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Funding Yourself as a Free Software Developer (tyil.nl)
343 points by mabynogy on Dec 20, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

One of my favorite discoveries of the past few months is OpenCollective — which is basically like Patreon for open source software and other semi-informal techie projects: https://opencollective.com

They let any open source project with at least 100 stars on GitHub join under their umbrella where they will act as a host organization so that you can start collecting donations (both one-off and recurring) and paying expenses without the headache of setting up a 501(c)(3) and a formal structure. You just add a bunch of trusted admins and you can manage expenses and invoices. Open Collective holds the money for you.

They’re built on open source code themselves and I’ve found then to be very responsive to newbie questions in their open Slack channel.

And as long as my comment is getting some eyeballs here, let me just shamelessly pimp the link for Archive Team’s brand new Open Collective page: https://opencollective.com/archiveteam If you like angry archivist nerds saving your shit for the Wayback Machine, please consider throwing us a few? A couple of dollars a month will help us bring new web crawl pipelines online and pay for developers to spend some hours cleaning up accumulated technical debt and cruft.

(We qualified under Open Collective’s open source software umbrella because the code for our ArchiveBot project has >100 stars on GitHub.)

I signed up with opencollective some weeks ago and yesterday got my first backer: https://opencollective.com/property_web_builder . Only $2 a month but it still cheered me up. Fingers crossed it gains some momentum over the coming months. It is a good concept well implemented.

Looks like your homepage (archiveteam dot org, not linking for obvious reasons) has been hugged to death. I'm getting a "508 - Resource Limit Is Reached" response.

It’s back up now.

There's also https://liberapay.com/ if you want a minimal fee alternative.

Opencollective is 10% + transaction costs IIRC while liberpay is only transaction costs. They're funded through their own platform.

It doesn't provide all the features of opencollective (like 501(c)(3)) though.

https://opencollective.com/faq (Fee info) https://liberapay.com/about/faq (Fee info)

I have a related idea of a commercial reuse license: https://kartick-log.blogspot.in/2016/11/a-commercial-reuse-l...

Related in the sense that they address the question of "how can we reuse other people's code without reimplementing, in a way that's financially viable for the original authors?"

Thanks for the link! FreeCAD (https://freecadweb.org) has had some discussions about various funding methods, but hasn't really got a good answer to the "how do I contribute money?" question yet. Open collective looks like it could be that answer.

This is completely anecdotal and almost certainly doesn't scale, but in proportion to its obscurity and especially the effort put in, I feel like I've gotten a surprising number of donations for my recent side-mouse-button-fixing OSS project[1]. I remember reading on HN that even the most popular and well-maintained OSS software basically sees nothing from donation links. My humble app nets about $5 every week. I'm pretty sure the reason is that I included a Donorbox link, since it lets you pay by credit card without having to deal with Paypal. It’s all been Donorbox so far — nothing from Paypal at all.

[1]: http://sensible-side-buttons.archagon.net

$5/week would easily pay for my hosting and AWS experiments. $10/week would let me pay for a proper Travis CI / AppVeyor plan (I mess around a lot with buildroot but it takes too long on single / dual thread workers)

I've attracted a couple of one off donations, but never been able to get anything consistent. I imagine it'd be terrifying to run a project with actual expenses to cover.

Yeah, that’s why I host all my projects on Github Pages. Everything is “free” (included in the Github service I already pay for) and I don’t have to worry about server costs or maintenance.

Holy cow, I just figured this was impossible to do on OSX, downloaded & donated!

Thank you!

Yeah, one of the best decisions/discoveries I've ever made was just putting a little PayPal donate button on fruitbasket.io. It's something I threw together in a few hours, but I guess it helped people. I'm still seeing a few donations here and there almost exactly a year later.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves ever in OSX. Thanks.

I avoid proprietary software as much as I can, but if Free Software will ever be truly vindicated, I have a feeling it will happen via business applications.

