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Ask HN: Is adding money to FOSS contributions toxic?
4 points by dkLay 12 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 1 comment
Dear HN,

I run a commercial FOSS project and I've been wanting for some time to financially reward contributions from external contributors.

My idea was to set a "bounty pool" and add some money to it (based on the previous month's revenue and what we feel comfortable investing on).

Each contributor would be able to make a "contribution claim". On this claim, the contributor tells what he/she did that month, linking to PRs or screenshots that corroborate such claim.

Then, a maintainer assigns a number of "tickets" to the claim. The number of tickets depends on 1) the relative effort of the contribution(s) and 2) the impact that contribution had to the project.

(The relative effort would be calculated as "if one of our team members were to do it, how many hours would it take?").

After the month has ended, we run a small "lottery". Random tickets are selected, and each selected ticket is worth, say, $50 that the contributor can later cash-out using Bitcoin (or wire transfer with fees deducted).

We could also add other rewards like t-shirts, mugs etc.

This idea is well-intended, but my biggest fear is that it could make my community toxic. Contributors could possibly get overly competitive, or maybe upset because a claim did not reward as many tickets as one expected.

I do not know any open source project that does something like this. Things like Bountysource do not apply because they are centered around specific issues. Within our project, a contributor may help in different ways that do not necessarily translate to issues.

I have several questions regarding this "experiment", but maybe the most important ones are:

1 - Do you know any project that implements such reward system? Or maybe failed attempts?

2 - Do you believe adding money to open source contributions could demotivate contributors or create a toxic community?

I feel that's an interesting subject and I'd love to have HN's take on it. Cheers!

Let me add some insights when discussing this with a friend.

He told me that possibly contributors could get demotivated if a specific contributor manages to get a high stake of the bounty (because he/she contributed a lot). However I believe the opposite would happen: if anything, contributors would be motivated to contribute more, and thus have more tickets.

My friend also told me that one of the reasons people contribute to FOSS is because they are passionate about whatever the project does, not because of any financial reward (I totally agree with her). The way I see it, people would still be contributing for passion/hobby, and possibly get some reward on top of that. Not necessarily a bad thing.

I also believe that a key to make this happen is to advertise the reward system as a secondary/complementary motivation. If the possibility of a reward becomes the main reason people are there, it may have a negative result (which one?). Also, it's inevitable that some people will have the reward as their sole motivation. Again, I fail to see why this could be bad.

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