Sometimes, when discussing my interest and work with JRuby and other Open Source projects, people get all upset. It's really hard to justify for a non-programmer the benefits of Open Source, but sometimes it can be as hard to explain to corporate programmers. "What? You give away code for free, for anyone to use?". Not only that, I also do it mostly in my spare time.
I'm not planning for this blog entry to be some kind of manifesto. I'll just detail the (very logical) reasons why I do what I do.
I work at Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden. KI is a University, and like all Universities in Sweden, we are part of the government. That means that most of our funding is tax-based. We use lot of Open Source in our work, providing services to the campus. We run mostly on Linux servers, we use Open Source frameworks when building internal systems. Needless to say, we have saved uncountable millions with this strategy. And the Swedish government did a review a few years ago that recommended that all tax-funded organizations should use Open Source software is possible. From this perspective, it is very rational to try to give something back. We mostly do this by trying to release everything we develop internally that can be repackaged for distribution easily. We also allocate some time for all our developers to work on Open Source projects of their choice. Needless to say, I mostly use this time to work on JRuby.
In my spare time
Rationalizing Open Source from a corporate perspective is quite easy. It's harder to answer why I also do it in my spare time. I spend on average about two-three hours a day on Open Source, with about 80%-85% of that on JRuby. So why?
First of all, I recognize that Open Source is important in itself. I firmly believe that the current market model for software will soon disappear. It is obvious that the classical, shrink-wrapped model doesn't really work. I want to make that happen faster. Contributing to Open Source projects make that happen.
Secondly, JRuby is important. Ruby is great, but it has it's short comings. I believe that JRuby will be the necessary bridge between the two camps that Java and Ruby seems to move towards. JRuby will bridge the gap and give crucial capabilities to both platforms, and that can't happen soon enough.
Third, I believe it's important to hone my skills. Doing software development means always have to become better and better in your areas, and new areas. This is hard to do in the confines of regular corporate culture. Open Source is practice for me. It makes me better and I learn crucial new tools and techniques. Reading other peoples code is an excellent way to learn, and that's easy with Open Source.
Fourth. And most importantly; I'm a coder. This is my passion. Code is art and coding is what I really like doing. I have code in my head always, 24 hours. I dream about code. I design software more or less irrespectively of what my front lobes are engaging in. I'm getting more and more that my subconscious uses programming languages to get around Sapir-Whorf, helping me think from other angles.
Charles wrote about this a few months ago, here. He describes mostly what I feel about coding.
Of course I have other interests. I'm very musical, creating and listening to music constantly. I'm very fond of Go. I read incredibly much (too much if you ask some). But coding is what I like doing best, and when you get down to it, that's why I do Open Source.