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Paying for Open Source Contributions (formidable.com)
316 points by jevakallio 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



Surprised by the amount of negativity in this thread.

My interpretation of this is an organization recognizing external contributions as personal growth and community enrichment and seeking to reward that behavior. I would put this in the same vein as healthcare providers subsidizing gym memberships, or organizations paying for people to attend training, conferences, or higher education.

In any case, you're making the choice of self-improvement though in this case with community enrichment as an additional benefit. I don't know how Formidable compensates but anyone who thinks the compensation is anything more than a nod is missing the point.

The purpose is not to place a monetary value on the work being done, it's an acknowledgement of gratitude. If you won't accept that then consider it a small supportive investment in a person who is choosing to invest in themselves and their community.


I wish I was rich enough to view getting a bonus of $20.00 an hour for fun-time work as being more offensive than receiving nothing at all.


Introducing a token payment such as this undermines the altruism of open source contribution. When people are motivated by altruism they don't want money.

e.g. I would help my neighbor move some furniture for free, but I wouldn't do it if he offered to pay me $5.


I think the parent's point is that for a lot of people, especially those outside of SV, $20/h is more than a token payment.

Sure, it's not going to make a westerner rich, but if we think to happiness instead of just money - it could well enable someone to make a living doing something that makes them happy.

And of course there are several countries in which $20/h is a great wage.

The OSS vs money problem is a hard one to crack, and it's entirely possible that there isn't a solution that suits everyone; there are the originators, currently active maintainers, occasional contributers and end users to keep happy - and each group has their own priorities and goals.

And if that wasn't enough, each project is different. Some are more or less zero-touch, "completed software", while others are under heavy development; some wish to follow copy-left, some wish to follow copy-right; some view their work as merely a hobby, some view it as their job, and some view it as purely altruistic. There are even those who are diametrically opposed to receiving any payment for their OSS work.

There simply isn't a one size fits all solution, so let's not be too negative when ideas are put forward.


"I think the parent's point is that for a lot of people, especially those outside of SV, $20/h is more than a token payment."

In the Tri-State Area (AK/TN/MS), many people will say $20/hr is a great wage. Companies down here try to pay people minimum wage as much as possible. As close to it as possible anyway. We also have a low-enough cost of living that the ripoff isn't as obvious for skilled labor. They're ahead of most people they encounter even at $15/hr. Especially if it's steady work with benefits.

"but if we think to happiness instead of just money - it could well enable someone to make a living doing something that makes them happy."

Another great point. Some businesses even optimize for this.


I think the point is that open soource developers should either do it for love or as a job that pays the bills.

If $20/hr pays the bills that's a good wage where it does. Arguably open source is MORE valuable so to suggest it earn it's creators less than other types of code is contrary to the vision of the open source movement.

Everyone has to eat and pay the bills.


I would help my neighbor move some furniture for free, and I'd still do it if he offered to pay me $5. I wouldn't accept the money (because it's socially unacceptable to do so), but his offer wouldn't get in the way of me helping him. If he offered me a drink after, I wouldn't say no. It's understood that this offer is in direct response to me helping him, but I'm still motivated out of altruism. I'm simply receiving a greater reward for my altruism, and this time it's socially acceptable to take this.

The time of the people eligible for this program is worth more than $20/hr. This amount of money is never going to be a primary source of motivation for them. As the article said, "A side effect of building a company culture around OSS is that the kind of people who gravitate to work at Formidable are passionate about their open source work, and won’t stop contributing when they clock out at 5 pm." I did a bit of volunteer work in high school as part of a program, and upon graduation the program granted everyone a small, $250 "scholarship". I spent ~10 hours per week, for a year, as part of this program, thus making my "wage", if you will, about $2/hr. I can promise you, nobody participated in that program for the "scholarship". It showed that our time was appreciated, but wasn't nearly enough to incentivize the program to anyone who wasn't going to do it anyways.

