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GNU is Not Unix

A New Free Software Donation Directory 100

Wolfgang Spraul writes: "CoSource and SourceXchange are closed. They became part of the history of Open Source Software Markets. However, I still need a place where I can find maintainers or core developers of existing Free Software packages that accept my feature request and payment, implement the feature within a reasonable timeframe and give me support if it doesn't work in my environment. Since no such place is in sight, I launched the Free Software Donation Directory as a first step. What do you think? How should the next Free Software market look like? Should there be one at all?" Right now, he's got around 20 projects listed, if you care to invest in some Free software.
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A New Free Software Donation Directory

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  • While your site looks quite good, why do we need a directory specifically for projects that accept donations? Isn't that like creating a new Google just for open source software? Why not just use the resources we already have?

    Open source projects can say easily enough on their own Web pages whether they accept donations or not, and can also put this information on their SourceForge.

    To that end, I think this would be an area where SourceForge could help. Sure, SourceForge might not be ideal, but it's the one place where almost all open source projects are listed.
    • Isn't that like creating a new Google just for open source software? Why not just use the resources we already have? ... SourceForge ... is the one place where almost all open source projects are listed.

      I think the answer to your question is pretty much the same as the answer to the question "Why should there be any software companies besides Microsoft?"

      Diversity rocks. There needs be a market that supports a number of competing solutions to the same question.

      Jumping back to your Google Reference. The Google relevancy engine depends on smaller sites that essentially vote for their favorites sites with links pages.
    • No, they cant use their Sourceforge accounts for donation pages. As long as they use SF for website space, having a donation page is in violation of the liscense/use agreement.
      • Thanks for your help. In fact, that would have been my answer to wackybrit - I love sf.net, but they just don't let you do donations.

        What I really want is to relaunch a Free Software marketplace. The Donation Directory is just the first step.

        Also, try to go to donation pages of existing projects. Sometimes, they are really hard to find (I donate about once a month myself).

        My directory just puts together some cool links. I just found the "Wine Party Fund" - did you know they accept beer donations for parties?
        • > I just found the "Wine Party Fund" - did you know they accept beer donations for parties?

          That's really strange. I'd have expected them to accept wine donations.
    • by pao93 ( 555117 )
      what's the matter with you? I checked your link about cats. don't know why cause i figured it was a troll. but then 'boss is a cunt' comes flashing on my screen. at work. maybe you should get a clue. it's people who do shit like this that need a serious facial readjustment.
  • Instead of donations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Martin Marvinski ( 581860 ) on Sunday July 21, 2002 @02:26PM (#3926560)
    Why don't you just make it a site where you can hire open source developers? Donations seem too much like charity, and I think it can be demeaning to those who write the features you want.
    • Why don't you just make it a site where you can hire open source developers?

      Perhaps the developers don't want to be hired? Maybe they would like to have fun writing software they like, free of contract?

      Donations seem too much like charity, and I think it can be demeaning to those who write the features you want.

      Why would it be demeaning if someone likes the software enouogh to offer money for it?
      • Actually, for hire type work isn't so bad an idea. There's no reason a contract has to be some byzantine legal trap that takes all the fun out of off-hours programming. Somthing as simple as "I'll pay $1000 when its done" can work. I've done a few of these myself, it's actually a common practice in our research group to hire students this way. Contracts do not need to be horrible binding things, they can still be simple.

        Another sort of contract that can work is Mandrake's new model. If you buy a membership they take your feed-back into consideration. I think that this is not to be confused with a charity donation.
        • Contracts do not need to be horrible binding things, they can still be simple.

          Sure, there is nothing wrong with hiring people to develop features and it's good to hear you're giving students an opportunity to earn some money in this way.

          What I meant is that an arrangement like this (regardless of the complexity of the contract) might not appeal to everyone. It creates an obligation on the developer, since the money is not free of strings, and this can take the fun out of the coding. For that reason many OSS developers might say no (unless the money is really convincing, of course).
          • Obviously these people wouldl not go through the trouble of liting themself in a directory that had the purpose of setting up mini contracts, or mention such an interest on there webpage.

            The projects that would like money for feature add stuff should mention it on their webpage, and should list with such a directory. *duh*

            Anyway as to the guy that said is this not a lesser google?

