Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
The benefits of open source are a stark contrast to closed source options, particularly in the high-priced world of GIS software. The following is a general overview of some positive benefits of open source software.
Open source software refers to software projects that have the programming source code openly available for others to use. It is free to use and customise, and is generally unrestricted in its application.
Using or developing open source software has five advantages, which I list below. This is not to suggest it is suitable for everyone. Your business model, client base or other factors may not fit well with an open source philosophy. A program you need may not be mature enough to use in mission-critical applications, or your company might not have the required internal expertise.
Many projects have active communities. Support may come from email lists, live Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, commercial support packages, books, etc. The most powerful aspect of the open source community is that others also want the product to succeed. You have instant allies for troubleshooting and sharing ideas. Volunteer support is nothing new, even for proprietary products, but the striking difference is that your voice is heard and appreciated. You will probably even communicate with the programmer in charge of the project.
When deficiencies are noticed, the discoverer is able to help define the problem or even fix it. Developers of the project have publicly accessible bug tracking tools that users are encouraged to populate. Like-minded users and developers are able to work together, sharing code or the costs of funding program improvements that neither could afford individually. Open source communities are active, encouraging, a great source for finding new ideas and often the first to see innovate applications of technology being developed.
Open source communities and projects encourage innovation. New ideas, needs and problems you think are important are probably already on the minds of others. Together, you can better define needs and suggest changes to the developers.