Is there any lingering ill-feeling among Pidgin core developers that you had to change your name because AOL had the trademark on AIM?
Many of us weren't happy about it. More so because of the time it took than because of the name change itself. That being said, I think all of us are happy with the name Pidgin, and would not go back if we could.
What were some other names considered before choosing pidgin?
Far too many other names to count. Some, such as "mulberry" were rejected because we were afraid they would land us in more legal trouble somewhere down the line. Others, such as "Arietta" (were rejected) because we really just didn't like them.
Why is open source, generally, important as a development model?
Because the software it produces is of superior quality than most of the software produced by commercial methods.
Why do you think open source works better (than proprietary models) as a distribution model?
Precisely because the program is written to meet real needs by people who personally care about meeting that need.
The open source community has grown quite dramatically in recent years. What positive and negative changes have you seen as a result of this growth, from your perspective as a developer?
There are far more people finding open source software who do not understand or appreciate the many hours of donated labour that goes into creating it. These users make demands, drain resources and, worse, developer good will, without giving anything back, not just to a particular project, but to any project. Imagine if everyone had just demanded of the kernel hackers without working on Linux applications; open source, as we know it, would not be here. No one would use it, because the kernel alone would have been useless. The real negative is the loss of the idea that you should contribute something in return for the free software you have received.
The benefit is the many people who have not fallen into this trap. They have become developers, or helped projects in other ways.