Q and A: Why Coders Write Open Source

Jeffrey Hammond is an analyst at Forrester Research, where he focuses on software development tools and techniques.
Jeffrey Hammond is an analyst at Forrester Research, where he focuses on software development tools and techniques. He spoke with Dr. Dobb's editor in chief Jonathan Erickson about this year's Forrester-Dr. Dobb's Developer Technographics Survey.

Dr. Dobb's: What's the biggest surprise this year?

Hammond: It's that mobile development has moved up by 33% over 2009, from 10% to 13% of all developers. And furthermore, it's how developers are building apps. Sure, iPhone is most popular at 55% [of developers writing for mobile devices], but Android is right there behind it--targeted by 50% of mobile developers. It should be worrisome for RIM that BlackBerry is a distant fifth, behind Windows Mobile and iPad as a target.

Dr. Dobb's: What are the characteristics of technology adoption these days?

Hammond: We're seeing a move toward mobile, and an increasing interest in HTML, but also other rich Internet application technologies like Adobe Flash and Silverlight. And in the .NET market, it looks like developers are finally starting to convert to XAML. Adoption levels of the .NET framework 3.0 and later are much higher than we've seen in past surveys.

Dr. Dobb's: Why are developers contributing to open source projects?

Hammond: This is great--it's my favorite part of this year's survey. The No. 1 motivation for developers who have contributed to open source software projects is that they find it "fun to solve problems," at 62%. That's almost 10% points higher than the next closest answer, a "sense of accomplishment." Only 9% are paid to contribute. What we have going on here is developers working for their own pleasure--open source projects seem to scratch that same internal itch that working on a good puzzle does. It speaks to the latent creativity we find in so many good developers.

Dr. Dobb's: What motivates developers these days?

Hammond: The desires are pretty simple: the opportunity to master a new technology, to start up a business, and have more control over what they do. The chance to solve complex problems and get rewarded for their efforts. It's how those motivations play out that creates such complexity and character in our industry. All you have to do is look at all the "side projects" that we engage in to see how creative developers truly are.