Convincing a sizable portion of consumers to even try free software--much less pay for it--is pretty much a lost cause. Consumers have made it abundantly clear they value convenience and "free" (as in gratis) over freedom, privacy, customizability, and any other ideal or benefit we can try to sell them on.

The best hope for consumers is for a set of profitable, high-quality, free business software companies to rise, and for some of those companies to devote money, dev time, ingenuity, and vision to solving consumer problems. You cannot take on proprietary software with ideals alone; you need resources.

I feel like the best and largest OSS projects are already this...at least a sizable portion of them.

On the other hand, I don't quite know where I stand on accepting donations for writing free software. I feel like it leads to perverse incentives for maintainers and contributors alike.

My feeling here is that the best way to earn a living off of OSS is writing books about it, selling support, speaking engagements, etc. Someday I would like to earn a living from writing OSS, but I'm not super-inclined to do these other things either. That really just leaves working for a company like RedHat, and drawing a salary to write OSS. That just means your work isn't self-directed anymore.

What I'd really like to see happen, if it hasn't happened already, is a funding platform that only accepts donations from "qualified donors" and funds a small, curated list of projects/people and anonymizes whose funding goes to what projects/people. Projects/People are selected by a mix of donor votes, community votes and some equivalent of PageRank. Funding allocation is split up the same way, trying to divert the most money to the highest-impact people & projects.

Not that I have the slightest inclination that anyone would want to use this :(

What you're saying basically looks like a representative government. The government collects taxes, and you don't control where the money specifically goes. You elect representatives who control where the money goes, etc. We all know how that turns out. :(

Nope. The donors don't have control, only influence - a vote that contributes to some algorithmic determination.

Any stakeholder gets to participate, including the people/projects being funded.

But business software is super boring, takes forever to please the customer who typically is difficult to deal with, wants the UI buttons in specific places, the data entry form to be in a specific format, etc etc. Why would anyone want to work on that? Open Source works primarily because the software you work on, you're personally invested in it, and you care about it, and its about scratching an itch. When you tell people to 'follow their passion', nobody is going to want to clean the toilets and mop the floors.

On the other hand, most larger proprietary software businesses devote a surprisingly small amount of their operating budget to development. In my experience it's usually around 10%, but it depends on the company. I certainly haven't heard of anyone spending more than about 30% and there are quite a few big names that spend in the low single digits.

Potentially, if you can leverage the benefits of free software to pay for some of the things you would usually have to manage yourself, then perhaps you can reach some kind of parity even if the vast majority of users do not pay money for the software. Mozilla currently pulls in relatively huge amounts of cash (hundreds of millions per year), but when they first started it was considerably smaller. Because they were able to concentrate on development rather than marketing and sales, they were able to get quite a lot done with that money. Where they did spend on marketing (for example the famous New York Times ad), they were quite careful about it.

There are other successful free software plays. For me the biggest example is Red Hat. When these kinds of conversations appear, I always point people toward Michael Tiemann's chapter in "Open Sources: Voices From the Open Source Revolution" [0]. Cygnus software went from $6K to being sold to Red Hat for $600M, and Red Hat went on to great success with essentially the same business model.

My favourite quote from that chapter, talking about discussing his ideas for a free software business model: "I never got farther than 'It's a great idea, but . . .,' when I had my second insight: if everybody thinks it's a great idea, it probably is, and if nobody thinks it will work, I'll have no competition!" Even now, I think there is virtually no competition in Red Hat's space because nobody thinks their business model will work.

In the end, I think that developing free software business models is where it has to go. You can't charge for the software. I personally feel that dual licensing is not really a free software business model because you don't actually make money from free software -- you are just using it as a loss leader for your traditional proprietary software. Like you imply, in the enterprise space you can probably do well (for example, by copying Red Hat, or by making a foundation like Mozilla or Apache). But there is a lot of other software out there. I think in those spaces you have to be a lot more creative about what you charge money for. People will clearly spend money -- just look at the horrible, horrible "free to play" game market. The trick is to allow them to do so in a non-horrible way ;-)

[0] - http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/opensources/book/tiemans.htm...

