Yorba and crowdfunding at LWN.net

Nathan Willis at LWN.net has written a great article summarizing the keynote Adam Dingle and I gave at GUADEC, “Crowdfunding GNOME Application Development” (PDF slides are here).  For those of you who missed the talk, Nathan’s précis gives a nice overview of our presentation and the questions afterwards.  He also offers a concise explanation of today’s problems with funding open source development:

All open source software faces the same challenges when it comes to raising the money to keep developers at the keyboard. In recent years, Linux distributors have underwritten the development of desktop software through the sale of enterprise services and support contracts of various forms. Users have grown accustomed to that situation, and there is certainly nothing wrong with it, but Dingle and his colleagues at Yorba have shown that no one needs to accept that as the only viable funding model.

Read the whole thing here.

2 thoughts on “Yorba and crowdfunding at LWN.net”

  1. Sounds like a well-prepared and thoughtful presentation. I’d love to see some way to donate easily to open source projects–though a kickstarter-esque site. Many times I’ve thought it would be nice to pay for the features I want–to be able to see the cost to implement them and see how far my contribution would go.

    I see two principle options. First, something centralized. I’m not a developer, so I might be off with this example, but imagine that SourceForge (“dedicated to making open source projects successful.”) redesigns their site, or develops a second and more pleasant interface that helps developers show their roadmap, financial needs, and progress, and makes it easy for users to find and contribute projects of their choice–or even better to the features of their choice. The advantage to centralizing all projects on the same site is obvious–users are exposed to lots of projects and one way of giving. This type of approach, I think, could easily be integrate to something like Ubuntu Software Center–Canonical could work with SourceForge to make a donate button that goes through SF–Canonical would not have to deal directly with thousands of devs. This also could give users a bit of peace knowing that the project has some kind of accountability (irresponsible projects could be kicked off SF, and unable to ask for money).

    Second approach. Canonical could give devs a chance to add a link to a donate page on their own site. Advantage is that it would be simple to implement. Disadvantage is that donating to different projects means many different processes, giving my credit card out many times over, and no real accountability.

    Of course, these two options are not mutually exclusive. The donate link in the second option could just as easily lead you to the project page from the first option.

    Two final thoughts. I like where this is going. As a user, it is reallyhelpful to see how much the projects are really costing–this kind of transparency is exciting. Finally, whatever is done, it must be done with *great attention to quality*, and it must be done with *cooperation and collaboration.* Fragmentation at this point could really hurt the effort to raise hype and funding around projects. Can everyone come together to do something great for open source as a whole? I don’t know why not, unless pride gets in the way of working together. Anyway…I’d love to see it. And I’d support it, too.

  2. Yep, I second this, and btw, I’ve got these and more ideas and a detailed view of this whole thing. And I am a developer, and I’m working on prototype of such service. And if somebody is willing to participate – leave a comment here.

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