I see nothing wrong with a token payment like this. It makes contributing to open source a more attractive option, but still only a viable option to those who were already motivated to contribute out of altruism. Obviously 20/hr isn't a token payment for a lot of us, but the concept itself of a token payment isn't something that necessarily invalidates altruistic intentions, in my view. I'll contribute to open source projects irregardless of whether or not they have a Bountysource, but I'll still accept a reward if it's offered. The purpose of this program is to reward people who are already motivated to contribute to open source, which in turn signals to its employees that Formidable appreciates open source contributions.


It's about recognition of value. If I earn $150/hr to write software and you suggest paying me $20/hr it means you don't properly value my time.

A thank you and genuine appreciation is better.


Not always. I might prefer working on something I love for $20/hr instead of working unders omeone for $50/hr


You could and generally should.


I think the indirectness of the payment makes it acceptable somewhat. In your example, I wouldn't take the 5 dollar job either. But the difference there is in the directness of the relationship - the person receiving the benefit isn't the one paying you. It'd be more akin to your boss seeing you help your neighbor somehow and giving you twenty bucks in recognition of your deed after the fact.


While I'm certainly not in a position to turn down the money, I'm hesitant to think about what kind of dependence this could create for folks like me.

Am I going to end up the code-monkey equivalent of an Uber-driver - paid just enough to keep coming back, but not enough to pay my bills?

Is this going to disrupt real, bill-paying programming jobs? If so, is anyone going to realistically pay their bills, with the huge pool of hobbyists going out there chasing after this?

Is my hobby going to stop being fun, since someone threw money at it?


Question: What if you had $20 for each of your hitherto unpaid hours of OSS work?

I would be glad.


For me it would add stress. I would feel I had to be productive to earn it.

Of course, if it's not meant to be fun-time stuff, then it would be great.


As a professional full-time open source maintainer and developer, initiatives like this bother me a lot.

The work we do is worth much more than $20/hr.

Ideally I'd like to see open source developers in stable, tenured positions that pay fair salaries with benefits. Anything that normalizes the idea that open source should be funded on tips, patreons, or spare time goodwill is embarrassing to all of us. We can do better.

If you value open source, hire people to do it and pay them fairly.


Formidable employee here: To be quite honest we are compensated very fairly for our industry already and this program is not meant to ‘provide a living wage’ by any means.

Instead, this is a ‘fair nod’ at the work some of us feel compelled and motivated to do after work hours.

Not saying your perspective is wrong, just hopefully providing a bit more context about what this program means for someone who uses it.


I get that. I work ten hours a week or so for free on my open source passion projects. If that turned in to an extra $200 a week that would be cool - I’m doing the work anyway.

I haven’t read the article yet but my only fear with crowd funding is what happens when I want to take a month off of technical work.


As someone who supports several developers, I hope you take as much holiday as you need. I mostly support it to increase the chance of the project surviving in the long term, and as a token of appreciation of your past contributions.


You can pause patreon campaigns. If you're open about your work life balance and how you need to take a month off from the project I think most people will understand that.


You're an employee so you can answer the question: does Formidable take copyright ownership of the open source contributions provided by you? Do you have to ask your employer if you want to change licenses for your open source projects?


No and no.


I think the only stipulation is that work needs to eventually be made available to the public under some open source license.


And I'd assume you guys have some employees who are paid competitive salaries by Formidable and end up working almost exclusively on your open source code anyway, right?


This is awesome. If my employer did this I'd probably take a lot of that money and donate to other OSS and charity since I'd neebed working on OSS regardless.


In the link, this is addressed:

It’s well known that nominal compensation isn’t the most effective incentive to get people to do things, and compared to engineer salaries in our US and UK tech hubs, $20/hr isn’t exactly a windfall.

This is intentional. We don’t want people to log on after hours to earn money. Instead, we think of the Sauce bonus as a recognition of the work people want to do anyway, and the compensation is aimed to be meaningful enough to do something fun with, but not so high that it would skew their priorities to stare at their computer screens instead of spending time with their hobbies, families, and friends.


This ignores that extrinsic motivation(money) can reduce intrinsic motivation(interest in the project).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overjustification_effect


In my personal experience this effect has much more to do with expectations than compensation.

As soon as it's my job to work on something, and there are deadlines and expectations looming, all of a sudden I'm more interested in every other side project I've ignored for the past several years.