> On the other hand, most larger proprietary software businesses devote a surprisingly small amount of their operating budget to development. In my experience it's usually around 10%, but it depends on the company. I certainly haven't heard of anyone spending more than about 30% and there are quite a few big names that spend in the low single digits.

Now I'm curious; what else do they spend money on? Sales and marketing of course, but what else?

Lawyers and lobbyists?

Generally speaking it doesn't include management (except for immediate dev management). It also doesn't include support or operations (in a software company that would include secretaries, security, cleaning staff, etc). It usually doesn't include capital expenses either, so depending on how you do the accounting, things like running the building is not included. From that perspective, the numbers can be a bit deceiving.

Depending on the area, the costs can swing wildly. I worked at Corel back when shrink wrapped software was a thing. Sales channels cost huge amounts of money. Even after that period getting your software into OEM builds cost a fortune. That's stuck in "costs of sales", usually. I've worked at companies where costs of sales was well over 50% of revenue. As you can imagine, there is considerable latitude for corruption ;-).

If you are running a service, "operations" often pays for compute infrastructure, but it depends entirely on the company. You might even have dev ops in operations so that can be misleading because you don't have a product without the service.

My experience has been that management, operations and sales takes 60-70% of revenue. The absolutely necessary expenses in operations usually amount to less than 10%. Capital expenses can be very large if they are investing in real estate or something similar, so that's a complete wild card. Sales and marketing are kind of linked because usually you have to spend more on one if you spend less on the other. How much you can get away with if you change the business model is kind of up in the air and I'm really speculating when I suggest that a free software model will be cheaper -- I believe it, but obviously have zero data.

It's worth downloading quarterly/year end reports from various high tech companies and reading them. It's pretty incredible how much information you can get from them. They won't break down everything exactly the way you want, but you can usually figure it out -- and often see pretty plainly where they are playing games.

Complete diversion: One of Corel's favourite tricks in the past (though not now, I think -- everything changed after they were sold) was to overfill the sales channel in first quarter. Basically they would "sell" the software to dealers, but would provide "refunds" for software that wasn't sold by the end of 4th quarter. So 1st quarter was always massively positive, while they were always massively (and somehow unexpectedly) in the red by 4th quarter. Executive stock options were granted 4th quarter and there was a trading window in second quarter. So the stock would plunge dramatically (one or two binary orders of magnitude) just before the stock options were granted and then rocket back up in time to sell them. They did that year after year after year (I was there for 5 years and it happened every time). The reason for the swings was literally written in the quarterly reports. In first quarter they would say "We sold $X, but this is subject to 4th quarter refunds". Then in fourth quarter they would say, "We experienced a one time loss from refunds in the sales channel". I swear nobody reads those quarterly reports... :-P

> Complete diversion: One of Corel's favourite tricks in the past (though not now, I think -- everything changed after they were sold) was to overfill the sales channel in first quarter. Basically they would "sell" the software to dealers, but would provide "refunds" for software that wasn't sold by the end of 4th quarter. So 1st quarter was always massively positive, while they were always massively (and somehow unexpectedly) in the red by 4th quarter.

More or less OT, but maybe interesting: This was the strategy that killed West End Games (once one of the biggest publishers of pen & paper games). They would print as many books as they could and send them out to shops, but the shops had the option of sending them back when they couldn't sell them. Then in 1998 for some reason almost all of the books came back and WEG was bankrupt. Seems it worked far better for Corel. Not sure if this is good or bad.

Corel was actually very close to bankruptcy at that point. I think they were down to $2M and Microsoft bailed them out by buying a new round of preferred shares. If I remember correctly it was $130M. The CEO of Corel at the time got quite cosy with MS and decided that they should be friends -- with Adobe being the "enemy". We seriously had company wide meetings where they repeated "Kill Adobe" over and over again.

