Lukas Z's Private Blog

(mostly about programming)

Idea: A Kickstarter.com for Open Source Software

There’s software I’d like to have written. For example, a port of the Zenburn colorscheme [1] for Octopress. Or a real time map-matching algorithm in Ruby.[2] Or an up to date guide on securing a Linux webserver. And many things more.

I could of course sit down and tackle these problems one by one myself. But I’d run out of time. After all I have work for clients, my personal projects and everything that makes up my private life. So can’t others write it?

The open source software world is full of great things. Not just nice-to-have gimmicks, but truly essential software that often generates great value for startups and established companies. The days of Oracle and Microsoft licenses for libraries and developer tools are over. At least in the Web and mobile application world. [3]

But how much more could be developed and released for free if there was a way for open source devs to make a living from their contributions?

Sure, some do. An open source database can be financed by selling premium services such as hosting, teaching and tech-support. But many things, some small, but still significant, are made by individuals in their free time.

And then there’s Kickstarter.com which is spearheading a paradigm shift in how projects of all sizes can be financed online. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a site like this exclusively for open source software and related things? [4]

Let’s imagine how a site like this could work.

First, people could post requests of things they want to have developed. For example: “A streaming-webradio library written in Objective-C for use with iOS 6”.

Other people (and companies) could now vote to either express “Yes, I/we need this, too.” or they could agree it’s a worthwhile pursuit and say “Yes, and I am willing to pay 50USD to a developer who writes the software.”

At the same time developers could write responses like: “I can do this. It will take me one month and I want to be paid X dollars for it. I will develop it in this fashion: […insert implementation details here…]”

The idea is to not start a website where the cheapest developer wins, but rather someone who can layout his implementation idea and, possibly, back it up with references, such as his Github repository.

The users can then select which developer should be awarded the job. [5] After a developer is selected, a kickstarter-esque funding round begins. If the amount of Dollars is reached, the money is charged and put into escrow.

The money should be given to the developer in parts, for example as a weekly salary. Meanwhile others should be able to review his work. (And even join in to help him or her.)

If the project looks like it’s a failure it can be stopped, and the remaining funds can be transferred back to the backers. If it succeeds, the last payment goes to the developer.

The software (finished or not) is then released under an Open Source license.

I don’t know.. Perhaps this is a silly idea for many reasons I haven’t thought of. But I think it would be neat thing to have if it worked. Companies would of course benefit as well, and they would have the chance to help finance projects directly and get things that mean profit for their business in return.

Footnotes:

[1] Zenburn colorscheme

[2] This is something I work on for a side-project. The link is to my question on gis.stackexchange.com

[3] Okay, I guess you still need vendor specific libraries, if you develop for any phone platform. I just wanted to make a point that Open Source software changed where we get our tools and libraries from.

[4] Kickstarter.com - There might be many others. I should take some time to research similar sites..

[5] Instead of chosing an individual developer a team could be selected, as well. This team could even change in the future and money to individuals is given proportinately to their involvement.

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