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Open Source Educator (Part Seven: Recognition and Getting Paid) March 7, 2011

<polyachka> what do you think is the role of incentives for volunteers?

<mchua> I think volunteers become volunteers for lots of different reasons.

<mchua> Oftentimes they’ll bring these reasons in themselves. You don’t have to hang a million dollar prize – the rewards are typically not monetary.

<polyachka> but still don’t they want some kind of recognition

<mchua> Sure, but that’s not the reason they start doing the work. They want to fix something to make a program better for themselves, they want to learn about a certain aspect of technology and so they’re trying to tinker with it, in the case of Sugar sometimes they want to make something for their kid, their little sibling.

<mchua> Once they do that work, yes, of course they want recognition for it.

<mchua> But you don’t start doing open source to get famous… there are far more time-efficient ways of getting in the news. 🙂

<polyachka> what forms of recognition

<mchua> Most people start contributing to a community because there’s something they want done, and they figure that it’s going to get done faster and/or better if they take a crack at it.

<mchua> Recognition – having other people use your work, give feedback, say thank you. Having your code reused and cited. Having people write back and say “thanks for that patch, the kids love this new block in TurtleArt.”

<mchua> Showing up at events and having folks you’ve never met in person before walk up to you and go “oh, you’re the one who translated my documentation, thank you!”

<mchua> Being accepted as part of a community you respect.

<polyachka> and how to get from non-paid contribution to paid, so that you can support yourself while doing what you love?

<mchua> So, it’s my opinion that “getting paid to do open source” is *not* the right endgame for everyone.

<mchua> If that’s your goal, that’s great, but not everyone wants to do it as a dayjob.

<mchua> What’s worked for me is that I just do what I love to do, get really good at it, and eventually someone hires me to do it because I’m providing tremendous value to a community their business relies upon.

<mchua> You build your portfolio as a contributor first, *then* you can apply for jobs at places at Red Hat.

<polyachka> i asked that because many good volunteers have jobs they don’t like but do free work in the field they love

<mchua> But other people want to use open source contribution as a way to enrich the jobs they already have.

<polyachka> it seems that you managed to do it right – get paid for work you love doing!

<mchua> For instance, a lot of folks in the Fedora community are sysadmins for universities, various sorts of industries…

<mchua> they don’t get paid to work on Fedora per se, but Fedora is a place where they can work on things that make their job easier, network with other sysadmins doing the same sort of thing.

<mchua> It’s sort of like why you would join a professional organization – your employer won’t pay you to attend, say, Architectural Society meetings, but hanging out with other architects might help you be a better architect for your company, and it’s fun.

<mchua> So sometimes you can use open source as a sandbox on the side to work on something that you can then take back to your job, to your boss, and make your career more interesting to you.

<mchua> It would depend a lot on the individual situation, really. If you want to get a job doing open source, think about “okay, what do I like to do in open source that somebody would actually pay me for?”

<mchua> For instance, there are plenty of people who use open source tools and designs while freelancing for their clients – “I’ll build you a website, and I’ll do it in Drupal.”

<mchua> or “I’ll design a logo for you, and I’ll use Inkscape.”

<mchua> Drawing on open source tools and communities as a means to do a job you love rather than the objective of the job itself.

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One Response to “Open Source Educator (Part Seven: Recognition and Getting Paid)”

  1. […] Open Source Educator (Part Seven: Recognition and Getting Paid) SaigonOLPC […]


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