Reflections on the Open Source Culture and Economy

The world of open source is a different world.

Open source communities (or at least the ones I’m familiar with) shed a lot of the cultural baggage that’s wrapped up in the outside world. What you look like, how you dress, and how much money you have, is a lot less important. So is your gender, where you live, and the color of your skin. You start out anonymous. You choose your own screen-name… perhaps an avatar, and you build your reputation from the ground up. No preconceived notions.

These communities strive towards principles of meritocracy, which means the people who work the hardest are those who have the power. That’s kind of refreshing, right?

But that doesn’t mean everything is completely fair. In the world of open source contribution, time is your currency. The more time you have, the more you can contribute. The more you contribute, the more credibility and influence you have in your community. Granted, time is a more fair currency than money. Both the pauper and the president are granted the same dividend each day. But, like money, time can also be granted, wasted, and stolen. Time as currency is an interesting idea… one that has been explored in several plot lines

All things considered, I really like the culture and economy of the open source world. Meritocracy, equality, and mutual respect. I’d like to see these values expand more completely into the broader global culture.