But in this case, there's no expectations set, pre-approval process (after which you'd be expected to meet your goals), or anything like that. If you find yourself affected by the extrinsic motivation, you can simply not log the work afterward, and then it's like you weren't offered any money for it in the first place.


Of course. It seems that that’s exactly what’s happening here. These people are being paid a salary to do a bunch of open source and other work.

The company just recognizes that people that continue contributing at home still bring them some form of value, and it is very nice to see that this is recognized and rewarded, regardless of the amount.

Maybe we’ll get to a point where this will be the norm, and companies will have to go further to stand out, but right now this is pretty amazing.


I partially agree. I work for a public university and 100% of our code is MIT licensed. But I spend a ton of time outside of work on other open source projects. I'd love an extra 20USD/hr for that work. Heck I'd probably even open source a few more of my private repos.


> I work for a public university and 100% of our code is MIT licensed.

Shouldn't federally-funded work be placed in the public domain, or something like that?


As a long time open source contributor and maintainer, I'm not convinced it's worth more than $20/hour. Where does this worth come from? Comparing it to what corporations loaded with cash are willing to pay for an especially advantageous employee? That's not a fair comparison to make.


I have a few open source projects that I contribute $5 monthly for each project on https://opencollective.com/. I view my contribution as a subsidy and not as a salary. Might be wrong but Formidable probably views it the same way.


It sounds like these employees do indeed have stable positions with fair salaries and benefits. What's the problem?

If the work is worth more than $20/hr, who's going to pay it? One person's work is "worth" what someone else is willing to pay. Markets are conversations, and all that. OSS is an arena where the supply of potential practitioners is huge.


I have had employers hire me and then not give me work to do leaving me with large swaths of time to work on my unpaid open source that they are using internally. It’s probably an ethical violation to use their office, time, and equipment to work on code they are not paying for (since it’s free and liberally licensed), but they absolutely know I’m doing it.


Your situation may not be serious enough to care, but you could be fired and the company could claim ownership of all your work, screwing over you and any project with a dependency to your OSS.


I have gone through something like that before. My first big corporate employer did not claim ownership but they slapped a patent on my first big personal project. Potential for sub licensing was more important than the work itself.

My solution to the concerns of ownership and distribution is to ensure a personal project is publicly disclosed, copyright is released, and the project is known to the employer before agreement of employment. It is typically not in a company’s interest to claim ownership of such projects where there is a maintenance liability and the potential for revenue and protection are unclear.


But why though? Of course giving a well-payed salary to people is something great and I have nothing against it. But the whole "cool" thing about open-source is that it showed that it can do pretty amazing things without capitalism. Instead here we are trying to push the same mentality we use for everything else into open-source.

Why not continue the experiment as it has for the last 30 years (without any major economical incentives); it has only produced amazing pieces of work so far, so why risk to taint it?


That's an interesting perspective. I always had the feeling that it is unsustainable or unstable to rely on underpaid work.


I suspect that a significant portion of open-source development is paid work that meets a business need, but not the business' product. I know that what little open-source contribution I've made has mostly been stuff I had to do at/for work that was easy enough to break off and have as a separate library/module.


It's still capitalism. It works because business folks sell valuable software acquired at a zero dollar cost of goods for billions of dollars.

And there are a ton of crappy open source projects out there, so it hasn't "only produced amazing pieces of work" it's also produced amazingly terrible software that has proliferated because it's free, but the sales people don't know or care.


> Ideally I'd like to see open source developers in stable, tenured positions that pay fair salaries with benefits.

You can already get this today - almost all the major tech companies pay people to work on open source.


I like the idea, but I'm concerned about the $20 / hour.

Since this is done on the employees' own time (after hours), isn't this basically saying, "hey, go help make our app's dependencies better in an overtime scenario but we're going to pay you $20 / hour instead of 1x to 2x your usual salary"?

I know at the bottom it clears that up but I dunno, it just feels weird to me. It seems like a concealed way to mainly benefit the company and potentially exploit the good will of its employees.


