Posted by: 2stepsback | October 27, 2007

Motivating FLOSS programmers

This is a very interesting topic. I’m no management expert. But I have read a few things here and there. And “Theory Y” seems to explain things a bit.
In my opinion, while talking of motivating FLOSS programmers, the following things are very clear:

  • FLOSS programmers work because they like the work and they like to do the work.
  • They like to share knowledge, code and advice.
  • They like to make people happy.
  • They like to be useful to society.
  • They have tremendous energy, enthusiasm and the ability to look around and think without the subtle self-enforced thought-restrictions that employees in corporations are notoriously good at.
  • Some of them see no time and place to get thinking about an idea.
  • For some, weekend parties, socializing and such other “essentials in life”, come pretty much at the lowest priority level.
  • Although that might not be a healthy situation in the opinion of non-geeks, geeks typically ignore any such well-meant advice, because they see that an hour of work can produce lots of working code or useful text.
    That is more fun.
  • This vast difference between the attitude of geeks on one hand and programmers employed in companies on the other, explains why the opensource model is better:
    No motivation is required. They already see the big picture.
    Therefore no junk theories of management are required. Managers are then free to sit evaluating the best FLOSS program for their needs rather than busying themselves with charts, statistics graphs and all the other cool, wonderful widgets that software provides.
  • That is also why, when a small process change or new technical concept is introduced in a corporation, the guy who made the change is hailed for a long time as a “guru”, a “god”, a “boss” or an “expert”.
    On the other hand, many people in FLOSS silently do several times more innovative work, very routinely, with or without intention of compensation. That makes the product really good, because they are not doing a job just to earn an income.
  • They are trying to change the way programs are looked at.
  • They want to make people think freely.
  • They want to invent and they want to make people aware that they too can invent.
  • They like to see people smiling.
  • They like to see people making efforts to make other people happy.
  • They want to solve problems, big or small, in innovative ways.
    For these guys, the traditional system of differentiating between disciplines is a feudal system of thinking. All bodies of knowledge can be interleaved to produce dramatic and drastic changes to solve many problems, small or big, local or global.
    They have free thought, unrestrained by barriers of “subject” or “field of work” or “knowledgebase” or “discipline” or “area of expertise”.
    They think on any scientific, social or philosophical topic, even while earning a decent income.
  • They always want to think about where everyone is headed. What the future is and how technology, society and life will be in the near, intermediate and distant future.
  • They never shy away from mentally solving a problem – that is, preparing a solution plan. Implementing it is another story. They will do that too, if possible
    They happily take up challeneges to solve problems in fields totally unrelated to their own. And often, they succeed.
  • For these guys, nearly everything in life boils down to problem-solving.
  • They are so strongly self-motivated that they do not need any kind of management theory to be applied.
    They need no motivation. No prodding. No mind-games.
  • If you let them just sit and think, they will produce more solutions in a day than corporations, “high-profile teams” or “committees” produce in a week.

Everybody can think like this, given a set of situations in which the person finds himself, alongwith his genes and the values or ethics he has grown up seeing.
Actually, everyone should be thinking like this in my idea of an ideal society. But it is just my idea.

But for bums like me Theory X is best, no? 😉

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