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31 August 2011, 12:41

Zemlin: the business logic of contributing back to open source

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In an interview with Network World, Jim Zemlin, the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, stressed the importance of software developers who use open source making contributions back to the process; he said that "you are an idiot if you don't". He stressed that he was changing his earlier position in which he maintained that contributing back was the "right thing to do", as some kind of moral imperative. Instead, he now claims that it is more of a logical or business decision "because the whole reason you're using open source is to collectively share in development and collectively maintain the software".

Zemlin cited Red Hat as a positive example of contributing back to open source and the benefits that result: "Red Hat gives a ton back – a ton – and they are really the most successful Linux distro out there." He made the point that others who perhaps do not contribute as much would come round to doing so because it is always in their business interests, and that this would eventually bring them to make a greater contribution.

He gave Canonical as an example, and agreed that one contribution that the company is currently making is with the popularisation of Linux. Concerning further contributions from Canonical, he said: "They get open source well and as they grow, I think it will be in their business interests to give back. I don't keep track of it. I don't think it's that important."


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