They do say they pay for personal hack projects too, so I read it more as "hey, go do whatever OS projects you feel like/do some skill building and we'll pay you $20/hr". That makes sense to me - the company benefits if you bring more skills and knowledge to the workplace


It would be terrifying to get paid to work on personal projects outside of work hours without thoroughly reading through your contract and the terms of this payment (and probably getting a second eye to do the same). The last thing you want is for a personal project to surprisingly become your employer's property because they paid you for it.


agreed, additionally, there's an interesting behavioral phenomenon where people are perfectly willing to help strangers on the street when asked for free, but the willingness rate drops dramatically when someone offers them a small amount of money because it reframes the conversation. Once people see open source as a way to make money, it becomes a very different thought process.


A lot of us in this industry are very fortunate to have high salaries. At the risk of sounding crass, $20/hour is not much money to me. So this is really just a show of support. I'm going to donate the money anyway. (disclaimer: I work at Formidable)


It sounds like just enough to be nice, and not nearly enough to move the needle, to me.

I guess that’s why I think it’s great.

If it was a smaller token amount, it would feel sad.

If it was more, it would feel exploitative (like a number of people in this thread already said).


Yep, that exact feeling is one of the things that provoked me to write the comment.

Then there's also the social aspect of it all. If you're working with a team of 10 people and 8 of them are contributing to projects that help the company because you're all on the same mission of "rainbows and unicorns are amazing, our company is the best" then there's a tremendous amount of social pressure to keep up with everyone else because otherwise everyone thinks you're not on the same page and you get outcast. Once that happens for a while, that's when you get burnt out and resent everyone you work with.


>Once people see open source as a way to make money, it becomes a very different thought process.

I think it's less about a different thought process, but about a set of potential legal implications or ramifications.


yeah actually it's a good point about possible legal issues, but that's separate from what I meant in my comment. It's been shown empirically that a stranger is more likely to help if asked for a favor than if offered a small amount of money.


Disclaimer- formidable employee and open source maintainer

Formidable does pay folks their full engineering salaries to make targeted contributions to open source during work hours. We can't afford to do a ton of this, so it mostly happens when folks are between projects. The extra $20/hour is extra. It's meant to be fun and encouraging. It's basically the "buy me a beer" license, but Formidable actually buys us a beer.


It also devalues open source work, while at the same time taking away the potential for others to get paid a salary for it. From an economics standpoint, this is bad for developers in the long run, but good for Formidable.


Before (the status quo): $0.

Now: $20/hour.

If that's devaluing something, I would like to devalue my worth by several orders of magnitude please. :)


The problems more related to a fear of anchoring the price.

Before: This costs nothing but I’m avoiding paying for the engineering time that is $$$.

After: $20 an hour is the going rate for developing this sort of software.


There's a big difference in paying for something because you need it done and paying for something you don't even necessarily want but someone did anyway. If you're thinking about "what did this software cost?" and engineering time, then it sounds like the software is already a business need and is being considered from a business perspective.

If I'm furnishing my new empty home and don't have a couch, I'm going to shell out approx. $2,000 for a couch because I need one.

If my house is completely furnished and someone shows up at the door with a couch, I'd either turn them away completely or possibly offer them a small amount after evaluating whether I can even accept it.

IMO claiming that rewarding people for doing any random OSS work they'd do anyway devalues software development in general is concern-trolling.


Disclaimer: I work at Formidable. I have never used my Sauce time on anything related to Formidable open source or clients.


I agree this could be the case, except that there is no pressure to work on anything work-related. You can literally contribute to any OSS project, whether it's your own video game side hustle, a learning project in a language we don't use, or, if the mood strikes, also one of our projects' dependencies.


yes, it is a very powerful con


My opinion is that open-source contributions stems from passion. People do it and implement something because they're passionate about it.

When you attach any money to it, it becomes tainted with responsibility and emotions. Such as, "should I work on this an extra hour and burn myself out and get those extra 40 bucks for dinner tonight?" That formula doesn't make individuals want to work more on open-source.

Sure they push them towards doing stuff in open-source but that usually almost never leads to creating great pieces of work.

One great and amazing thing that open-source thought us is that individuals can group together and work on amazing things without any economical reward. To me it was always a fascinating experiment outside the usual realms of politics, economics, social-studies.

