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NY Times: Open-Source Software Arouses Researchers’ Curiosity

“When technology stocks took their sharp tumble last week, many
companies appeared to lose one of their most important assets —
the ability to lure talented employees with options. To attract and
hold the best, you have to offer the chance to strike it rich.”

“Or do you? What are we to think when the best of the best
— the elite programmers that industry wisdom deems 100 times more
productive than the typical competent coder — donate their
precious time to develop software anyone can use without
charge?
That is the puzzle the open-source movement, most
famous for the Linux operating system, presents to economists.”

“Unlike most commercial software, which comes as
incomprehensible “ones” and “zeroes,” open-source programs always
include the source code, written in a programming language like
C++. Any programmer can look at the code and change it to fix bugs
or add features. Programmers contribute such patches to the user
community by sending them to a central authority, recognized as the
project leader. That person (or small group) decides which changes
are good enough to become part of the recognized version of the
software that is available to everyone. For instance, Linus
Torvalds, the creator of Linux, screens patches for the core
portions of that operating system.”

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