To someone who’s not familiar with the concept of open-source development, it can be a difficult one to get their head around. “You mean people do this for free? And give their code away?” “Well, yes, they do.” If your default frame of reference is copyright and closed-source, this can be something of a head-spinner.
This video visualises the “many hands make light work” paradigm at the heart of open source. It’s a visual representation of contributions to the Ruby on Rails project, from the inception back in 2004 through to the end of last year. It doesn’t seem too significant until about 5 minutes in, when the activity explodes as Rails really takes off. As individuals contribute more code, they gravitate towards the centre of the mesh, so you can track the magnitude of people’s involvement as they fly in and out.
Ruby on Rails from Ilya Grigorik on Vimeo.
The underlying point is that Rails - like many, many other open-source projects - isn’t a commercial undertaking, yet it has a community of active developers which would be almost impossible to replicate in a commercially-oriented environment. And sometimes you need a picture or two to bring the point home.