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Obtaining Grants for Open Source Projects? 57

Posted by Cliff
from the other-options-for-funding dept.
Michael Chisari asks: "Does anybody have any leads or information about where and how to apply for grants for open source projects? I've been working on an open source social networking software called Appleseed for around two years now. The goal is to be a free, distributed alternative to MySpace or Friendster where users on separate Appleseed websites can fully interact with each other. The project is huge, and while relatively far along, I've had a hard time keeping up while maintaining the full time job necessary to pay the bills. Ideally, I'd like to get funding so that I could focus exclusively on development. I'd prefer a grant from a foundation as opposed to corporate funding. Individual donations are nice but can't always be counted on. I'm not sure where to find organizations which provide grants for free software or social networking."
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Obtaining Grants for Open Source Projects?

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  • by szyzyg (7313) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @01:36PM (#15122615)
    Sounds like imeem [imeem.com] - any other slashdotters out there using imeem for connecting and sharing?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Imeem isn't open source, is it?
      • No but they do contribute heavily to The Mono Project, and they're released Open source code - such as their 'Dumbarton' project which bridges Objective C to C#. So, not open source, but certainly contributing to the community
        • by Anonymous Coward
          That's great, but these projects don't seem comparable if one final package is open source, and the other isn't.

          How can it be truly distributed if you have to run proprietary software to use it?

          This appleseed project seems really cool, especially since it's web-based. It seems to solve the problem of what happened when everybody jumped from Friendster to MySpace. It'll be interesting to see if it catches on.
          • 'How can it be truly distributed if you have to run proprietary software to use it?'
            Huh? You should look up the meaning of the word 'distributed' - but I understand you really want to run Appleseed on your talkie toaster and that commercial companies are unlikely to port their software to the platform (unless it's toastmaster 2006) ;-)

            Sure, imeem is mainly interesting in this context because it's innovative, compared to those monolithic websites like friendster/orkuts/whatever. It's clearly solved a lot of
    • FOAF (Score:3, Informative)

      by CRCulver (715279)

      Sounds like imeem

      Or like FOAF [foaf-project.org], the XML (RDF) dialect for describing social networks that really shows the power of Semantic Web concepts. FOAFNaut [foafnaut.org] is a good example of how by combining these simple RDF descriptions with visualization technologies, one can easily create a easily and pleasantly navigable source of information. (There's some other cool examples in Springer-Verlag's Visualising the Semantic Web [amazon.com] ). FOAF files are a cinch to create--there's already a couple of user-friendly generators--and I

      • by szyzyg (7313)
        Yep that data in FOAF or any other format is an asset of those commercial organizations, they'll happily provide you tools for importing data in FOAF format, but they're not going to let you take that away from them.

        You can build FOAF data by scraping those sites, or I guess in the case of Imeem you could exploit its distributed nature and pull the data directly from the database on your client, but that'd probably require more work than just writing another website scraper.
      • More probable than not, Appleseed will eventually support FOAF.

        It's an open standard, and from what I know about it, there wouldn't be much reason not to.
  • by dominion (3153) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:00PM (#15122818) Homepage
    I'm very glad Slashdot posted this. I've been looking for sources of funding for a little bit now, and I'm at a loss for where to go from here. We've had a trickle of individual donations, which are great and have really helped a lot. But what I'd like to be able to do is take a few months or even a half a year and focus exclusively on Appleseed, especially since it's really starting to come together as a project.

    Most of the past two years have been creating an API. Although I probably could have already found the pieces I needed already built, the advantage was that I had a consistent and custom API to work with. And the API has served me pretty well, for instance, the messaging system was written in around 3 days worth of work. Other sections were similarly rapidly developed, but there's still a lot to be done. The final product will combine photo sharing, journals, messaging, and friends list into one package.

    Somebody metioned imeem as another distributed social networking project, but I don't think we're particularly in competition, since imeem isn't open source. The purpose of appleseed is to create a network of websites that all work together, and open source is a big part of making sure that anybody who wants to set up an appleseed node (even if it's just for them and a dozen friends) can do so and still maintain full interaction with everybody in the appleseed network.

    This is really a project I'm very excited about, and the possibilities are endless. At some point a module architecture is in the plans, which will add the possibility of IM, P2P/torrent filesharing, social bookmark (ala, del.icio.us), social calendars and more. For me, this is where I want the web to go, and at the same time it seems like it's more of a return back to the early days of the internet, when the focus was on distributed networks which inter-communicated, as opposed to a single, monolithic location where all interaction occurs.
    • I'm very glad Slashdot posted this. I've been looking for sources of funding for a little bit now, and I'm at a loss for where to go from here. We've had a trickle of individual donations, which are great and have really helped a lot. But what I'd like to be able to do is take a few months or even a half a year and focus exclusively on Appleseed, especially since it's really starting to come together as a project.

