I have often seen it in my career in teaching. A monthly contract is set and you go to work. At first, you are on fire making plans and setting things up, matching resources against objectives. It is easy to be motivated. Then reality (students) enters its ugly head and plans must be revised to fit reality, good or bad. It becomes the teacher’s task to motivate students who could care less about education and to guide the inspired learners in good directions. Then in the short days of winter, it is easy to be depressed about how things are going and to dwell on the failures rather than the successes. That’s when the good principal steps in and gives an encouraging example or remark. Teachers get fired up all over again responding to the current problems with creative means, doing more with less, getting a teacher’s greatest assets (students) fired up to solve the problems and being pleasantly surprised that impossible tasks become easy when approached differently.
It’s all about inspiration. An inspired person can do difficult things that others consider impossible. Like a fire, you cannot will the fire to grow you have to give it what it needs. It will grow naturally. Yelling at a fire does nothing. Punishing it by removing resources does the opposite of what is required. Rewarding it by dumping an excess of resources just smothers it. The same is true about inspiring people to do great things according to research published recently.
“If you want to help people perform well, make sure that they don’t have to worry about other stuff besides their work and give them positive verbal feedback about the work they do.”
see Motivation and Reward | Zwillingssterns Weltenwald
That’s a good rule to remember to encourage FLOSS developers and contributors to do great work. It’s also why detractors invest so much effort to make FLOSSies feel badly about their work. That reduces inspiration and disrupts productivity. It’s why trolls come to my site to disagree with everyone sharing news of good results in the world of FLOSS. It’s why I ban them eventually…
Look at the heroes of FLOSS. Some of them appear to work incredibly hard for many years with increasing motivation to do well without being paid on “piece work” or per unit of production. Compare that with the minions of non-free software who work for years and produce stuff like Vista or “8″, totally uninspired crapware, which users love to hate. Stuff that actually reduces the motivation of users and reviewers. It’s like those unfortunate souls whose only joy is to share their pain.
FLOSS is the right way to do IT. That’s why I recommend and use daily Debian GNU/Linux, a cooperative product of inspired individuals and organizations scratching their itches to succeed at producing great software. I used to use that other OS but it depressed me greatly by running slowly and crashing just at the instants we needed it to allow me and my students to succeed. In the whole world, over decades, that other OS has been depressing people by arbitrary rules in the EULA forced on people who find nothing else on retail shelves. Rather than abusing users like that FLOSS inspires them to do great things. That’s the right way to do IT, inspired, productive, creative, encouraged…