            So what, it would already be hyper focusses on relavancy, no nead to add OSS Open source type stuff to your search, and it could have other nifty stuff. It could be catagorized, it could have a monatary interest range, a whick liscence option, all that narrow the search, probably even to the point that you browse a list of projects all matching exactly your interest no nead to even search.

            I know that when I am interested in an old /. article I don't use google, I use /.'s search, and guess on the catagory.

            Again I don't think this is rocket science, A good project feature for hire sight would be good, and people that don't want any money for feature can either list as strait charity recepients, or not list at all.

            Even I think more than that before I post and look at my sig.
          • By gosh, Subcarrier, I think you just invented capitalism. Congratulations.

            Of course the developer can say no to a contract. Even if they misjudged their own motivations and signed into a contract they later decided wasn't "fun" (to use your terminology) enough, they can always skip break the contract and skip the money.

            This actually brings up a point of why such a system might be really useful (whether as a new website, or integrated into an existing system). Existing systems, like SourceForge, allow people to comment on one's develper skills. But for the benefit of the hiring party's trust in the develop, and therefore the developer's professionalism and potential value (read paycheck), it would nice develop a public forum for evaluating the work of hired developers.

            Compare this to the buyer/seller ratings in ebay. Like ebay, you would have to have a record of entering the contract to ensure only the hiring and development parties can comment on each other.

            • By gosh, Subcarrier, I think you just invented capitalism. Congratulations.

              Jeez, spare me the rethoric. I was just saying that donations also have their place and explained why I thought so. Contrary to what you might think, not all OSS developers are looking for a job. Are you making a counter argument or what it your point, exactly?

              That said, I'm all for having a "feature broker" site allowing potentially multiple customers to bid for specific feature and developers to nominate prices for the features. It just needs the legal framework to make the bids binding, in order to ensure that the developers actually get paid when the feature is completed as well as protecting the customer's rights, handling liability issues, contractual conflicts, etc. Considering that the groups are often international, this might be easier said than done.

              As for a "site to evaluate developer skills"... Well, hello? It's open source, you know, subject to constant peer review. Evaluate it yourself (or, if not competent, contract someone to do it for you).
        • Heck, for money it should not only be "done", but "well-tested" and "carefully wrapped". That's not something open source developers are very good at. My observation is that 98% of open source projects stall in beta- and alpha stages forever. Nobody's gonna pay the money for an alpha that crashes if you click the wrong submenu.
          • I t does not nead to be all those things. It really only neads to be as good as the rest of the project in wrapping and testing. I mean I am not going to pay 100 dollors and expect something more then the rest of the project, but for a simple hacked on feature it could still be worth it.
          • Open source developers not good at quality? I heartily disagree. In fact, the linux kernel hackers will identify 'company drivers' by the number of sleep() calls it uses to get the synchronization on SMP right.

            That's just the reality for most proprietary developers.
      • If it is something that you are giving to programmers, you would probably want to call them grants.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      By accepting donations. I can rid you of your problem by accepting them for you. I know charity is a terrible thing to have to accept, but I'm willing to make that sacrifice.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Free Software packages that accept my feature request and payment

    accepts your payment, for free software.... for free software....
    • Re:Good idea.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Artifex ( 18308 )
      accepts your payment, for free software.... for free software....

      Free as in, I need this done, I'm willing to pay for it, but you can give it away to anyone else out there, so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel.

      It's kinda like a church. Generally, churches need some sort of place to hold worship services in, and buildings don't get built unless people give money. However, after they get built, they're free and open to all members and guests, including those who haven't given any money. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but you get the point)

      If you don't like that analogy, think of PBS [pbs.org]. Certain foundations want shows made to deal with certain topics, and they pay for their production and later may subsidize their broadcast. That's how a lot of the shows get paid for. You don't have to pay to watch PBS, either.
    • accepts your payment, for free software.... for free software....

      Sigh. Free as in speech. Not as in beer. When will people get this?
    • ... as in speech, of course (I call free-as-in-beer "cheap"). Free software would be better off if more people commissioned development. At the moment the features we have are mostly limited to those so fascinating to create (or maybe valuable on a rsum) that the developers donated their labor. Even better if we can coordinate many customers' milder desires so that none of them need bear the entire cost--the result would be funded much like commercial software today, but as a sort of work for hire for the community it wouldn't be controlled by the original author(s).
  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Sunday July 21, 2002 @02:31PM (#3926574) Homepage
    Most free software developers are quite short of time because the project they work on is in their spare time and not their day job. Or if it is their day job, the time they have for 'cool features' is limited because the more boring and lucrative parts need doing first.

