doesn't matter who develops open source code, or what the motivation, contributions are only accepted into projects such as the Linux kernel based on the quality of the code.

Says Weinberg: 'It is a meritocracy. It follows the precepts of the Scientific Method. For the Linux kernel, there is an organised hierarchy in place that helps spread out the workload. A group of about 50 key developers oversee the final contribution of code to the kernel.'

You might enjoy reading the paper, "Coase's Penguin" by Yochai Benkler PDF, who writes about "the collective power of openness and the superiority of open source economics." See also the Mitchel Kapor interview on Tom's Hardware, who references the paper and discusses open source, business models and Microsofts future. From Benkler's abstract:

For decades our understanding of economic production has been that individuals order their productive activities in one of two ways: either as employees in firms, following the directions of managers, or as individuals in markets, following price signals. . . . In the past three or four years, public attention has focused on a fifteen-year-old social-economic phenomenon in the software development world. This phenomenon, called free software or open source software, involves thousands or even tens of thousands of programmers contributing to large and small scale project, where the central organizing principle is that the software remains free of most constraints on copying and use common to proprietary materials. . . . The result is the emergence of a vibrant, innovative and productive collaboration, whose participants are not organized in firms and do not choose their projects in response to price signals.

In this paper I explain that while free software is highly visible, it is in fact only one example of a much broader social-economic phenomenon. I suggest that we are seeing is the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode "commons-based peer-production," to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands.

The paper also explains why this mode has systematic advantages over markets and managerial hierarchies when the object of production is information or culture, and where the capital investment necessary for production-computers and communications capabilities-is widely distributed instead of concentrated.

Enjoy! Oh, and share it with your PHB, please. And his lawyer. If you are the PHB, please read it yourself.

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