Filip Muki Dobranić

When do programmers work for free?

Programmers perform tremendous amounts of work without any cash gain. From open source projects to random acts of kindness the questions of their motivation remain largely unanswered. In modern capitalism, unpaid work isn’t a new thing. It’s been studied extensively, though the study of unpaid work mostly concerned itself with household economics.

Still, the internet and - more importantly - software itself have disrupted the usual way of thinking about unpaid work. The modern developer usually isn’t economically vulnerable, and their work doesn’t only serve a household’s reproduction. The effects of programmers’ unpaid work are much more visibly impactful of the world.

In practice this investigation hopes to bring a better understanding when managing and designing open-source projects. However, answering the question of when programmers work for free is not only beneficial for our pro-bono efforts, but should shed some light on the underlying reasons that makes software developers the truest communists of the 21st century.

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