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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A thank you and genuine appreciation is better.
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?
I would be glad.
Of course, if it's not meant to be fun-time stuff, then it would be great.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Shouldn't federally-funded work be placed in the public domain, or something like that?
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.
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.
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?
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.
You can already get this today - almost all the major tech companies pay people to work on open source.
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.
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).
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.
I think it's less about a different thought process, but about a set of potential legal implications or ramifications.
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.
If that's devaluing something, I would like to devalue my worth by several orders of magnitude please. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If these people weren't paid, I don't think we would have any of the quality software we see today.
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 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.
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.”
ps: I'm getting downvoted for linking facts :D
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.
I literally linked a 150 pages book with both data and examples in my previous comment.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I work for Formidable
Blender, Linux kernel...
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.
Is HR ready for this increase in applications from this post and the comments?
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.
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.
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?
If they do too much random OSS to a point where it prevents them from achieving your business goals, you can terminate them.
Really interesting to read this and from you via hackernews :D
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.
>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.
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).
Support and Community Management are capital W work.
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.
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 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.
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.
Will take this under consideration!
Put money in the deal and I'm no longer doing this work selflessly, but for self-interest instead.
(I work at Formidable)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I pitched that this could be worth trying at Artsy on my last day