    If you have to work on only a few features, wouldn't you do those which scratch your own itch rather than those you were paid for? If you wanted to change the developer's mind about what to implement, you'd probably have to bid a lot more than just a thousand dollars. I wonder what the hourly rate of pay was for the projects on SourceXchange or CoSource, and how that compared with what the developers could earn in the 'outside world'.

    There are lots of small improvements to free software projects for which I'd be prepared to pay a $100 bounty, but that amount seems insultingly small for the work involved. If I work as a software developer myself, the time spent to earn $100 is probably about the same as the time that the $100 would buy for another developer. Okay, maybe I take three times as long to implement a feature for project X because I've never before seen the code for that project, but if you take into account tax (so I see only $70 of the money earned, and the other developer sees only $50 of that) and other overheads, it doesn't seem like a particularly good deal. Sites like CoSource might be useful for _users_ to find development, but it's the first rule of software that users don't know what they want. Unless they are really big users (like the Weather Channel funding Radeon 8500 drivers), and then they probably don't need someone else's website.
    • by stevey ( 64018 ) on Sunday July 21, 2002 @02:55PM (#3926651) Homepage

      If you have to work on only a few features, wouldn't you do those which scratch your own itch rather than those you were paid for?

      I wrote and maintain GNUMP3d [gnump3d.org] a streaming server for MP3's/OGG's. I originally wrote it because nothing was available which met my needs. After using it myself for a while I decided to make it available to others.

      To be honest the last few releases have only happened because of the users. It does everything I set out to do. The features contained in the last few releases were almost exclusively requested by users.

      Granted they didn't pay - but that's a good example of programming which wasn't explicitly scratching my itch.

      OTOH I have had a couple of people buy stuff from my wishlist [amazon.co.uk] in exchange for features, or to persuade me to implement a feature before I'd planned to. So I can see it from both sides.

      Personally I think a directory like this is a good idea - if there's somebody out there who wants to support OS work, but not donate to a faceless company like RedHat they can choose an application from the list there which they like and appreciate and easily find contact details.

      • Why don't you Donate your source code to charity for a tax benefit of the Replacement Value. Software donation isn't specifically listed so far as I can see, but "Art" or works of art must include painting, books, even records and cd's so why not GNUMP?

        • I doubt any charity would issue a tax receipt for any donations unless they could then resell that donation to raise money for their primary mandate. Or unless that donation enabled them to avoid paying for something that they would otherwise have to buy.

          Thus, donating my copy of MS Word could work (since they could avoid buying a copy themselves or resell it themselves and keep the cash), but that are they going to do with GNUMP?

          • If their Primary Mandate was to liberate the common man by releasing Open Source software into the wild, than GNUMP as a donanation would meet their objectives.

            I am researching the idea of Source Code as a tax deduction.

            As a candidate - Would you be interested in a tax deduction for GNUMP? - I Believe you can write off up to 30% of your annual income through donations.

            If you received a maximum tax deduction (Say 30%) every year from GNUMP - how many years would it take to recoup the effort in GNUMP?

            Would you be willing to change the license of GNUMP to add a requirement that non-profits who use GNUMP must acknowledge their use through a receipt for a donated "Work of Art" if it were still GPL compatible?


    • (like the Weather Channel funding Radeon 8500 drivers)

      Yeah, someone has to though. ATI sure don't seem to spend anything on developing their own drivers. ;-)
    • The problem is people are looking at Lines Of Code, not business priorities.

      Lines Of Code are liabilities, not assets.

      You can sell the right functionality, easily maintained, on time within a tight schedule, pixel-pushed and micromanaged to fit the needs and dark cravings of the PHB's. But LOC's themselves don't sell.

      These schemes are addressing the wrong end. A good Open Source company could go forth and get business and sub-contract to programmers, but what will _never_ work is sitting there saying, we have programmers, give us your business.

      Gold Owners _never_ buy LOC's. They don't understand code, don't trust 'em, couldn't used 'em if they tried. They buy warm bods to do stuff.

      A business that went forth an presented it self to its clients as a run'o'the'mill software shop, with cheapish rates, but was powered by SourceX style flocks of part timers, that may work.