The strategy that MS suggested Corel follow was to invest the $130M in acquiring companies (which is how they ended up with Paint). Now here's the fun part: MS's preferred shares were non-voting, but they had a veto on acquisitions ("Just so that we can protect our investment. Trust us, we'll never use it! We're the ones telling you to acquire companies, aren't we?"). MS, then turned around and sold their shares to a VC company called Vector (part owned by Paul Allen).

After buying the shares, Vector said, "We're putting a veto on all of those acquisitions. Oh... the penalty clauses will make you bankrupt? So sad for you... We're happy to buy your entire company and turn it private. If you don't agree, then I guess you are out of business."

So Vector managed to buy up Corel for (IIRC) somewhere around $110M. At the time Corel still had something like $90M in the bank, so Vector paid $20M plus the $13 million form their initial purchase from MS. They managed to do the acquisitions and then resell them. After a year, they made a new public offering of shares for 25% of the company for somewhere around $40M (these numbers may be wrong as they are coming from my aging memory, but they are illustrative of what went down if not accurate) -- giving them a pretty awesome ROI in just one year.

All of the senior Corel executives (including the CEO and VPs) somehow managed to land jobs as "senior product managers" at MS. Some of them seemed to turn down their lucrative parachutes from Corel to accept the job, so... I guess they were given handsome signing bonuses...

It shouldn't surprise me, but once you get above a certain level it stops being about making a product or doing a service and becomes all about making money. The companies are just a vehicle for that pursuit and in a lot of ways I think the "power people" don't care that much if the company survives or dies. They just care where the money falls.

Like Winrar

Winrar is proprietary.

Channelling my inner patio11: Also consider offering a support contract, or selling licenses, rather than just soliciting donations. Especially if you're already intending to offer access in return for said donations!


Patio11 was ultimately asking for the owner of the free software project to emit an invoice, which has its own financial bureaucratic burden in which the owner most probably won't want to enter. Ie. it won't work because the typical free software developer doesn't want to incur into the taxes that this could imply.

For example, in Spain you aren't allowed to extend invoices if you aren't first registered as an autonomous worker (freelancer), which most people aren't because they already work for some company. But even if you did, then you'd have to pay for the obligatory social security for freelancers, which is around 260 Euro per month (so staying registered indefinitely as freelancer is not financially sensible, if you are not really doing actual contract jobs).

I would think this is similar in most other European countries, which in other words means that for the most common of the FOSS developers, writing a legally valid invoice is a no-no.

Of course the matter changes if the company doing the donations doesn't really care about the invoice being legally correct inside the country of the developer. But I wouldn't advise the developer to do things like that... (s)he would be risking a fine.

In Canada, if you're receiving donations as a result of work you're doing, you count as self-employed and that income is taxable -- there doesn't need to be an invoice or even an explicit quid pro quo in order for income taxes to apply.

(Fortunately the paperwork is very minimal: Basically, you add an extra one page form to your annual income tax return.)

In the UK, I'd be taxed on it, and sorting that out properly would mean having to go through self-assessment. But that's not actually hard, and while I've not needed to fill in that particular bit, the extra effort it would require doesn't appear to be particularly onerous.

I suspect that if you started getting any reasonable quantity of donations that would also pique the taxman's interest.

The company needs the invoice to make a payment. They typically don't care about the legal correctness. Particularly if the developer is in another country. Making the invoice look legal/official is more important than anything else.

That's what I meant in my last paragraph. There is some risk for the developer: if they are in the same country than the company, when the company declares the expenses the government can get to know that the developer is having 'customers'.

Of course we could say that "this will never actually happen", but if the company had to pass a tax inspection, they would have to prove all their expenses by showing the corresponding invoices. And this would show that the developer has been generating irregular invoices.

I don't know for bigger companies, but as a (proper) autonomous worker in Spain, I had worked for just 1.5 years and already was asked once to prove some expenses with the corresponding invoices.

A company can't pay an invoice that has formal flaws (missing tax id; missing date; missing a running serial number) without risking serious book keeping problems and not being able to get reimbursed for VAT paid.

Not a single company could pay such an invoice.

