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Intrinsic motivation in open source software development

  • Bitzer, Jürgen
  • Schrettl, Wolfram
  • Schröder, Philipp J. H.

This papers sheds light on the puzzling evidence that even though open source software (OSS) is a public good, it is developed for free by highly qualified, young and motivated individuals, and evolves at a rapid pace. We show that once OSS development is understood as the private provision of a public good, these features emerge quite naturally. We adapt a dynamic private-provision-of-public-goods model to reflect key aspects of the OSS phenomenon. In particular, instead of relying on extrinsic motives for programmers (e.g. signaling) the present model is driven by intrinsic motives of OSS programmers, such as user-programmers, play value or homo ludens payoff, and gift culture benefits. Such intrinsic motives feature extensively in the wider OSS literature and contribute new insights to the economic analysis.

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Paper provided by Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 2004/19.

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Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:200419
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  1. Hendricks, Ken & Weiss, Andrew & Wilson, Charles A, 1988. "The War of Attrition in Continuous Time with Complete Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(4), pages 663-80, November.
  2. Lindenberg, Siegwart, 2001. "Intrinsic Motivation in a New Light," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 317-42.
  3. Bilodeau, M. & Slivinsky, A., 1994. "Toilet Cleaning and Department Chairing: Volunteering a public service," Cahiers de recherche 94-01, Departement d'Economique de la Faculte d'administration à l'Universite de Sherbrooke.
  4. Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2003. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000140, David K. Levine.
  5. Justin Pappas Johnson, 2002. "Open Source Software: Private Provision of a Public Good," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(4), pages 637-662, December.
  6. Mustonen, Mikko, 2003. "Copyleft--the economics of Linux and other open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 99-121, March.
  7. David P. Myatt & Chris Wallace, 2002. "Equilibrium Selection and Public-good Provision: The Development of Open-source Software," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 446-461.
  8. Hertel, Guido & Niedner, Sven & Herrmann, Stefanie, 2003. "Motivation of software developers in Open Source projects: an Internet-based survey of contributors to the Linux kernel," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1177, July.
  9. Helge Berger & Carsten Hefeker, 2004. "One Country, One Vote? Labor Market Structure and Voting Rights in the ECB," CESifo Working Paper Series 1165, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Bitzer, Jürgen & Schrettl, Wolfram & Schröder, Philipp J.H., 2006. "Intrinsic Motivation versus Signaling in Open Source Software Development," Working Papers 06-7, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
  11. Jürgen Bitzer & Philipp J. H. Schröder, 2002. "Bug-Fixing and Code-Writing: The Private Provision of Open Source Software," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 296, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  12. David P. Myatt & Chris Wallace, 2002. "Equilibrium Selection and Public Good Provision," Economics Series Working Papers 103, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  13. Zeitlyn, David, 2003. "Gift economies in the development of open source software: anthropological reflections," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1287-1291, July.
  14. Bitzer, Jurgen, 2004. "Commercial versus open source software: the role of product heterogeneity in competition," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 369-381, December.
  15. Bliss, Christopher & Nalebuff, Barry, 1984. "Dragon-slaying and ballroom dancing: The private supply of a public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 1-12, November.
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