Nobody would have ever imagined it to work without "money", but it does and it will continue to work. In fact, instead of pushing capitalism mentality inside of open-source we should be doing exactly the opposite: push open-source mentality in other parts of our society.


open source maintainer here - I disagree that you get those "responsibility and emotions" only when you attach money.

You already get plenty of those by the sheer fact that you care about the craft you contribute to.

> Nobody would have ever imagined it to work without "money", but it does and it will continue to work.

I'm sorry to break it for you, but it doesn't actually work.

And constant articles and talks from OSS maintainers about burnout is one of the proofs.

If you want to read more, there is a great book on this subject which I feel will help you get a more informed opinion on it: https://www.fordfoundation.org/about/library/reports-and-stu...

Initiatives like this are important to "show by example" - currently there are too many Open Source consumers and not enough contributors.

And also, work IS work - and it should be retributed.


> I'm sorry to break it for you, but it doesn't actually work.

Happy to disagree here. Personally it has been working amazingly since over the past, what, 30 years open-source has been the foundation of almost any tool or tech we use nowadays and it was done without economical incentives. Not sure where your data comes from.

I agree about the burnout, but not sure adding money to the equation helps with this problem.


> over the past, what, 30 years open-source has been the foundation of almost any tool or tech we use nowadays and it was done without economical incentives

Not sure what you are talking about… Most big open-source projects I can think of have at least at some point been the result of economical incentives, either direct or indirect. Sure, there are significant exceptions, but we wouldn't be where we are today if open-source wasn't economically sound.


You are correct. But, the biggest projects we all use (apache, linux, php, etc) all have many paid maintainers through large companies.

If these people weren't paid, I don't think we would have any of the quality software we see today.


Apache Software Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation -- (basically a charity). It does not "make money" per se, it just has to cover its costs.

Not sure about the rest but I believe most have the same model. Sure there are few nitpicks, but my overall point was that open-source doesn't need money to work.


I'm a maintainer for an Apache project. My company pays me to maintain the project because we use it internally. If they did not pay me to maintain it, I would not be doing it. I imagine I'm in a similar spot as many other open source maintainers.


One thing to consider though is that all the big companies like Google and Facebook and many others have dedicated employees on their payroll whose primary responsibility is contributing to open source projects and the more critical a piece of open source software is, the more likely it is that there are contributors being paid by very large corporations to push the project in the right direction for them.


Expenses like paying their employees.

I will never understand how so many people in tech think that not for profit means never make a profit, or pay anyone for their time. But somehow spending money on corporate funded machinery is fine.

When a local maker space wasted thousands of dollars for a license of some cam software, but didn't want to pay a member $10 for cleaning up after everyone else (and keep them from being homeless) I had to seriously reconsider supporting a place that was so anti-people and pro corporation.


> I will never understand how so many people in tech think that not for profit means never make a profit, or pay anyone for their time.

My dad used to be a test engineer for UL, and the way he always (wryly) put it was: “They might not be for profit, but they’re definitely for making money.”


@antt, no they don't pay the employess. In fact they don't have employees: "With no employees and 2663 volunteers, it spent $270,846 on infrastructure, $92,364 on public relations, and $17,891 on two ApacheCons." - from wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apache_Software_Foundation

ps: I'm getting downvoted for linking facts :D


@rdelval cool, but that's totally different form Apache (the foundation) paying you. I think that's a really nice thing to do and have nothing against it.

My main point was simply that the history of open-source, as you can tell by all the amazing open-source released over the last decades by Apache itself, point to the fact that people created something of extreme high-quality without any direct economical reward.


And my point is that behind what you think is an altruistic contribution to open source, there is almost always a company with an economic incentive funding the engineer working on the project.


> Not sure where your data comes from.

I literally linked a 150 pages book with both data and examples in my previous comment.


Ah damn I'm sorry. Can you tell me where this data is in the book? I quickly brushed through the 217 page book and there seems to be no data regarding my comment where I think open-source doesn't need economical incentives in order to work.


I prefer to share this article that came before the book since it's a quicker read:

https://medium.com/@nayafia/how-i-stumbled-upon-the-internet...


That formula doesn't make individuals want to work more on open-source.

