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Open Source: A Rare Pat on the Back

More and more people seem to believe that the open source movement is changing the technology world. Business magazines are interviewing corporate executives about the subject, and we see IT shops moving to open source software to avoid Microsoft's harsh licensing terms.

One question always seems to arise in any discussion of open source: "Why would people develop software and give it away for free?" Our bet is that more than anything, corporate code jockeys simply want a creative outlet and a few words of praise, benefits their day jobs don't afford them.

Nearly 500,000 open source developers are on alone. They spend evenings and weekends writing code that their employers don't know about and are doing it so that someone, somewhere, will say, "Good job." They have to these days, because it's a rare event when someone in the modern enterprise tells an IT person, "Hey, nice application." Usually, the requests for features and the "didn't we tell you that cooking breakfast in the morning was a requirement?" statements start pouring in before the application is done.

The same holds true if you're a network or systems admin. No one says anything until a box you're responsible for is down. We'd like to see most enterprises in America run for a single day with no IT staff at all. That would border on hilarious, and it would be worth all the work that we'd have to do the next day to settle the nerves of frazzled users.

So smile while they're screaming about the mail server, and keep your grin while they're telling you about that user interface problem in your 50,000 staff-hour application. Smile because we all know the truth. They need us now. They can't get along without us.

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