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On the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of free/libre/open source (FLOSS) developers


Motivation in the context of open source software may be seen as fundamentally different due to the presence of unpaid programmers, implicit rather than explicit forms of control and a different methodology for software development. Since software development is a creative task, the motivation of open source programmers can be compared to individuals in creative industries (Caves 2002). This paper summarizes the important trends in the research on motivation in open source and identifies variables that should be included in future research. Specifically, the current literature favors a taxonomy that considers two components of motivation—intrinsic (e.g., fun, flow, learning, community) and extrinsic (e.g., financial rewards, improving future job prospects, signaling quality). I make a case for incorporating both elements in developing an integrative theory about developer motivation. Three elements are identified as being unique to FLOSS development-diversity of project structures, co-existence of companies and communities and co-existence of creative and commercial elements. The important empirical evidence on FLOSS developer motivation is presented and analyzed. Four factors are identified as important mitigating and moderating factors in the conversation surrounding developer motivation- financial incentives, nature of task, group size and group structure. The role of these factors on developer motivation is discussed.

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He is passionately interested in all aspects of open source software development and has written extensively on the topic. He is also the author of two books on E-Commerce.

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Krishnamurthy, S. On the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of free/libre/open source (FLOSS) developers. Know Techn Pol 18, 17–39 (2006).

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  • Open Source
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Financial Incentive
  • Open Source Software
  • Extrinsic Motivation