Looking at the team profiles on Formidable's site it looks like a lot of them were working on open source projects anyway, so this isn't a way of manipulating them to do something they weren't already doing. It's just a way of rewarding them.


^^ This guy gets it


I think your conclusion comes a bit too quickly. Sure, open-source is about passion for everyone who doesn't do it as a day job and earning money can kill that passion. But so can other factors (e.g. communities that demand but don't contribute) and still, we see a lot of OSS projects out there.

In my opinion, an important factor here is that you earn that money for whatever OSS project you are working on. That reduces the pressure to work on that single project you would get paid to work on.

And if you are completely against the compensation, you could still not tell your company about what you are doing after 5 pm ;-)

I think it is a great opportunity for employees.


As an active Open Source contributor I'd like to say that apart from passion being involved it also is a big responsibility depending on the project either way and being paid for it affirms my passion and beliefs.

Disclaimer: I work for Formidable


I'd agree with you more if they were only incentivizing certain projects, but it sounds like employees are paid for any open source work. And I agree the $20/hr is low enough that most devs could make more freelancing on the side, so why bother with open source? Seems balanced enough to be worth trying, and they're reporting the experiment as a success.


> Sure they push them towards doing stuff in open-source but that usually almost never leads to creating great pieces of work.

Blender, Linux kernel...


Initiatives like this are exactly what gets me clicking on "Careers" links.


Conveniently, that mindset is one reason that makes higher-ups more comfortable approving initiatives like this!


I'm a fan of anything that helps open source, but in my experience it's more effective if the employee is able to work on open source projects as part of their job. Then again, maybe that's just my current evening burnout talking.


Author of the post here.

Realistically, we can't pay people full engineering salaries to do random OSS. Our team can already contribute to OSS on their work time when it relates to their work, or our own projects, but for the personal interest/passion projects without direct benefit for us as a company, it doesn't scale. Doubly so when we have a pretty strict "no overtime" policy of working no more than 40 hours a week.

We have failsafes in place in case anybody gets a bit too excited about free time OSS. We limit the Sauce hours you can do in a month for this reason, but nobody has hit that max yet, so it doesn't seem to be a systemic problem.


> Doubly so when we have a pretty strict "no overtime" policy of working no more than 40 hours a week.

Is HR ready for this increase in applications from this post and the comments?


I guess they'll have to work overtime to process all the applications ;)


> Realistically, we can't pay people full engineering salaries to do random OSS.

Why can't you?

Professors get paid full professor salaries to do "random research".

Doctors get paid full doctor salaries to treat "random illnesses".

I expect if you looked a bit closer, you'll find that "Random OSS" is maintenance that makes the entire ecosystem possible. Would love to hear from some of your engineers what they are doing to earn that $20/hr.


But professors are usually also required to teach classes or carry out other duties in return for getting research funding. They don't just get to randomly do whatever they want.

And doctors treating 'random illnesses' doesn't really work as an analogy–that would be more like if they could randomly decide to turn away patients they didn't 'want' to treat.


Here's an example of a project I worked on under this program - a website for a local community developer meetup.


You overestimsate the amount of random research a Professor is able to do these days.


Right on.


> Doubly so when we have a pretty strict "no overtime" policy of working no more than 40 hours a week.

The post mentions an exact clockout time as well - 5pm. Out of interest is it a strict 9-5 schedule, or is it flexible but 40 hours a week? Have you written anything about the no overtime policy or 9-5 schedule (if that's enforced) and how you find that?


It is flexible. We need to be available for client meetings, but otherwise we are encouraged to work at times when we do our best work.


Yes, you can pay people full engineering salaries to do random OSS. They contribute to your team's brand, reduce recruiting costs and reduce team churn.

If they do too much random OSS to a point where it prevents them from achieving your business goals, you can terminate them.


Greetings Jani! (maybe you remember visiting in London the guy from Germany)

Really interesting to read this and from you via hackernews :D


Out of curiosity, what's the monthly limit?


It's set at 30 hours a month. This is not for budget reasons, only to discourage excess working off-hours. This adds up to about a workday per week, which is what we feel is reasonable.


