Paid vs. Volunteer Work in Open Source

Abstract: Many open source projects have long become commercial. This paper shows just how much of open source software development is paid work and how much has remained volunteer work. Using a conservative approach, we find that about 50% of all open source software development has been paid work for many years now and that many small projects are fully paid for by companies. However, we also find that any non-trivial project balances the amount of paid developer with volunteer work, and we suggest that the ratio of volunteer to paid work can serve as an indicator for the health of open source projects and aid the management of the respective communities.

Keywords: Open source software, empirical software engineering, volunteer open source, paid open source, software labor economics

Reference: Dirk Riehle, Philipp Riemer, Carsten Kolassa, Michael Schmidt. “Paid vs. Volunteer Work in Open Source.” In Proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Science (HICSS 2014). IEEE Press, 2014. Page 3286-3295.

The paper is available as a PDF file.

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