Free and open source is not good enough

Lack of free

When I was at university, I had to pick between Java and .Net to direct my career. At the time, there were tons of Java books, docs, and even IDEs for free. But only very few .Net books and tools for Microsoft's environments and all of them were expensive for me. Living in a 3rd world country, I made my decision based on available free learning resources.

Lack of attention

Today, we live in a different world. There is an endless amount of resources for learning, from blog posts, tutorials, and online training, all for free. Not only that, companies in a desire to establish themselves as leaders around a tech domain, sponsor quality books, swags and give them for free (some, in exchange for your contact details). Software is developed as open source, enabling collaboration, but more importantly, it allows developer adoption and talent recruiting. Meetups and developer conferences (although now virtual) are all about entertaining developers in an attempt to make them try and like a tech i.e. product. All development tools, enterprise software packages are offered for free for developers. Cloud providers give free-forever resources. All, in the name of attracting the new kingmakers' attention.

Lack of intensives

I say free is not good enough. Free books, free tools, free cloud resources are not good enough. Free pizza and drinks, free stickers, and a t-shirt are not good enough either.
You can give your time, but you can never get it back. And if companies want to get the developers’ time, they will have to pay for it. The price of free is your time.
If a company wants their story and vision heard by developers, they have to pay for it. If a company wishes to have their free and open source software tried out, they will have to pay for it. If a company wants their tools and services learned, used, adopted, they have to pay for it.

Free is too expensive

The biggest impact on the value and the success of technology is defined by its adoption. The equivalent of adoption in the open source tech world is the community. Any project that has a large community can take over other projects and enable value capture to companies. You are not building only software, you are building software with a community. To build a community, to get peoples' attention and time in the first place, you have to pay for it.

Image by Mona Tootoonchinia from Pixabay 

Today, the best example for incentivizing communities, and building communities is the blockchain space. Whether that is through free token distribution to early users, referral programs, through airdrops, bounties for bug fixes, competitions, badges, community tasks, participation in beta programs, etc. blockchain projects offer a value exchange for community attention. Whether the majority of these blockchain projects are a scam or not is a different topic and irrelevant here. But the fact that blockchain projects value community building, user adoption, and they know how to bootstrap projects with communities from zero is undeniable. We need similar mechanisms tailored for developers and general technology adoption. We need to value and pay for the new kingmakers' time and attention. We need to pay them to listen to our vision, learn and to try out our products. If you pay, they will come (and give a try to your software the least).

Thank you for giving a few minutes of your time and attention, for free.


You are confusing "Free" with price; "Free" is about Freedom--the freedom to see the code, learn from the code, modify the code, and share the code. Open Source is about "Free" as in cost but with few of the Freedoms built-in because those are reserved for a corporation to exploit the code.

I agree that the price threshold for getting access to a technology is a significant problem. As a FSF associate and contributor to the GNU Project, I believe that we must not just write software, but deliver the documentation, build processes, and community to accompany our code.

My post is about adoption. Just putting it out there is not enough for developers to try out software. More incentives are needed for initial adoption

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