You could argue that it's people their own choice how much they work - which is true. But sometimes this can become determinental to their health. I'm onboard with this idea to be honest, it sounds good!


This seems like a good way to recognize the extra time put in to support OSS projects - and I like the thoughtfulness about not making it an incentive to spend even more hours working, by capping hours and keeping the bonus amount low.


TL;DR: A company pays their employees $20/hr for open source contributions done on the employees' own time with no strings attached. They also expand this to community promotion such as technical book writing and mentorships. They find this program to be wildly successful and highly encourage other companies to implement the same programs.

I for one am extremely excited that this is reaching front page of HN and entering a broader mindshare. OSS represents everything I hope the tech industry may become someday in the future- high quality work produced by intelligent, talented people for the benefit of all.


I'd be horrified about this Formidable company (What a name.) trying to claim ownership over anything I did in my free time that I was paid $20.00 for.

>More recently, we’ve expanded the definition of contributing to include any social impact work within the field of technology

Well, without clarification on my concerns, this would lead me to simply billing time around things such as answering questions in project IRC channels or helping to organize things, all activities that can't be later claimed, and not use this for programming at all.


Well they don't claim any ownership, so: problem solved! :)

There's a benefit to having the option to transfer ownership though when it makes sense: some projects become a support burden, or incur hosting costs, or have just lost your interest. Over time I've donated several of my personal projects to Formidable so that the company itself can officially maintain them (including during work hours, with the higher pay that entails, if you get assigned to work on it).


Say your open source project was a brick-and-mortar company. The things you're describing would probably be the work of two full time positions. I see no reason at all why it shouldn't be claimed.

Support and Community Management are capital W work.


I applaud any attempt to make open source work worthwhile to those who might not be able to continue spending the time on it without such a stipend/reward/incentive (whatever you want to call it). However, i have to admit that once capital is introduced into an altruistic equation, it has a way of murking things up. Successful initiatives will ultimately be those that allow people so inclined to continue doing open source work, rather than incentivizing potentially needless open source activity from opportunists.

Personally, I would like to see an honor or certificated system "giving pledge" that rewards impactful open source projects...especially those that are not initiated/backed by a corporation. Think of it as a sort of B-Corp (O-Corp anybody?) where a tiny sliver of value (equity/revenue/profit/annual fixed amount) is allocated to the open source libraries on which that business is built. How the money is used is another debate entirely, so is the handling of commercialized open source projects.

A very good candidate for something like this would be d3.js.


Out of curiousity, is there a site where people can put up some money for an open request on development? Like as opposed to hiring a contractor, and specifically developing the requirements, it would be more similar to a feature request with a bonus.

Like specifically, my company has been yearning for a more complete solution to indexes on ORC files (there exists something, but the solution falls short for our specific siutation).


I work for a company launching an Open source board where companies can post jobs for cash works-hub.com/issues


BountySource is one option. You can post a GitHub issue with a bounty; it doesn’t even have to be your own. You can also contribute to other bounties.

I added to a bounty to support inline code comments to Gitea’s pull request UI. It was the one feature I truly missed after moving from GitHub.

The issue was already on the roadmap, but wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. once the bounty hit a couple hundred bucks, someone implemented the feature and claimed the bounty. Money well spent.


Question to author of the post: How are these hours reported? Thanks!


Hours are self reported using the same system that we use for logging client work.


Okay, thanks!


Benefit for employee: recognition for out of hours coding, learning and contribution to society.

Benefit for company: employees reporting hours working which would normally be invisible (Spotting burnout, keeping company project focus etc)

Sounds like a brave but sensible move and an idea I hadn’t heard before. Also makes business sense to that company.


Freexian (R. Hertzog) offers something pertinent (Debian LTS): https://www.freexian.com/services/debian-lts-details.html


I think if I worked at a company that was doing this, I would ask them to pay the money directly to a charity instead (like the Free Software Foundation or Software Freedom Conservancy).


That's actually a good idea. Right now we pay the salary to you, and you can then donate it to a charity. It would be way more tax efficient to just skip the middle step.

Will take this under consideration!


This is interesting, I recently wrote about ways companies can support and sustain open source: https://opensource.com/article/19/4/ways-support-sustain-ope...


