Monday, September 04, 2006

Why Indians don't contribute to open source ?

Over the past few weeks, one of the questions that is being asked repeatedly is: why Indians do not contribute to open source. A variety of answers have been attempted, but I'm not at all satisfied.

One excuse that is getting a bit stale is that we don't have internet or infrastructure. While I'd have given it the benefit of doubt a few years ago, right now, especially since the advent of BSNL broadband, it is unacceptable. Another is that we are a developing country. So is Brazil and I don't see that lagging behind.

I think it has got something to do with the fact that we are all mercenaries. We work because we want money and not because we love to, not because it's fun. Looking at the attrition rate and the rising salaries in the software industry, I think my point is obvious.

A large number of students who are skilled enough to contribute (the CS grads) are not interested in the subject. They studied CS to get a high-paying job. They probably did that because their family felt CS was "in scope" like electronics was a few years ago, and Civil and Mechanical engineering were a decade or so ago. Our IITs, NITs and IIMs are employment factories. They are not institutions of higher learning - who needs learning anyway, when you can get a job without it ?

To contribute to open source requires that you take it up as a hobby, and to do that you must enjoy coding. I know a lot of CS/IT grads who hate coding ! They regard it as some form of menial labor. Programming (which includes coding) can be elevated to an art form. Linus Torvalds recently talked about taste - he was right. There should be an aesthetic sense regarding the code.

There are a lot of developers "on the bench" at any time in a software services company, like Wipro, Infy, TCS and Patni. Why aren't they doing (that I know of) any open source coding ? Why can't the companies have open source development as some sort of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative ?

Looking at the original meaning of the term, mercenaries are the contract fighters - those who fight for private gain. They are regarded as scum. At the same time, a soldier can earn money as compensation for his services.

In contrast to the above principle, working for money is a socially accepted practice. Most people are confused between earning salary as a fair compensation and working for money. That is the crux of the problem.

So, that's the bottomline: We don't know why we work. Or why we should.


At Tuesday, 22 November, 2011 at 2:32:00 PM IST, Blogger Ravi said...

Thank God Indians don't contribute to Open Source. Indians are useless. I have worked with them and I find it shocking that Indians do any software development at all let alone contribute to Open Source.

At Tuesday, 23 September, 2014 at 12:26:00 AM IST, Blogger Avikalp Gupta said...

By the way, Indians do contribute to open source, just that there are very few who do.
Plus it is your bad luck that you have worked with some bad set of Indians. You might not have gone to the right place. Remember, in India, because of a lot of educational bias, you will find right people only at great institutes. So go there, and work with them, I ensure you, you will find yourself useless.


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