      But you would have problems with delivery dates and schedules, since PHB's get quite antsy about that...

    • Agreed to the fact that $100 can be demeaning to a software developer who works on open source developer who is working *off-time*. But if there are people who are willing to look at other's code and try and make a bug-fix then the amount, though paltry, can be some reason to earn few fast bucks. Given the fact that there are a lot of coding demons amongst us who can find a bug real fast this money can be used for donating to other free software projects. There is another thing to be taken into consideration... The money is in $ ...what about people who donot live in US of A. What about the business model in that case ? How does one get to reap the benefits of one's hardwork. It would be an interesting note if you could elucidate your business model.
    • The reason we have "Donation" intermediaries is to take advantage of the tax code.

      If you get a tax break of 50% for example, you can give $200 and get back $100, so Uncle Sam is dollar matching your contribution to Open Source. Whatever else it might lack - getting Uncle Sam to help is a pretty good idea.

      Another Tool is to "Donate" the code itself to charity organizations. In that case, no money changes hands - but the programmer get a hefty tax refund - Once again Uncle Sam helping Open Source - but this time no seed capital!


  • free software and open source operates on premises
    that are remarkably similair to the ideas of SOCIAL THREEFOLDING.

    basically, instead of a tee-ter-totter of supply and demand*,
    it works more like a transistor -- regulating the supply and
    demand in accordance with actual human need.

    that's a lot like free software -- people have software needs,
    and they need to support the livelihood of programmers for the
    duration of the time they are creating a software product.

    but the human need (daily supply for food, house, machines)
    is not directly connected to the VALUE he creates for the
    money it takes to support his/her life. there's a disconnect.

    so supporting the producers takes up a certain amount of value,
    which sends out much greater value to the community 'for free' - in
    terms of sharing source and code with anyone that OPTS-INTO the POOL.

    for working within this sort of framework,
    there's no better (heavy-reading but short 7 pages) article

    http://home.earthlink.net/~johnrpenner/Articles/St einer-Social.html [earthlink.net]


  • SourceXchange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday July 21, 2002 @02:39PM (#3926600) Homepage Journal
    I think the biggest problem with the likes of SourceXchange (and others) was that they tended to request software that cost WAY more to develop than was being paid. (e.g. $100 to convert a J2EE server to use HPs proprietary RMI ripoff.) This just isn't good business for programmers. My free time is worth way more than the $.50/hr that it would end up as.
    • Re:SourceXchange (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes, but if 200 people all wanted the same feature for $100 each.....

      Why can't more than one person by the same feature at the same time? It seems economically efficient. I mean, if only one person could buy one feature at a time, everyone else who would have paid for it "free ride" on that one person who paid. On the other hand, if everyone who ever used a piece of software paid for a new feature by the exact amount it was worth to them, even if each the amount for each individual was small the sum could be very large.

    • Lets say the feature is worth $100 to you, so you offer $100 for it.
      It costs the programmer $500 to do it.
      If you are the only one sponsoring it, nobody does it.
      If 4 other people feel that it is worth $100 to them, and put up $100, the programmer gets his $500, and everyone paid $100 for the feature.

    • You're right, it'd take far more money than most people are willing to offer to actually pay for development at a reasonable rate. However, I could see it working as a way to encourage authors to continue working on their projects, while getting your pet features a bit higher up on the priority list. If I were a project manager and I had 5 or so features I was planning to implement in the near future, if someone paid $100 in favor of one of them, I might well not mind getting that one done first. Sure, for $100 few people will develop an entirely new feature that otherwise they wouldn't have done, but it might be enough to encourage them to shift priorities around a bit.
      • f I were a project manager and I had 5 or so features I was planning to implement in the near future, if someone paid $100 in favor of one of them, I might well not mind getting that one done first.

        "A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds." -Proverbs 17:8

        Effective indeed! ;-)
    • Nobody want's to pay the cost needed to develop something. The way this could work, is if it were a way to allow several (100's?) of groups to combine their contribution. It would probably need to be structured rather like those mathematics prizes, where the money can sit around uncollected for decades. But it would also somehow need to accumulate some of the prestige of those prizes. The money is only a part of the payoff when you win a mathematics prize. Another part is that it was you who did it.

