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Open Source for Relaxation?

Filed Under Thought Stuff

Is Open Source the child of selfless invention or the byproduct of relaxation?

Until recent, I had drawn the mental image that the Open Source community predominately consisted of idealistic college students and bored adult developers. If I would have voiced this opinion I am sure that the Slashdot crowd would have descended on me. Chris Anderson knows about this backlash when he declared Open Source as the output of bored developer ‘spare-cycles’.

An article on using your craft to relax opened my eyes that it may be the case that the Open Source community is selflessly using their craft as a form of relaxation. Reasons we need relaxation comes in many forms, but the way developers relax comes in many forms as well.

Passionate Learning

A lot of developers have the personality trait that the act of learning brings them pleasure, and as a result they become passionately curious. There are many reasons why to quest for knowledge outside of the normal working hours:

  • Bored but have the need to be constantly productive
  • Unchallenged from our jobs and want to push ourselves
  • Inability to learn during working hours
  • Curious about technologies that would never be applicable to our careers

Open Source is a supportive community where people can selfishly learn while selflessly building something of use. If only pharmaceutical companies had the same passion we might have a cure for cancer…

Venting Frustration

Some software projects can get so dark and twisted from their original design that it relentlessly frustrates the development team. Alternatively, bad management or out-of-date development practices may have thrown you into a state of frustration. When developing on your own time, nobody is your boss and like Burger King – you can have it your way.

Once upon a time, I was on a project that went horribly wrong. Out of pure frustration, I kept two versions of the source code. The first version was the official business copy, designed by committee and regulated by an idiot. The second was a personal copy that I worked on at night. The sole reason for working on the second copy was to vent my anger at the inevitable failure of the project. I needed to know that it was bad management responsible for the project failure and not my ability to code the requirements.

Like a phoenix, sometimes beauty arises out of flame and ash.

Single Point Meditation

In a multitasking world, one of my favorite relaxation exercises is single point meditation. Like watching a campfire burn, nothing exists but what is currently presented to your eyes. Voiding your mind of all incoming things and concentrating on a single item is a lot like being in the ‘developer zone’ which can be impossible when at the office.

Sense of Play

During the day, we might be forced to develop programs we might not be interested in. At night, the exact same activity in a different context can become a fun hobby. Need I say more?

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play. -Heraclitus


Open Source at its core is about productive relaxation, and truly gifted are those that can simultaneously relax and make the world a better place.

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