Topic "Motivation"

The motivation of the individual to take on work in the Open Source community proves to be an interesting question. Why do individuals commit their valuable free time to write free software? We will look up the results of research on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the possiblity of "Flow" while programming and the sense of community that is said to be involved. This topic is to sum up all those findings and give a broad picture of the different reasons why people participate in OSS development projects.

Motivation is one of the most researched topic so far regarding Open Source. It could be that this topic is therefore split into two parts.

Key Questions

  • What leads individuals and companies to the decision to join the OSS movement?
  • Which factors in their work and community experience are important to sustain the motivation?
  • Are participants really acting altruistic or do they have certain selfish goals?
  • What keeps participants involved if more tedious kinds of work replace initial hacking?


  • Hars, A. and Ou, S., 2001. Working for free? - Motivations for participating in open source projects. In Sprague, R.H. (ed.): Proceedings 34th HICSS Conference. Maui, 2001, 9p. (Abstract)
  • Hertel, G., Niedner, S., and Herrmann, S. (2003). Motivation of software developers in open source projects: An internet-based survey of contributors to the linux kernel. In Research Policy (Special Edition on OSS)PDF)
  • Andrea Bonaccorsi and Cristina Rossi, 2004. Comparing motivations of individual programmers and firms to take part in the Open Source movement. From community to business. Presented at DRUID Summer Conference 2004. (Abstract, PDF)
  • Il-Horn Hann, Jeff Roberts, Sandra Slaughte, and Roy Fielding, 2002. Why Do Developers Contribute to Open Source Projects? First Evidence of Economic incentives. In ICSE 02 2nd Workshop on Open Source Software Engineering (PDF)
  • Lakhani Karim, Bob Wolf. 2003. Why Hackers Do What They Do: Understanding Motivation Effort in Free/Open Source Software Projects. Sloan Working Paper 4425-03:1-28. (PDF)
  • Linux B. Torvalds, 1998. Interview with Linus Torvalds: What Motivates Free Software Developers? In First Monday, Volume 3, Issue 3. (Online version).

References from peer

  • Benno Luthiger. Alles aus Spaß? Zur Motivation von Open-Source-Entwicklern . Open-Source-Jahrbuch 2004.(PDF)


  • Alfie Kohn, 1987. Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator . In Boston Globe 1987.(HTML)
  • Yunwen Ye and Kouichi Kishida, 2003. Toward An Understanding Of The Motivation Of Open Source Software Developers . Proceedings International Conference on Software Engineering, Portland. 2003.
  • Stefan Koch, 2002. Produktivität in der Softwareentwicklung - Spezialfall Open Source Softwareentwicklung . Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Institut für Informationsverarbeitung und Informationwirtschaft. 2002.(HTML)
  • Joseph Feller, Brian Fitzgerald, Scott Hissam, Karim Lakhami, 2004. Collaboration, Conflict and Control . Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Open Source Software Engineering, Scotland. 2004.(PDF)
  • Caspar Clemens Mireau, 2002. Motivation und Organisation von Open Source Projekten . Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Studiengang Medienkultur. 2002.(PDF)
  • Eric S. Raymond, 1999. The Cathedral & The Bazaar . In O'Reilly. 1999.(HTML)