      Probably the best way to do it would be as a PR event at some convention in hackerdom. Announce the challenge in advance, say, a month, and present the award at an event. This would mean that it would need to be an interesting problem, and also that it wouldn't be too difficult to solve in that time. The award would be for the best solution.

      At the end of the event, announce the problem for the next year. This one could be more difficult, but it would still need to be quite interesting. After a couple of years, the award might begin to be rather prestigeous. Then, in addition to the yearly problem, you could announce a challenge problem, with a two year deadline. Etc.

      Perhaps there should be ancillary events. High School challenges. College challenges. etc. as well as the free-for-all challenges.

      This is a considerably more elaborate effort than SourceXchange ever was. It requires more investment than that did. To justify itself, it would need to be a part of the PR budget as well as a part of the "get this software" budget. Probably more so, as you couldn't count on an answer that was sufficiently good at any particular time.

      SourceXchange was nearly an effort to get something for nothing. It wasn't a bad idea, but the people who bid on the software had no idea of development costs (in time-effort). So they underbid and got ignored.
    • Would you be more inclined to work on Open Source if it meant a big tax break - possibly even for years to come?

      If you donate your source code to charity - you could receive a tax deduction equal to the "replacement value".

      Say it took 1000 hours to Program that J2EE Server. Figure $120 an hour for 3rd party development - that's 120,000 in donations. probably wipe out half your tax liability. If you can get a charity to use the code - you could I suppose (IANAL) revise it annually for renewable deductions.

  • give me support if it doesn't work in my environment.

    If that's a primary concern, I wonder what you are using. Ultrix maybe? OS/390? ::shudder::
  • Uh?

    I don't see the need of this.

    However, I still need a place where I can find maintainers or core developers of existing Free Software packages that accept my feature request and payment, implement the feature within a reasonable timeframe and give me support if it doesn't work in my environment.

    You can simply find the website or mailing list for the software you need support or new futures and contact them directly.

    For instance, if you need one feature to get added to, say, Vim [vim.org], you could go to their site, find out the addresses for their mailing list and then send them a message stating with your feature request and your interest in paying USD $500 to whoever implements it.



    • That gives the original developer a near-monopoly on making changes. A task market [systemics.com] that isn't controlled by any project would allow competition and help establish fairer prices in for-hire maintenance.
    • Uupps, if you would actually go to vim.org and search around the site for a while, you would find out that you can support Bram's Uganda project by donating to the ICCF Holland, or by buying books from Amazon.com using the links they give you.

      And a directory can raise the awareness of such possibilities and put them together in one place, as well as provide a starting point for a Free Software development market like cosource.com was.
  • really necessary? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hashhead ( 560057 ) on Sunday July 21, 2002 @02:54PM (#3926650)
    While something like this or SourceXchange is great for advertising the fact that there can be a paying market for OSS (i.e. advocacy reasons), is it really neccesary from a practical standpoint?

    Sometime last year a company I was working for needed a new feature added to a high-profile OSS app before we could use it in our office, so we just emailed one of the developers and negotiated a rate - the task was quickly done and everyone was happy.

    Bottom line: unlike the myriad layers of corporate bullshit that sit on top of the average proprietary software developer, most OSS developers are directly reachable - just grab their address from the project's mailing list and ask if they want to earn some $$$ fufilling your feature request... No fancy 'marketplace' site needed - the whole internet is the marketplace.

    Got a problem with software from M$ or Macromedia or Adobe, etc.? Try calling the main switchboard and asking for the developer who coded that particular feature, so you can ask him about it... Yah...
    • If they were too busy on other projects, had retired or died, or demanded an unreasonable rate, wouldn't a venue for getting bids from other qualified maintainers have been useful?
    • Hmm, I take it back; now that I think about it, maybe it does make sense to have a 'directory' site of these kinds of project, again mainly for advocacy reasons.

      While I maintain it's probably not too hard to find someone to do the work without such a site, and that the project's mailing list is probably a better place to find help than a general purpose site, these sorts of transactions are invisible to all but the two parties involved (i.e. 'hirer' and hacker) - thus leaving no way to quantify this sort of activity.

      Without such a quantification, it's very easy to FUD people that OSS is largely 'unsupported' software from a tech point of view, that as a programmer there's no money to be made from OSS, etc. Pointing to a site that says "$10,204 was paid last week for the following enhancements to the following projects..." would prove wrong the FUDers (Fudders?).

