Thursday, June 05, 2008

Eclipse and Volunteerism

In response to a recent news thread, Bjorn Freeman-Benson says

As Dan Ariely explains in "Predictably Irrational", there is a huge difference between real volunteer and paid volunteer (Eclipse is 'paid volunteer').

I want to examine briefly Bjorn's assertion that Eclipse is 'paid volunteer'.

In looking at the Dash commit count sorted by # of commits, the thing that jumps out at me is that for 2008 individuals, are right after IBM in terms of # of active committers (23.56%), commits (159,279), and lines of code (4,982,101).

There are/should be many qualifiers for these data: I'm sure many of the independents are paid to work on Eclipse...but conversely it's quite possible (and likely, I think) that some corporate-supported committers work more on Eclipse-related their own choice...than their employers explicitly sanction. But in any event, I think the overwhelming message from the data is that the contribution from independents (many of whom are unpaid volunteers I would suppose) is large...and growing rapidly year-over-year.

All I'm saying is that 'Eclipse' is not necessarily 'paid volunteer'. But it does have a strong aspect of unpaid volunteerism, which as Bjorn (and Eric Rizzo) point out, should be encouraged and supported:

The place that Eclipse overall has not done a good job is making our projects attractive to unpaid, part-time volunteers. They're different. Their motivations are different. The Rizzo Ceiling is real for them.

For some pointers to interesting thoughts about motivations, please see

When Self Interest Isn't Everything

Seems that while I was typing this out, Boris Bokowski has also made some similar points.


Ed Merks said...

Scott, your tireless contributions to the Eclipse community do not go unnoticed. We're fortunate to have people like you involved. It's always refreshing to see people who speak from a perspective that's balanced and so clearly focused on the good of the community rather than for the personal gain.

Scott Lewis said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your nice words.

I do sometimes wish that my contributions could be paid (as I was recently laid off by Oracle/BEA and so am once again not being paid for any of the work) although my personal gain is not particularly desired, my personal survival is desired :).

I would like to say that contributions to Eclipse lead to recognition of that kind, but that hasn't been my recent experience, unfortunately.