While it concentrates on the kernel itself, the report is still exhaustive:
- Covers a period of over 3 years
- Spread over 14 kernel releases
- Relating to 3621 lines added, 1550 lines removed and 1425 lines changed
- Forming the output of over 3600 developers from over 270 companies
Some of the key takeaways include:
- The individual development community has doubled in the period under review
- The top 10 individual developers accounted for over 15% of the output
- The top 30 individual developers accounted for around 30%
- The top 10 contributing “groups”, including companies, account for over 75% of the output
But the most important assertion made by the report is the following:
Over 70% of kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work
And you know something? I agree with a lot of the report; there is a lot that I have learnt from the report. But that one conclusion, that nearly three-fourths of development is carried out by paid developers, that doesn’t quite sit well with me.
I could be way off beam here, but my hunch is that the conclusion could be wrong. Why? I think it has something to do with the Because Effect.
Yes, the developers are paid. Yes, they are paid for their work. What I am less sure of is that the work they get paid for is the work that contributes to the kernel. Over the years I have been in many situations where developers have asked me whether they can contribute to opensource projects, but much of it has had to do with things like opening ports.
I am sure that a very high percentage of the output (in the Linux kernel, over the last three years) has come from employees of commercial organisations. But my gut feel is that these developers contributed the effort and the code because it made their jobs easier, because their contributions helped them solve problems, rather than because they were directed to complete “assignments” or “work packages” related to the kernel.
It’s a question of motive.
As more and more firms adopt Linux the community of developers will grow. This is not surprising. As more and more firms adopt Linux there is more of a market for other firms to make money because of Linux rather than with Linux. This is also not surprising. And a small number of firms will actually continue to make money with Linux, if you want to call the sale of distros and support and documentation and training and consultancy a “with” proposition.
As all this happens, the bulk of the growth in consumption of Linux takes place in commercial organisations, so it is not surprising that the bulk of development of the kernel takes place via the efforts of people in those organisations.
My hunch, however, remains. This is not paid work. It is voluntary work done by people who do get paid, paid to do other things.
I may have got this completely wrong, and am happy to be proved wrong. I will learn.