There are a bunch of companies that give back to open source maintainers through a better approach...tidelift [1] is one that comes to mind. Has anyone been on their open source programme? Does it operate well?

[1] https://tidelift.com


I’m not sure I’d consider this a better approach. If everyone used tidelift open source would become a popularity contest, and basically about the money.


Only thing different for me in doing open source for free and asking money for it, is that for the paid products, the audience participation goes through the roof and I actually know that someone values my work as they are paying for it. Plus, money is always nice.


I wonder what oss people think about Worklist, a bidding system for open source. I have not seen it be used beyond highfidelity. https://worklist.net


We would love to copy something like this at our company, but given the large employee count and costs involved self reporting is definitely not a feasible option.


I feel like this will end up cannibalizing their engineers effort.


If I'm paid for open source, I'm going to lose any motivation to work on it more. The reason why I contribute to open source projects is BECAUSE I want to contribute for free.

Put money in the deal and I'm no longer doing this work selflessly, but for self-interest instead.


Someone here gets the 20/hour for STEM volunteer work with kids then donates the money to a charity which Formidable also doubles as a part of another program. Would that address the issue for you or is the idea of getting paid for fun stuff just ruin the fun no matter what on principle?

(I work at Formidable)


I may differ from others, but anything that I do as volunteer work needs to be unpaid. Putting money in the equation means that I'm no longer doing X work for Y people, but instead doing X work for Z dollars.

Putting money in the work makes it transactional, and that turns me off to "paid volunteer work". At that point, it's really just another label for "optional job". Volunteer work is donating your time or effort, so putting the "paid" label on it is misleading in my eyes.

I also already donate to charity so I don't see a need to get paid to donate more money, which others may have an incentive to do. This is a point to consider.


What if you just give the money to charity? Does that change your opinion?


I already give money to charity.

The reason why I don't like to put money in open-source work is it attaches a value on something where I would consider the work priceless and personal.

It makes the work feel cold, or transactional. I'm sure others would agree.


There is no deal. Nobody is forcibly handing you money here. It is completely optional for you to participate. Think of it the same way as participating in your company's bonus rewards program like bonus.ly.


>We pay our employees $20/hr for contributions to OSS and tech communities, whether it’s a third-party library we use in our work like React, Next.js

While I applaud the sentiment $20 per hour is too little to make me care and enough to make me start thinking about money.

A much better way to deal with this would be pushing laws to allow for tax offsets for contributing time to charities (open source ones). Seeing $10 per hour (after tax) that doesn't inspire me much.

Being able to write off my full time wage as a tax deductible would make me vastly more motivated to document what I've been working on and work on a lot more of it.


This is a great idea. I don't know if it's even a starter, tax code wise, but would be amazing if it could be done.

For the time being, we are happy with $20 for the reasons outlined in the post itself. It's not an incentive, it's a reward, and a purely optional one. Many people in the company (I'm the author) do work on Open Source and don't make use of the benefit, because they don't care about the money. This, for us, is fine.


I don't care about it now as a full time employed adult. As a university student I could have well become a full time maintainer of some of the scientific libraries that have been neglected since the 80s.

Now as a gainfully employed productive member of society I like the idea of going on a legal tax strike when the government does something I absolutely detest.

>Oh by the by, since you are trying so hard to destroy civil society again this year, here's my bill for keeping it running. You're welcome.

Which is precisely why it would never happen. But you should definitely spend some ~money~ speech on politicians and lobbyists to start some of them thinking about it.


No no no.

This work should be part of your total, main, comp. Working on open-source projects directly contributes to your employer's business, even if the code of that project doesn't get used in those systems. You're building your team's brand (and yes, your own, too). Because other Engineers want to work in an environment where OSS is encouraged, this reduces costs of hiring and retaining Engineers. At $20/hr Formidable is getting recruiting on the cheap.


Disagree on the no aspect, I think there are folks who will do OSS at depth regardless - but there are people for whom the incentives (of community, empowerment, fame etc) aren’t enough and maybe this is one way to make them jump the hurdle.

I pitched that this could be worth trying at Artsy on my last day




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