I’ve been a skeptic of Open Source for a long time, and it’s not because I have anything against Linux. My problem is more fundamental: how do you keep these projects going? To pick a specific example, what happens to Linux when Linus Torvalds gets bored with it?
While I have long held this view myself–being a capitalist and believer in economic incentives as a necessary spur for creativity–I’m no longer so sure.
For one example of talented people devoting an inordinate amount of their time and energy to a product with virtually no reward, I’d offer the example of blogging. Aside from Andrew Sullivan and a handful of professional writers who have managed to actually make this a profitable endeavor, most of us are actually losing money on this gig. But we do it for some minor recognition, satisfaction gained from the interactivity, or whatever.
Scott Adams makes a similar point in one of his Dilbert books; I think The Dilbert Principle. He notes the huge volume of e-mail he gets every day that provides him free research and ideas for his strip, despite the fact that the readers must know that not only will they get no money for their ideas, they won’t even get mentioned in the strip. Indeed, they likely won’t even get a reply to their e-mail! But people seem to have a fascination with sharing their knowledge with anyone who will listen.