OT - * Do you work for money or satisfaction ? * -

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Do you work for money or satisfaction?

By James Freeman

Forbes.com - February 1, 2000

We live in the richest society in history. Almost all of us can provide food and shelter for ourselves. In fact, with a minimum of effort in this economy, we can afford sport utility vehicles and PlayStations, too. So the question arises, why do we work? What are we really after, once our bills are paid?

Maybe we want to create something useful or beautiful. Maybe we work for the respect of peers, or for the pride that comes from a job well done. Now think of this satisfaction as a kind of currency. That's how computer programmers in the open-source movement get paid. And it's why the Linux operating system could pose a challenge to Microsoft.

As you may know, open-source software means the code was developed by a lot of people voluntarily collaborating over the Internet, and nobody owns the copyright. This is in contrast to Windows, for example, which is produced and owned by Microsoft.

I'll admit that I was kind of skeptical of this open-source idea. I'm not a programmer and make no pretensions to technical expertise. But the fact that nobody owns the copyright made me wonder how much value people would put into it. It sounded vaguely socialist. And what was this stuff about the Internet community developing the code? Doesn't somebody have to be in charge?

Well, I'm finding religion in The Cathedral & The Bazaar, a fascinating book by Eric S. Raymond. It has the style of a technical research paper, but it's pulling me along because it's not really about software. It's about how markets operate, and why people work.

Open-source is not socialism at all, says Raymond, but the free market at its best, complete with ownership, compensation and rapid innovation. As Raymond explains it, this is the marketplace of ideas at hyper-speed. As thousands of hackers play with the code, ideas fly across the Net, changes are suggested every hour and updated versions of the software can be released every day.

And every open-source project does indeed have an owner, somebody in charge. In the most famous example, Linus Torvalds managed the Linux program. In order to encourage other hackers to help refine his software, he paid them handsomely in the currency of the realm--by incorporating their changes, by proclaiming the value of their contributions, and by offering the software for free to anyone who wants it.

Torvalds in turn was not compensated with royalties on every copy of Linux, but with the respect and admiration of hackers everywhere. He owned property--just not the kind that yields cash dividends.

Torvalds later parlayed his ownership of the Linux project into U.S. currency with a job at a hot startup, as many famous programmers do. But for many hackers, being paid in the currency of the movement is compensation enough. And if you think about it, this is the currency that everyone ultimately wants.

Think of Netscape founder Jim Clark and Oracle's Larry Ellison and their huge sailboats. The boats are really not much more fun to sail than an old 210, are they? The whole point is to bring guests for a day trip and watch them marvel at your huge boat. For all their hard work building companies, Clark and Ellison really want to get paid in respect and admiration.

This is the potential problem for companies like Microsoft. What do you do if people now enjoy creating products for pure satisfaction that you've been selling for American dollars? Microsoft still has the advantage of being able to focus on customer needs that may not be interesting or fun for the average hacker. I also wonder if the size of the open-source movement is in part the residue of a strong economy. It seems that fewer people will work for satisfaction if they have to work harder to earn legal tender. But whatever its implications, a vibrant marketplace of ideas is great news for consumers.

-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), February 01, 2000


Money or satisfaction?

Is there a third choice?

-- Hokie (Hokie_@hotmail.com), February 01, 2000.

Yup. Not working. No money; no satisfaction. Just ask me.


-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), February 01, 2000.

I know I'm pretty damned satisfied on payday.


-- Deano (deano@luvthebeach.com), February 01, 2000.

I drive a city bus for a living. Does that answer your question????

-- Ralph Kramden (and@AwayWeGo.com), February 01, 2000.

The respect, love and attention of God, the exquisite company of His angels, and the incomparable buoyant Divine Companionship of our dynamic Guru-Preceptor.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), February 01, 2000.

I would work for satisfaction if I didn't become so unsatisfied when I see over 1/3 of my earnings deducted.

-- Powder (Powder47keg@aol.com), February 01, 2000.

If you love what you do for a living and do it well, you will never work another day in your life.

Based on my experiences, this especially applies in the programming field. The coders in it just for the money tend not to be a happy bunch, while those who love coding for coding's sake don't mind working those 60+ hour weeks. Betcha Sysman can relate to this ;-)

-- Tim (pixmo@pixelquest.com), February 01, 2000.

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