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Louis-Philippe Véronneau: What are the incentive structures of Free Software?

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Theory is nice, but it's even better when you can back it up with data. Sadly, most of the papers on the economic incentives of FOSS are either purely theoretical, or use sample sizes so small they could as well be.

Using the data from the StackOverflow 2018 survey, I thus tried to see if I could somehow confirm my previous assumptions.

With 129 questions and more than 100 000 respondents (which after statistical processing yields between 28 000 and 39 000 observations per variable of interest), the StackOverflow 2018 survey is a very large dataset compared to what economists are used to work with.

Sadly, it wasn't entirely enough to come up with hard answers. There is a strong and significant correlation between writing Free Software and having a higher salary, but endogeneity problems made it hard to give a reliable estimate of how much money this would represent. Same goes for writing code has a hobby: it seems there is a strong and significant correlation, but the exact numbers I came up with cannot really be trusted.

The results on community as an incentive to writing FOSS were the ones that surprised me the most. Although I expected the relation to be quite strong, the coefficients predicted were in fact quite small. I theorise this is partly due to only 8% of the respondents declaring they didn't feel like they belonged in the IT community. With such a high level of adherence, the margin for improvement has to be smaller.

As for altruism, I wasn't able get any meaningful results. In my opinion this is mostly due to the fact there was no explicit survey question on this topic and I tried to make up for it by cobbling data together.

Kinda anti-climatic, isn't it? I would've loved to come up with decisive conclusions on this topic, but if there's one thing I learned while writing this thesis, it is I don't know much after all.

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