How to earn a living with Free Software…

Continuing with the subject Case Studies II, at the third session we received a talk by Rodrigo Moya, a hacker and a developer of Gnome, who told us his experience over the years working in the world of free software development and impressions along the years.

Rodrigo first spoke of his experience, from its beginnings in services companies using and developing proprietary software, until he began his career in companies in the world of Free Software. As the vast majority of developers began working on a consultant, the kind that abound in Spain, during this time, he used Linux as a hobby, started downloading source code and his adventures in the world of free software. This helped him to see the differences in the way of working in companies proprietary and free software, I tried to apply some of these practices in the team where I was.

Began participating in the Gnome project in his spare time and after a time, without seeking a change of work explicitly, received a job offer from the company Ximian, who didn’t doubt to accept (and nowadays he considers one of the best company that he worked). He also worked at Novell (after buying Ximian), Canonical and is currently in the company Collabora.

Rodrigo talked about several conclusions that were very interesting to me:

  • Avoid burning on a project, trying to work on projects that will motivate and try to have a better working environment, for example by proposing initiatives to work together on common goals. Rodrigo had an experience with people of Gnome and Canonical, in which there were a series of disputes between the two groups, he did some initiatives to gain cooperation between both in an active way.
  • Once you have worked on a free software project, it is relatively easy to find work in companies engaged in this sector, possibly because it is a world where you get a large contact network, due to working collaboratively on these projects with other companies, and also motivated because companies who work in this sector have been so affected by the crisis and are growing at a slow but steady.
  • The existence of greater flexibility in companies in the free software world, not just the tasks you can perform, but also schedules, workplace, decisions, etc.. As explained by Rodrigo, this is one of the most divergent point with companies engaged in the development of proprietary software.
  • Working from home provides many benefits but can also have negative effects (Rodrigo mentioned this interesting post in Teo Romera’s blog), therefore provided a set of guidelines to mitigate these issues less positive, such as having a specific place intended to work, dress for work or even leave the house and go back to work in the house, because the feeling is more similar to going to a job in a company and helps to avoid to be unproductive and the desmotivation.

In my case I made various questions, the first one about the job market of free software, Rodrigo admitted that there are not many companies dedicated specifically to the development of free software, there are some like Igalia or Libresoft, but if there is a growing trend of companies that adquire people with great knowledge of free software tools, which favors that will gradually change the thinking and promoting development in this field. The second one is focused on identifying the origin of that in the professional world of free software is valued more to developers than in privative software, if this is cultural because most of the companies in the free software world are either foreign or due to the free software philosophy. Rodrigo replied that in his opinion is cultural, because of the different way of seeing things people in other countries where it is most widely used free software and there are more free software initiatives.

In my opinion this is most interesting presentation than we had on this subject, for several reasons, first because it not focuses on a free software project in particular and its peculiarities, but it is real experience in the sector, exposed by Rodrigo, to give out the real vision of a programmer in a clear way about the professional career and not just in a free software community. Second, Rodrigo gives a ray of hope for programmers, like me, who like their develop and want to focus their careers for many years (or forever) in this work and that does not have to mean staying forever stuck in a salary and a category. Finally, I felt very identified with Rodrigo, because although I am not currently working in the free software world, if I’ve had many experiences in companies with proprietary software that Rodrigo talked, like the small consideration of developers in companies or time limitations or privacy statements. All I found it very interesting and instructive, and above all the posibility to contrast them with him and his experiences in the professional world of free software.


Rodrigo’s talk video [ES].




  1. #1 por UFC 145 LIVE STREAM el abril 19, 2012 - 10:14 pm

    It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people for this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


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