      The thing is, it might even make more sense to post this info after the transaction took place, when the client is happy and the hacker has been paid. Also, including the identities of the two parties on the site (if they agree of course), would allow a [famous auction site]-style rating system to be implemented, i.e. I (the client) feel better about hiring Joe Hacker b/c I've seen the other paid hacks he's done listed here, and I (the hacker) feel better about doing this hack for the client, b/c I can see from their listing that they actually pay up when the work is done...

      This simple rating system might work better than the complicated system of third-party judges they used to use at SourceXchange (if I'm not mistaken).
      • Pointing to a site that says "$10,204 was paid last week for the following enhancements to the following projects..." would prove wrong the FUDers (Fudders?).
        Thanks, that's where I want to get to. In the initial post, you said it was so easy to find someone to do an extension for you. Well, I only have about 20 entries in my directory right now, and it's getting harder and harder to add 'quality' entries, names, etc.

        For example, I want to add LDAP user authentication to ircd. Cannot find anybody. I want a binary to binary compiler addition for bochs, where can I join with others who want that to get the necessary funds to fund a whole engineering team?
        etc. etc.

        And since all other places closed (cosource.com, sourcexchange) or do not want to go in this direction (sf.net), I decided to roll my own. I will see how far I get.

        Anyway, thanks for you thoughts and comments.
        • Yeah, and actually you bring up a good point - you do need a site to coordinate things if people want to band together to fund projects.

          Call it "aggregated patronage": I personally would like to see AbiWord add table support, but as a poor-ass college student I can't afford more than $10 torwards that goal, however, if there's 1000 others out there for whom table support is also worth $10, that's $10,000 right there.

          Of course there would have to be a time constraint included, i.e. it's only worth even $10 to me if it happens before the beginning of next semester, or whatever...

          But anyway, good luck with the site, and I hope you build this kind of functionality in there...
  • (1) Find all the big Open Source Development sites on the Internet

    (2) Make an engine which can search all of them

    (3) Put this engine on a website

    (4) Add a "Jobs" section to this website

    (5) Et voila!

    • (6) ???

      (7) Profit!

      I'm sorry, it had to be done eventually.
    • Ever look in the upper right hand corner of slashdot? There's this nifty little combo box with a selection called "All OSDN sites" and a text field next to it.
      Maybe SourceForge isn't big enough for everyone else, but it seems to suit my needs okay.
  • <rhetorical>What's the difference between free/open source software and shareware, again?</rhetorical>
  • The bug with this approach is that it assumes the person spending money will request a specific feature or a certain level of support.

    That's crazy. Businesses are already extremely efficient at providing new features and support. They are experts at those kinds of contracts and open source volunteers can't compete against them in such a simple minded way.

    The real funding need in the open source world is sustained, long-term funding for creative, exploratory research and development. We don't need customers who want to buy "features" or "support" -- we need customers who want to simply PAY US TO HACK on new and interesting projects that may be too new to help many customers directly today, but that will help the open source world evolve tomorrow. It's because we in the open source world don't pay people to "just explore" that Bill Gates gets to say the GPL is bad for the industry and unamerican and that fascistic copyright protections are a necessity.

    • I'm not sure about that. It seems to me that support contracts are a quite reasonable way to go. Not only do you get bug reports, you get paid to fix them. Of course, you don't get to choose the order in which you fix them, but you wanted to fix the bugs anyway.

      This would depend on the temperment of both the developer and the support requester, however, so YMMV.

      I do this internally at a company, so I know that it's not necessarily an impossible approach. My problem is that management insists that I use MS Access, regardless of how bad I think it is (and, I'm forced to admit, it has a dialog builder that's better than Glade, and a report builder that's better then ... well, I'm not aware of an Open Source competitor). Still, given free choice, I'd search harder for an alternative. (I hear that The Kompany has a report writer.)

      • There's nothing wrong with getting a bug report that includes some money -- that's fine.

