“What motivates highly skilled and formally educated people with oftentimes closely related and demanding daily jobs to contribute to the development of open source hardware projects, in their spare time, without any monetary incentives?”
This was the question posed by authors J. Piet Hausberg, Assistant Professor at the University of Osnabruck and Sebastian Spaeth, Professor at the University of Hamburg in their paper: ‘Why makers make what they make: motivations to contribute to open source hardware development’, published in R&D Management.
Although Open Source Software development has been studied intensively, little is know about the maker community around open source hardware development. The authors investigated if the motivations were similar and why developers would contribute their private resources to the production of public goods.
As open source hardware starts to impact business models of incumbents in the industry, the research provides some timely insights.
The research findings suggested a number of similarities:
- Both activities are online communities producing non-rival, non-exclusive public goods
- Similar intrinsic motivations exist between the two groups as both cited enjoyment as a major reason for contribution.
- Shared extrinsic motivations include private benefits through improving own skills
But also interesting differences:
- Copyright law applies to distribution of software whereas hardware manufacture is controlled by patent law
- Copyright laws apply automatically but for hardware the developers need to apply for patents, which is a length and costly process
- Hardware development was more localised and often the communities meet in person in ‘maker-spaces’ to work together
The authors discuss the implications of these factors and the motivations between the two group in the context of changing business models and the growth of 3D development platforms.
One of the findings emerging from the research was how being part of the maker community provided enjoyment of work – described as being ‘in the flow’, when an activity is so pleasant and rewarding that people lose the concept of time.
The paper can be enjoyed here Why makers make what they make: motivations to contribute to open source hardware development
It is published within the R&D Management Volume50, Issue1 Special Issue: Open Innovation in the Digital Age January 2020 Pages 75-95