Why I write Free Software

Brian Aker was a recent guest on the LinuxCast podcast with Don Marti. Brian has some interesting thoughts in this podcast and elsewhere on his blog, on motivations for writing Free and/or Open Source software. Here’s why I do it myself.

First an overview of the podcast, for context: the topics were storage engines, distributed version control, and motivation for open-source. (You should listen to it, if you haven’t – it’s short and Brian is a great speaker. I listened to it twice.)

I’ve been thinking for a while about why I write the MySQL Toolkit and innotop InnoDB and MySQL monitor for free. Some people have even tried to convince me to sell them. Brian’s comments gave me some things to think about.

The simplest – but incomplete – reason I is I like doing it, I have a lot of unfinished things I can’t finish fast enough to keep up with my new ideas as it is, and I don’t want to divert effort into making it a business. My feeling is that would add a lot to my list of things I need to learn and do.

But there are many more reasons, in fact.

There’s another element Brian didn’t mention: selling these tools would put me in a totally different frame of mind, one I don’t think I would enjoy. I can’t say for sure, but I think it would become a chore and I’d get burned out and resent it. Sometimes that happens anyway – but when it does I can take a break. I do spend quite a bit of free time on these things, as Brian says. Evenings, weekends, and so on. If you’re not willing to do that, I suggest you do it for a business.

Speaking of all this, just today I got an email offering me a bounty for fixing a bug in my Javascript number-formatting library. This is the first time this has ever happened, I think. If you want to support me too, how about you send me something from my wish list?