        The problem is that people can only make enough money to fund development that way if:

        • (a) their program is buggy or missing critical features
        • (b) their program is commercially important to users already
        • (c) there's no Cygnus-type company to compete against
        • (d) the developer only wants a minimal hourly rate for fixing bugs -OR- the developer is so uniquely qualified to fix the bugs that he can charge a huge premium compared to other solutions
        Let's look at those from my perspective:
        • (a) I don't like to write the kinds of program that are perpetually buggy and always need fixing or extending. I don't think there should be financial incentive for doing so. (Looking at the documentation and development priorities of some commercially hot projects, I think one can see evidence of that incentive at work, but its difficult to try to discuss that objectively without stepping on people's toes.)
        • (b) I like to use my skills and broad exposure to design new kinds of software solutions to problems that most people don't fully recognize yet. In other words, much like a lot of programmers working for MS, I like to make it my job to work on programs that will start to be important a few years down the line. It would be premature to try to support advanced development like that on the basis of any kind of bug-fix or feature-development contract.
        • (c) Well, I'm not too worried about a Cygnus-type company wanting to "steal" my R&D business, but such companies still pose a problem. Suppose I thought "Well, I'll just self fund the intial development, then start my own support business once the project takes off." That would be unrealistic. The more likely outcome is "I'll self fund initial development, then some company like IBM or Suse will get the support contracts." The leadership of those companies has been so (from my perspective) ineffective about establishing any kind of R&D funding for open source, that I find myself seriously questioning my loyalty to the GPL and wondering if there isn't some better license that would let individuals do business with my code, but tell those corps to go screw themselves.
        • (d) Ultimately, bug fixing and support for open source is a low margin business (meaning you may as well think of it as a minimum wage job) because there is little or no barrier to entry for someone that wants to compete against you. The only winners in this kind of business are big companies who manage to achieve efficiencies of scale, and perhaps one or two vanity companies, who's prestige supports payment well above market rates.
        In summary, bug fixing and support are limited, lousy business models that do little to help creative free-agent developers or otherwise advance the open source R&D. This has nothing to do with what you termed "temperment" -- it's a serious problem and we're seeing a dismal lack of leadership from the execs who are in a position to do anything about it. Since those same execs tend (just as a general, industry-wide trend) to resource starve their in-house projects, I don't even hold out much hope for a sudden swell of grass-roots support for open source R&D funding from the ranks of technical managers. It's an alarm I keep trying to sound: redmond (to name just one example) hasn't stopped doing R&D. And when those companies use the label "R&D" -- it isn't just for tax purposes. They really do pay quite a bit to have people form little intellectual communities, trade ideas, and develop new systems in an exploratory mode. They really do (judging from their output) seem to have the goal of obsoleting the entire generation of technology to which pretty much every piece of open source code belongs, and, at least from a technical perspective, they have more than enough brain power to succeed.
  • This sounds a bit like what is being done with the Free Blender Project [blender3d.com], as covered in this story [slashdot.org].

  • I have always dreamed of a sort of reverse eBay for programming work. A party who is interested in seeing a certain feature implemented posts the specs on a website. The first programmer to submit a working solution to the open-source project mentioned in the spec collects the bounty.

    Maintainers of projects would have the advantage of being intricately familiar with the code, thereby giving them an advantage in this "job market" for their time spent as a maintainer.

  • Here's a possible model that came out of a little brainstorming.

    -A User creates a wish list item for a given Project.
    -The Project Maintainer, whether an organization, company, or individual, controls the cost estimation for the new project feature. No other developers may submit estimates (ie bids). These estimates include a dollar amount and a time to completion.
    -Users pool their funds to pay for the given feature. These funds should be held in escrow to ensure they actually exist when the estimation amount has been reached.
    -The work is completed

    This approach varies from the other approaches primarily by having the Project Maintainer act as the point of control for all development. This allows the Project Maintainer to allocate funds received for work done between developers and other overhead costs incurred in the general maintenance and development of that app in general. This also ensures that the code will be included in the primary distribution and supported in future releases, meets the development standards, and rewards those associated with the project.

    I have left out accountability on the part of the developer...I imagine there could be some contention between those who made and paid for a feature request and the person implementing it...One group saying the feature is not done as requested and the other claiming conformance to the request...but that's just a detail :-)

    I'm not sure it extends well to custom fittings for a specific user need, but I think that sort of work can be addressed as well with a more traditional bidding model. There is much less need in the customization case for the code to be included in the primary distribution. I do think the Project Maintainer should still be considered the preferred developer for such work.