(Germany, but pretty sure this applies in most of Europe)

are you sure it's 260 Euro per month for social security in addition to what the freelancers salaried company is paying?

There are some schemes which allow to save money if it's the very first time that you register as such. But they are only a short- to mid-term solution (covering typically the first year), but in the long term (starting from the 12th to 18th month) you'll end up paying the full quota.

If you can read spanish, articles such as this one explain the options: http://gestron.es/ventajas-ser-autonomo-trabajar-cuenta-ajen...

A regressive tax like this must disincentivize freelancing and thus prevent a lot of economic activity. What are the benefits?

I think back to Caddy and how they offered this and they still had to resort to that controversial thing where they started replying with a special Caddy header with pre-compiled versions of their server.

Even professionally, shops with good admins/devops will usually prefer CentOS/openSUSE over RHEL/SLES, since they can handle almost all the support themselves.

The other model is tools like Gitlab/Alfresco/Magento where the enterprise version has closed source code not available in the OSS version.

I wrote a thing about different OSS support philosophies a while back:


> Even professionally, shops with good admins/devops will usually prefer CentOS/openSUSE over RHEL/SLES, since they can handle almost all the support themselves.

And shops with large enough IT budgets and huge downside risk (like finance) will pay for the SLA guarantee because ultimately it's really cheap insurance against the cost of catastrophic events.

I've been in banks where the admins were the definitive authors of books written in their space, but where CentOS or RHEL on a server was chosen purely on the basis of the value of the service being hosted.

WINE vs CrossOver is another example. There's a plethora of examples available.

There's also an example of software which clearly doesn't wish to follow such scheme: IDA Pro.

Could you point me to any resources that show what such a support contract generally looks like?

It's less about what the words in the document say and more about the concept of offering technical support to your business class users.

(Obviously you want that agreement in writing, but start by just getting conversations with users who would be qualified for this. Anybof your users with 50+ employees could be good candidates.)

I kind of wish there was a business set up that would take a small cut to deal with payments/contracts etc. to do this. As a developer I'm not sure I want to deal with the headache.

You mean, an accountant?

Yeah, like an accountant that writes contracts, sets up a website to take payments and arrange consults and has a brand that large corporate purchasing departments feel happy doing business with.

So basically, yeah, just Joe the accountant from your local strip mall.

Patrick McKenzie had a great twitter thread on the topic recently:

"The single biggest piece of advice I have for you: if you have someone’s email address (+ permission) you have an earned relationship. If you have to beg a platform to contact them, the platform owns the relationship. Get the email.

Youtube subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and all analogous relationships are not defensible assets in the way that someone expecting mail from you is. They’re dependent on the week-to-week policies and quarter-to-quarter strategic imperatives of the platform.

The platforms offer incredible reach! Incredible! Reach! And the bargain they offer is Faustian. Platforms need their creators to bake the cake; they then propose allocating 60~80%+ to them as an opening bid, do not contractualize that (for smaller creators), and smile.

“What do you mean they do not contractualize that?”

I mean that you have neither a contract nor even an understanding among equals that the terms you currently enjoy are the ones you will have in the future. Businesses sign contracts with vendors important to them.

Do you remember the contract negotiation? No, because doesn’t work at scale but also because You Are Not One Of Their Important Accounts.

Any term you think you’re entitled to is going to be renegotiated by Darth Vader: “I have altered the deal; pray I do not alter it further.”

So back to the question of building your own platform:

You want your own place on the Internet; I think that is, for most people, a website.

You need, need, need an email list. Software for them is cheap to get started with.

Above all things: “As an independent creator, I will comport all my conduct on other people’s platforms with the intentional, strategic goal of enticing some portion of the audience to join me on my platform, where the lion’s share of value I produce is, and where I make meaningful money.”


I'm currently trying to condense notes from my own FLOSS funding work, but for the moment I think it's helpful to see some of the great background research that the people over at the (mostly dormant) snowdrift.coop project have done.

https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/market-research/other-crowdfundi... and https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/market-research/history/software give you an idea on the other funding options out there.

