Tag Archives: economics

The economics of contributing to open-source projects

This adaptation of Elinor Ostrom‘s work on the emergence of self-governance to open-source projects can explain my decision to stop reporting bugs to Ubuntu. If this formula holds true, then an open-source project will thrive:

benefit of contributing > benefit of not contributing + cost of contributing

In my experience with Ubuntu, this formula does not hold true. The benefit of contributing is often zero, as patches are not accepted and bugs are not fixed, or close to zero, as it can take years for a bug to be fixed. And the benefit of not contributing is similarly zero. And of course, the cost of contributing, in terms of time spent filing bugs, is greater than zero. The cost of contributing is often very high, requiring arguing for the validity of a bug, re-reporting the same bug multiple times, or attempting to recreate a bug from several releases prior.