      I invest about US$20K a year in new projects and businesses, but all of them require a business
      • Mod this post up, it's straight to the point.

        Realize that what you're asking for is free money. You're pretty clear about it, I will say, as you are asking about "donations" and not "investment." An investment implies a future return (hence the acronym ROI). Free money is hard to come by. Investments are easier, but require some assurance that the money, plus some other money to go with it, is coming back.

        MySpace generates revenue primarily through ad revenues. With around 70 million subscribers, I can
  • by ecklesweb (713901) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:05PM (#15122864)
    The only way I've personally seen open-source projects funded by traditional non-profit foundations has been when that project is part of a larger academic initiative. I'm working on a project based on open-source archive software; it's being funded I believe by a major non-profit foundation as well as a few corporate foundations and private donors because it's part of a larger civil rights project. I'm aware of another project involving learning modes that had as a major component an open source "virtual tutor" system. It too was funded my some major grants.

    My suggestion to you would be to find an academic whose research interests intersect with the functionality of your open source project. Find a way to establish a joint project, and then apply for funding. I would also point out that obtaining funding can be a full-time job itself, don't short-shrift that position.
    • It would help if you had an educational component to this ie., how can teachers, students use Appleseed as a forum yadda yadda or how can academic groups collaborate to use this system. Then definitely hook up with academia to write a co-grant. Currently NSF funding isn't so hot but it's possible that someone already has a grant or need a component like yours for their current grant. All NSF government-funded research projects are supposed to set aside 10% of their funding for educational outreach purpos
  • My subject above lays out the process I've seen for business ideas and how the funding is runs in cycles.

    The best way to raise capital is to find family and friends to invest in you. If your idea is profitable and you are original, you can probably come up with enough cash to take a few months off work to focus on your dream.

    The dotcom boom brought a ton of venture capital, but much of this new money was created by the Fed out of thin air -- it was "easy" money, so it was invested unwisely. Since most VC'
    • Pssst! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eli Gottlieb (917758)
      Not everything is for-profit.
      • Actually, all profit means is that you put in time and others were willing to give you some of their stored time ("money") in exchange for time you saved them. The best way to prove that your product or service has value is when people either put their time into using it or they are willing to give you some of their stored time to help you make it better. The word profit is NOT equal to greed by any means.

        For an open source project to be successful, it either has to be built once and never touched again (
    • >> Why not go get 2 or 3 jobs, work VERY hard for 12 months
      Many companies force you to sign an overly restrictive Intellectual Property Agreement, where the company owns all of your thoughts 24/7.

      Are you willing to invest your time and money in an idea that your employer might have claims on?

      Before I spend alot of time and money on a major purchase like a house, I would at least like to have a "clear title". I want to know that I am the owner. I do not have that "clear title" to my ideas and invention
  • I've been wanting to know about this for years! Please, someone share your knowledge of writing grants and potential sources.

    Step #1 seems to be getting non-profit org status (probably meaning a 501c3 filing). Step #2 is to start the begging process.

    Personally, I'd like to get some $$$ for the Wine project. I want to apply to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • The AFFS (http://www.affs.org.uk/ [affs.org.uk]) have a limited amount of money that they are able to use to fund Free Software projects. Some preference is given to UK-based projects, and to those projects which contribute something unique to the community, but all are welcome to apply for money.

    We're not talking megabucks, but certainly enough to fund certain tasks/milestones.
  • You don't need a grant for your project. Grants are to give you funding while you develop a project (lets not debate it's merit here) so that you can aford the costs of development. It sounds like you've already developed it, so what you really need is advertisers for when you launch. Giving that you're going up against MySpace I'd have to advise you to find a time machine and go back and warn yourself to spend your time on a different project (seriously, what could you have spent that much time on? I cou
  • Now let's see... There's doubleclick.net, and Google, and...

  • Generally, you have to hunt for the grants. The grants are generally to provide research and development twards a specific goal.

        Take a look at grants.gov as a good starting place. From there, search. Find a grant that MAY be considered relevant. Bear in mind, you'll need a buisness and commercialization plan as well. It isn't just 'free money'. But do your homework, and you could get upwards of 100k.
  • Not to be mean but what value does it have to the world at large? A grant is pretty much a gift. Why should someone give you a dollar that could go to Moodle, or AIDs research, or the local homeless shelter?
    Being really cool isn't enough.
    The other option is how could someone make money with this?
    If you really love the idea and enjoy working on it then do it.
    You are the grant giver.
    It does sound interesting and I could see it as a good grad student project but I don't see how it is worthy of a grant.

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