  • Also see PubSoft [pubsoft.org], noted by /. [slashdot.org] a couple weeks ago. I've always been intrigued by Ian Clarke's FairShare [freenetproject.org] and Chris Rasch's Wall Street Performer Protocol [openknowledge.org]. The Free Software Business [crynwr.com] list is the best place to look for in depth discussion of funding libre software.

    A directory is good though. Freshmeat or the like would be the obvious place home for it, just another field or so attached to each project's record.

  • The main problem mentioned in many of the posts here is that a user might only be willing to pay say $100 for a new feature, but the time required by the developer wouldn't make such a small donation worthwhile. But what if multiple people wanted the same new feature and were each willing to pay $100 (or even many people willing to pay say $5)?

    What would be useful would be a site that allowed these people to get together and pledge a certain amount for a new feature. Once enough money has been pledged that the developer thinks it's worthwhile, they can develop the feature and collect the pledged money.

    For a discussion on how such a system might work, see The Rational Street Performer Protocol [monash.edu.au]

    • Interesting Protocol - Highly recommended reading.

      Modders might do Open Source a favor and read the link.

      P.S. If Uncle Sam were willing to forgive taxes in exchange for public works - could that not provide another method for sharing the cost of such?

      I believe the US tax code allows for the donation of code as art for a tax deduction. Open Source would do well to drive a test case through and demonstrate the limits of code donations.

  • Donate to charity = Tax Deduction = $ .:
    Donate Code to Open Source = $

    Under current tax law - I believe it is quite possible to Donate software to public NPO's and receive a significant tax refund.

    That is what the market for Open Source should look like in the year 2002.

    We need a non-profit to validate code donations as "Works of Art" or "Collections - ie Vinyl Records."

    That's it really. If you want to leverage it further - modify the GPL to "require" qualified NPO's to validate donations as condition for use. This means every time an NPO uses free software they should write a receipt to the author. This means yearly recurring tax deductions - so your 1000 hour Open Source project could be paying your taxes for years to come!


  • We've started a company that makes donations to Open Source projects and organizations based on sales made from our website. We publish the amount donated and let users decide how the donation is spent.

    For more information, check Open Soars [opensoars.com]

    • Do you accept Donations of Code?

      A Friend of mine has a project (OpenVPN which reaches 99% activity on SourceForge when it is released) If he donated the Source Code to Open Sours, would you write a receipt for the replacement value of his "work of art?"

      If so, he could see some monetary benefit without anybody writing a single check!

      Can you do it?

  • I think we need a new system. Credits for donations are of course useful, but most people just don't like to donate. And as several posters have mentioned, few people have the resources to pay for new features alone. The Perl people have done pretty good with their schemes to keep people like Damian occupied. And I think something like that is needed. You need to pay for something you see the benefit of.

    Personally, I don't like the word "donate", as it basically means giving away money, and not caring how it is used. If you pay for Damian to work on Perl, you more or less know what you get (well, not really, but you know it's going to be really cool stuff). If someone put up a similar project to pay for some gcc überhacker, I might be interested. On the other hand, just donating my windows tax to the gcc project without knowing how it will be spent seems a little silly.

    And more over, if people aren't interested enough in the same feature I want, I don't want my money to be used for other things (I guess most people organizing this sort of thing are pretty ethical, and try to use the money for something similar, but I still don't like the idea of random donations.

    We need a safe scheme for both parties (donators and developers) to raise money from the public, where the developers only get the money if it is enough to keep them occupied on the project it is supposed to help, and otherwise, nobody looses anything. I'm not sure how something like this would work, trust is hard to establish across economic and legal borders.

    It seems to me that we need some trusted financial entity (third-party) to organize the fundraising, that is acceptable to both developers and donators. I guess the ideal entity would be a bank, put your donations into the banks account, and unless the minimum amount of money is reached (after some agreed-upon date) the bank promises to pay everybody back (minus some fees of course). Anybody knows if this is a realistic option?

  • This is a GoodThing.

    Wish they would lose the idea of 'buying features' tho.

    Personally, I don't donate money to get more features. Yeah, I'm a nut.

    I look at free software more like a friend helping me move furniture. He may not ask but I'm damn well gonna fill up his gas tank, and prolly buy him some beer or a steak, too. It's got nothing to do with charity or commerce. It's just a good way to say thanks.

    (Haven't figured out how to get the beer into the modem yet, it always starts smoking after the first can...)

    Just my twisted view.

The absent ones are always at fault.