Snowdrift.coop is NOT quite "mostly dormant", it's just pushing ahead at the unfortunately-slow-pace that is common for all-volunteer projects. Regular activity happens every day moving toward full launch. See the activity links at the top of https://blog.snowdrift.coop/still-here/

Just to put it out there, Ardour is a GPL2 project that also offers paid binaries. They've always got an amount of hate from the self-righteous freeloader community but they've apparently made $8815 so far this month and I get the impression it's become less controversial over the years.

While it is working currently it certainly hasn't been the most stable road in the past. Don't forget about their funding issues https://community.ardour.org/node/8288 a few years back (not to mention how long it took to slowly build up a consistent crowd of subscribers).

I am glad to see this continuing. I subscribed for a year and a bit and in that time spent enough money to actually buy a version of Logic Pro X on the Mac; instead I paid monthly to hopefully reach the goal of having a usable DAW on the Mac.

I eventually stopped when I realised I could have just bought Logic whilst spending the same amount.

I am impressed that others would continue though, that's for certain. I remember it being very useful on Linux (along with RoseGarden and Muse, back in the day).

On the off chance that OP is site owner: this text is borderline unreadable on my phone. It's light light gray on a white background with thin font. I don't normally even notice low contrast color palettes, so my guess is this is pretty far beyond the threshold for comfortable reading.

Suggestion would be to darken the font some.

OP is not the site owner.

I haven't had any people saying they had any issues with the looks of the site, but I have updated the main font color to be black. I'll look into more improvements after I get the article updated.

Agreed. And I can’t use iOS reader mode to make it more readable.

Nadia Eghbal from Github also has a great guide:

Lemonade Stand: A handy guide to financial support for open source https://github.com/nayafia/lemonade-stand

I'll read through this, and see if there's anything I can add to my article.

I've been meaning to start giving more money to free software projects I've benefitted from. Sadly, a lot of them don't take donations or they use some convoluted payment processor. I would totally be willing to support a project through something like Patreon and pay something like $3 per minor release and $7 for a major release. This should be a no brainer for smaller companies that can only afford free software but also want that software to be well supported.

Even as an individual, I don't know why I haven't set up donations on my github projects. Some of them have several stars, and you never know who will buy you a beer or a coffee.

Most people don't do it because it's effort that's not directly associated to programming. It's also easy to think that you won't get any payoff from the effort invested, since it's rare to see to begin with, and even more rare to see anyone making a decent living off of it.

More financial support to free software development would certainly be appreciated. Even a single cent just to show the developer you enjoy his software is a good incentive for a developer to keep going. It seems like most feedback developers get is negative, so anything positive is appreciated.

Hmm the idea of a Patreon donation per minor version is actually very interesting....

You can currently do that with Patreon. They support money per month or money per thing. David Firth does money per thing (video, music album, etc.) and you could easily do that with releases (although I'm not sure if you could do separate donation amounts per minor or major release).

Too complicated, yet another bunch of websites to register at. What works for me:

- Consulting. You need clear message what you offer and how you can help. Also clear way how consulting process works. Companies are happy to pay extra, if they get author.

- Paypal donations, put 'Donate!' button on website, prefil some amount and offer recuring payments. Paypal even handles credit card.

- Crypto coin donations. Setup wallets and put addresses on web.

- T-Shirts or books for premium price.

I was wondering the same thing : why do you need a 3rd party site/service to do this? If you're a software developer then setting up something to get donations via PayPal or Stripe is easy.

The network effect can make a reasonable case. Similar to how many open source projects benefit from centralized hosting options (e.g. github), projects can in theory benefit from more centralized funding platforms.

PayPal and Stripe are 3rd party services as well ;)

Why don't more open source projects simply state that if you are a business using their software you are required to purchase a license for X amount of money.

The source code is still available for anyone to freely download and use. Businesses are free to install and evaluate the software for as long as they like (there are no onerous checks to verify you have purchased a license). While some businesses won't pay, many will.

