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John Gruber writes about the benefits of writing open source software, in the context of lack of participating in the porting of to the Mac.

I think John is overemphasizing the part about getting paid for work. A lot of people put a lot of free time into open source software (including me :-). But the problem is that people do NOT normally put a lot of free time into anything that does not give them direct benefit.

Whether it is serving in the Peace Corps, porting perl to the Mac, or working on Wall Street, people do things that satisfy some fairly direct desire or need. I desire to have certain tools on the Mac, and I get a good feeling from helping others, so I write open source tools for the Mac. Then there's Slash, which I use, and which helps others, but which doesn't help me or give me a good enough feeling that I would work on it much if I didn't get paid to.

But what benefit do I get from working on Maybe it does help others, but mostly people who are willing to pay for software anyway (i.e., businesses). It's not something I will use myself much, if at all. I simply have no incentive, and I am not alone. The fact that few people are working on it is strong evidence that few developers feel they would benefit directly, significantly, from for the Mac.

Some might say there's a long-term incentive of saving the Mac platform from the closing of Office, which is going to kill off the Mac eventually. Even if I believed that, so what? If it's true, then the future of many companies are relying on it, and they will put out the money to get it done.

That's how this stuff works. If things really are needed, they will get done. If things aren't getting done, chances are they aren't really needed.

(BTW, the name of the program is not OpenOffice, it is It's stupid, but there it is. )

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