A new report from The Linux Foundation and Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) has found that 56% of survey respondents reported involvement in open source projects was important in getting their current job, and 55% feel that participating in open source projects has increased their salary or otherwise improved their job prospects. The “Report on the 2020 FOSS Contributor Survey” compiled the answers of 1,196 contributors to free and open source software (FOSS), and also found that 81% stated the skills and knowledge gained by working on open source were valuable to their employer.
One highlight of the report was the finding that, “[d]espite the survey being administered during the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, very few respondents were out of the workforce.” This aligns with our 2020 Open Source Jobs Report from earlier this year, in which only 4% of hiring managers reported they have laid off open source professionals due to the pandemic, and a further 2% furloughed open source staff.
In terms of why these individuals contribute to open source projects, respondents were unsurprisingly most likely to say because they use open source software and need certain features added, so they build and add said features. The next top answers provided some more insight into what motivates these open source professionals though. Those were “I enjoy learning” and “Contributing allows me to fulfill a need for creative, challenging, and/or enjoyable work”. This also aligns with the recent jobs report, where open source pros reported they decided to work in the open source community because “Open source runs everything” and “I am passionate about open source”. Both reports suggested that compensation, while important, is not a dominant source of motivation.
Focusing more on what open source projects can do to be successful, the new report goes on to suggest that, “FOSS projects could also provide some educational materials (such as tutorials or getting started guides) about their projects to help those motivated by a desire to learn.” This gets to the heart of our mission at LF Training & Certification – to make quality training materials about open source technologies accessible to everyone.
One area of opportunity for projects, employers and open source pros according to the report is around secure development practices. The survey respondents overwhelmingly reported that they spend little time focusing on security issues, despite both the quantity and sophistication of attacks increasing year in and year out, and goes on to suggest that “a free online course on how to develop secure software as a desirable contribution from an external source” may help. LF Training & Certification released just such a training program recently in the form of our Secure Software Development Fundamentals Professional Certificate program created in partnership with the Open Source Security Foundation and hosted by non-profit learning platform edX. The program consists of three courses which can all be audited for free, or those who wish to obtain the Professional Certificate may receive such by paying a fee and passing a series of tests aligned to each course. Employers concerned about software development security issues should consider mandating that staff take training like this, and projects should consider requiring it of maintainers as well.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the findings of the FOSS Contributor Survey; we encourage you to download and review the full document for ever more insight and recommendations.