In fact, a self-hosted solution would probably appeal to many businesses over a SaaS-style per-employee pricing model.

What's stopping open source projects from trying this approach?

This already exists, check out LicenseZero and Faircode.

The problem is this is against one of the criteria for a license to be approved by the Open Source Initiative, which states that the users are all treated equal regardless of the purpose for which they use the software, so you can't claim to be Open Source if you discriminate against businesses like this.

I was actually contemplating to use LicenseZero for AutoSpotting, my largest and most successful project that can save companies a lot of money, but I'm afraid this will discourage users and would slow down contributions.

So far I am playing with a dual license model somewhat similar to the way Redhat handles RHEL and Fedora. The software is open source under the MIT license, and anyone can use it from source if they are willing to compile it themselves.

In addition I am now offering evaluation nightly builds that expire after two months, and I am selling for a relatively small fee stable and well tested builds that I verified to be working well. I am also only actively offering support and trying to fix issues for these stable builds, the other builds are supported by the community on a best effort basis.

So far very few people were interested in the official builds, but the first evaluation builds will start to expire within a few days so I expect the number to grow.

> Why don't more open source projects simply state that if you are a business using their software you are required to purchase a license for X amount of money.

Because a license which requires that is not an open source license. It might be a source-available, free-for-non-commercial use license, but that's not the same thing.

Further, if using a copyleft upstream license, this would be prohibited by the upstream license.

This is roughly the approach (AGPL + commercial license) I'm taking with Dramatiq[0]. Some interest but no purchases so far, though.

[0]: https://dramatiq.io

Over the past handful of months, I've built up the company Code Sponsor (https://codesponsor.io). In December, I had to shut it down due to the inability to continue on GitHub.

Here's an article I published on why funding open source is difficult: https://medium.com/@codesponsor/why-funding-open-source-is-h...

When I saw this topic pop up on HN, I instinctively went to check my CodeSponsor dashboard and saw no activity.

Didn't think too much of it and came back here and saw the news :( That's too bad Github decided against continuing the service, it's such a great way for developers to maintain their roles and still provide a bit of funding. Good luck on your next version!

I'll give it a read and see if I can incorporate anything!

> You have to solve a Google reCaptcha in order to register a new account.

Even in the world of the free uber-cyberpunk hacker, why is reCaptcha considered a warning sign?

He mentions about JavaScript libraries and reCaptcha, "As I have set up uMatrix in my browser, this cost me some extra time to finish registration." So basically, prepare to be annoyed.

Considering reCaptcha has some tasks that look suspiciously like "help train who-knows-whose neural net to identify the bombing targets in this satellite image," it could also be an ethical choice for some people.

I've seen almost entirely just what appear to be building addresses. What kind of images have others seen that they thought were potential bombing targets?

Just stuff I've seen on Twitter, so it could all be fake, but things like military helicopters and convoys of humvee-style trucks.

I think people are okay with some token amount of work to check that they're not a bot, but Google is changing that into a token amount of work to help train their systems.

I don't agree with it, but I understand it, especially if you have bad feelings about google.

I think people have forgotten that recaptcha was originally designed to help Google transcribe books for their digital library, which is arguably a public good. Now they're training their self-driving cars with it, which really just benefits them.

> help Google transcribe books for their digital library, which is arguably a public good

If they were doing it for a public library or releasing the text as public domain, that would be a public good. As it stands, it's just doing free work for an advertising company.

Yeah it didn't work out because publishers fought it tooth and nail in copyright court. But that was the original intention.

Wasn't that before Google bought it and it was owned by a University?

Many people who follow the ideals of free software also value their privacy.

A service requiring you to interact with Google software in order to use it, is pretty much a surefire way to find out that you and the service provider are not on the same page about the value of your privacy or at the very least that the service provider does not understand the privacy implications, which doesn't help your privacy.

