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The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: Voluntary Economies

Suppose you're responsible for a small or medium size Free / Open Source Software project. Suppose you need to keep your day job, because you don't generate enough money to live from your project (your product is useful, but it isn't mySql, jBoss,...). Maybe some of your users have mailed you to ask if they could send you a small donation. In any case, that's what occasionally happened to us (the iText developers) in the last ten years. But... after accepting a couple of donations, we decided to tell developers they should use the money to have a drink on our health instead. Because there's just too much administration and overhead (payment services, banks, governments claiming their share of the donation) to make it worthwhile. A big "THANK YOU" in a blog post with a link to our project was more valuable to us.
Nevertheless, having some pocket money (to pay for hosting, books, a PC,...) is always nice. That's why I was charmed by an idea that was presented at the first BarCamp Ghent that took place last weekend. A couple of Dutch guys introduced a service called TipIt. The concept is that you can leave small amounts of money (10 cents? $1? 2 euro?) in different people's "virtual tip jar". When the total sum of tips you give is substantial enough to justify a payment, you pay. The same goes for the people receiving the tips: when a certain limit is reached, they are paid. Meanwhile, the guys behind the TipIt initiative keep the interests on the money that is "waiting". That's a nice business plan, isn't it? This approach not only reduces the overhead in costs compared to using PayPal for every different payment; if you tip a site, you also get something in return: your name is mentioned on the site you tipped.
Granted, this is a novelty idea and I'm not sure if it's going to work, but the guys who thought of this initiative really know what they are talking about. Check out their presentations on Voluntary and Free Economies.

Journal Journal: Run "ads by Google"? Get taxed for more than you earned

Antwerp Calling writes (about me): Bruno Lowagie, a Belgian non-profit blogger writing free open-source software [iText], got this year's most unusual Christmas gift: a letter from the Belgian tax authority informing him that putting "ads by Google" on his local blog turned him into an overnight "independent entrepreneur", having to pay taxes as an independent businessman. [...] The Belgian tax authorities feel that not only does he have to pay taxes (on the few $ he made through 'ads by Google'), he's also forced - and this is a major nightmare - to apply for a legal "independent" social status, involving paying much of his own social security and registering as "an enterprise". As he holds a regular job and his personal blog is only a hobby, the financial consequences of being seen as "an independent entrepreneur" are a social disaster. A major Belgian newspaper ran the absurd story in Dutch.

Note that I've already paid taxes on the Google revenues; now the Belgian Government forces me to register as an enterprise because of my affiliation with Google and Amazon.


Journal Journal: PDF to become an open, ISO standard

This is great news: "Adobe Systems Inc. on Jan. 29 announced that it has released the full PDF (Portable Document Format) 1.7 specification to AIIM, the Association for Information and Image Management. AIIM, in turn, will start working on making PDF an ISO standard."
Now I won't have to start endless discussions with people not liking PDF because it is 'proprietary', an argument that IMHO made no sense because Adobe has always allowed developers to use the PDF Reference as described in section 1.4 of the PDF Reference.
But what do Slashdot readers think about this evolution?


Journal Journal: Google convicted by Belgian Court

A Belgian court has ruled that Google has violated the law on copyright and ancillary rights (1991) and the law on data bases (1998). The court order dates from September 5, but was made public yesterday. All text, images and other material owned by the French- and German-speaking newspaper publishers that are a member of the Copiepress group have to be removed from Google's databases; otherwise Google risks a fine of 1,000,000 euro a day (starting today). This precedent compromises the content of 'free news sites' on the Internet.

Journal Journal: Google - Adobe Web Search Deal

iTWire reports: Google has paid big money to get its search Window as the default in Firefox, now it has made a deal with Adobe to distribute the Google toolbar with Shockwave (inherited from MacroMedia).

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.