Code, Culture and Cash: The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development

TitleCode, Culture and Cash: The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsLancashire, D
Secondary TitleFirst Monday
Keywordscredits, email address, european, geography, gnome, linux

The nexus of open source development appears to have shifted to Europe over the last ten years. This paper explains why this trend undermines cultural arguments about "hacker ethics" and "post-scarcity" gift economies. It suggests that classical economic theory offers a more succinct explanation for the peculiar international distribution of open source development: hacking rises and falls inversely to its opportunity cost. This finding throws doubt on the Schumpeterian assumption that the efficiency of industrial systems can be measured without reference to the social institutions that bind them.


"I collected information on the country of residence for key contributors to the two projects. In the case of Linux, I relied on information located in the CREDITS file of all major kernel releases (from version 1.0 to version 2.4.9) [22]. For Gnome, I gathered developer-contact information from the project's web-site. Where information on the home-country of developers was not explicitly available, I performed private research to ascertain said information, or - in the last-case scenario - trusted information in the provided e-mail address of developers to infer home-country from domain ownership [23]. In the case of Linux, to avoid bias that might be introduced over time as developers migrated internationally, developers are continually counted as residents of the countries they were associated with when their names first entered the CREDITS file"

Full Text
PDF icon Lancashire.pdf3.22 MB