There's the odd chance that the service provider has actually researched about the specific Google software that they're using and that it's somehow actually not privacy-invading, or that the service provider has a contract with Google to protect your privacy, but chances for both of those are really low.

As other commenters have also pointed out, this is from a moral/privacy(/security) standpoint.

Google reCaptcha's are also incredibly annoying compared to standard captchas, which would be a good reason for people to want to stay away from it.

Hmm. I was hoping for a list of strategies, rather than a list of software platforms. To me, this seems more like a business problem than a software problem.

If you have any strategic advise or know sources for such kind of information, I'd gladly read more about it and add more to the article.

I am developing a LuaJIT fork nowadays (RaptorJIT) and I would love ideas about the best way to fund that!

I have experience with commercial open source but I am not sure how well that translates to development tools like compilers/debuggers/profilers.

Big co wants support or bug fix? equals $ paid support

A couple of thoughts:

If you are trying to get money from people for your labor, stop using the word donations. People see that as charity, not as money for services rendered.

Second, you can create a tip jar with Pay Pal. That has performed better for me than Pay Pal donate buttons. Info:


How would you describe it if not using the word "donations" then?

I have a tip jar. You can become a patron via Patreon. In some cases, you can also support my work via whitelisting the site on your ad blocker, in cases where the site has ads.

There are lots of different ways to talk about this.

Hmm. I personally find the "tip jar" less inviting, but I can talk about using different wording in the article if others agree that a different wording would be beneficial.

You need to talk about monetization, not donations. And what, you, personally find inviting isn't that important. What's important is what works.

I straight up had someone tell me I was "panhandling the internet" to have donate buttons on my site when I was homeless. At that time, people would give me money and leave notes "Here, have something to eat." They very clearly did not see it as paying me for the value of my work. It was charity in their eyes.

All that stopped when I switched to a tip jar and my take went up.

YMMV, of course. But it ended up being an informative experiment.

I like having Patreon plus a tip jar. Patreon is for on going support. A tip jar lets people leave a one time payment.

What worked great for me is to simply show a dialog with PayPal donation buttons after my app has been started 10 times.

With the 10 starts threshold only regular users get the dialog and if they don't like it, they can uncheck a box and never see it again.

On average, I get one donation for every 1000 downloads which appears to be a relatively good rate.

[1]: https://github.com/enzo1982/freac

I have a few open source projects that I consider "complete" ie not something I'm actively working on, eg. http://svgnest.com

does liberapay/patreon makes sense? I've never bothered with a donate button because people have said they don't work, but do people specifically donate because of the patreon brand?

Thanks everyone for your comments, both here and via email! I'll work through the comments here and start working on updating the article with your feedback.

Someone should invent GitCoin. A system in which developers who contribute to open source software are paid for their contributions. The users of the free software would agree to let it mine GitCoin for a few moments before the program launches. Or somesuch

uhhh. wow, maybe they did. https://gitcoin.co/ Great minds

Or just start a company and make money from your code. The code can still be open source and if you really want to write free software then just do it when you have enough money.

I personally don't like the "company" part of my work. I wish I could just write code and not have to deal with finding clients and signing contracts. If I could do as the author does and just take direct payments to work on an OSS project, I would. Maybe some day…

At time of writing the above comment is getting down votes. Why? Is it the “just” bit people are having issues with?

I suspect that it's the "just", for reasons that sibling commenters have discussed.

But the original comment might also wrongly come from the perspective that a given developer ought to tie themselves to a particular project by creating a business around it. Many projects are created and/or maintained by developers working on a broad number of projects, so total productivity might decrease if developers were settle down with only one or two projects which they're able to build a business around.

Yes, I think so. 'just start a company and make money' is exceptionally non-trivial. 'just' is usually used to infer the subject is easy. "It's not hard; just do it!"

That type of phrasing can also be used sarcastically or meanly, so people may have interpreted it that way. "Why can't you do this? Just make it work!"

Because it's free as in freedom, not free as in price. Most popular free software is written by employed developers working for companies.

Tokenize your project and do an ICO. Get millions. $$$

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