Some thoughts about open source and the software industry.
Before I start, I have to make this clear: I will be using the term "open source" in the meaning of "free/libre and open source software" in this post. It's due to the meaning of "open source" might get confusing depending on the context sometimes. Alright.
It's been over 4 years that I decided to contribute to the open source community. In the beginning, I was just making my personal projects open source to share with my friends and see what they think. It was more like a free code review tool for me since I didn't know that much about the underlying philosophy and themes of open source. I was a beginner at programming after all and surely I was not expecting too much. As time goes on, I kept putting things up on GitHub and my point of view drastically changed when I realize the benefits of it.
Basically, I was improving myself and helping people out on solving specific issues or improving their experience. A few things that I'd like to pinpoint here are:
Often times I was finding myself trying out new techniques to solve a problem. And I was free to do so. There were no deadlines or specifications that I was ought to follow. There were only guidelines that have been set by other open source projects.
It was so satisfying to see something that I've built from scratch getting used by people. The feedback that I'm getting through issues and pull requests were showing that I've done something beneficial. Although this was expected since my mentality was always "I need this, maybe someone else might too".
99% of the time I was working with other open source software. They were making my life easier and I was happy to try to build something that makes other people's life easier. I think it would be nice to you pay what you take from the community at some point.
And after those years, these things still count. Perhaps they have a greater significance now.
Today I have an actual job that pays me for writing lines of code. Back in the day I wasn't expecting too much from my open source activities but it paid off in the end and it still is. I don't remember a point in my life that I have to prove that I "know" a programming language/technology for a job. Thanks to open source, it can be seen rather than being said.
So what's up with the "motivation"? Well, let me explain the mentality of some people around me.
There's something that I hear from my close friends which is "if doing open source carried you somewhere and you got a real job now, you can stop doing open source and focus on the things that will pay you because you know, everything is money".
(Let's say this statement is coming from people who don't make anything off of open source, e.g. only hobbyists like me.)
Maybe you'll call me a lunatic for saying this but I strongly disagree with this statement. Yes, money is important but it is not important enough to just quit my volunteer work that "actually" helps people. At the end of the day, I'm not expecting to get too much out of it but I know at least some people will appreciate it. (patrons, hey!)
I'm not the best at managing time but I think everyone who is involved in open source should keep their bonds with it somehow by managing their "real working" times. A couple of hours a day for improving yourself / working on your project or helping out other projects is perfectly fine apart from your actual job, I think. Who knows, maybe your project will grow unexpectedly and you will start your own company and provide jobs for other people. It's a matter of keeping the "open source" attitude at this point.
To sum it up, I would say open source is more important than we think. It's definitely not just a way of developing software or marketing it, it has its own inner mechanics that will force you to keep yourself learning more.
So don't get caught in the wrong vortex.
Just dream, build and soar.