"OMG! Like, how are Open Source developers gonna get paid???"
...usually asked in some worrisome tone, as if Open Source developers around the world were, like, starving or something and panhandling on the street. So here's a quick test on the absurdity of this question:
1. Do you see lots more open source development than ever before?
Ok, proceed to the follow-up:
2. Do you see open source developers filling homeless shelters and food stamp lines?
Well, gosh, I guess that solves that dilemma. And yet, I hear that question ALL THE TIME. In 1999 - 2001, sure, it was a fair question. After all, there was legitimate hypothesizing that open source was fueld mostly by the .com bubble. I never believed that, but the concept was new enough at the time that I can see that as a plausible explanation. But now, going on 7 years after the dot bomb? No way.
Frankly, I just don't understand why the question still pops up. Nor do I understand the usual companion question/statement: "OMG! Red Hat, Canonical, and <insert company here> make money off the backs of free labor from individual developers!" 1.) I don't see why anyone is concerned if an open source developer is monetizing their project and 2.) I don't believe it's true - I think Open Source developers do, in fact, make money. Let's look at Red Hat, a well-known example of an Open Source company - they make money off of many open source projects because they can. Because they've built a reputation around their ability to deliver such projects in a form that is readily digested by their users. Customers find value in this, which is why they pay for it. So what of the individual projects that comprise Red Hat's distributions? What if they don't get paid? Assuming they don't get paid, you can really only point to one reason: because no one thought it was of high enough value to pay for it. Whether or not Red Hat is in the picture to make money off of their distribution and support is immaterial - either way, this hypothetical open source project is not making money. However, *with* the existence of Red Hat, suddenly these open source developers have a conduit to a rather large audience and now have business opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. In fact, if you take a look at Fedora or Ubuntu these days, you'll find lots of software that is directly supported from various companies for various reasons - and some that isn't.
If developers don't get paid, it's not Red Hat's (or anyone else's) fault. I don't actually believe that open source developers work for free - in fact, I think the vast majority of developers get paid in some form or another. Those who cut their teeth on personal projects will surely be able to parlay that into some form of employment in the very near future. Or they're paid by their company to work on a side project that's not a core piece of software. OR, as is increasingly true, they work for a company that sees the light and pays them to work on their core product, which happens to be Open Source.
This is not rocket science. The early open source nay-sayers often contended that open source wouldn't last because no one would get paid for it. They were wrong then, and they're wrong now.