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Ask HN: Is there a Kickstarter for open source software projects?
6 points by travisfischer 1884 days ago | hide | past | web | 10 comments | favorite
Is anyone building a website similar to Kickstarter but focused only on open source software? Also, what would be the primary challenges/issues with such a site? What characteristics of the open source movement and community would make this work or not work?

I see that Gun.io is trying to do something like this. It doesn't seem to be working very well yet. Not sure that specific implementation of the idea is right. Something feels off.

Background of question: I was just brainstorming some open source projects that I would like to exist. If I had more time or enough income that I could use some of my income generating time for purposes other than generating income, I would just build these projects. However, because of my life circumstances this is not the case (Early in career, stay at home wife and child, high cost of living, commitments outside of software world, etc...). These ideas are ideas that I believe a lot of other people could make use of and would generate income for many people if built. This got me thinking that it would be cool if I could either chip in a few hundred bucks towards the development of these projects or if I could get paid just enough to build these projects that I could afford the time to build them.

Related Side Rant: I greatly appreciate the open source communities commitment to donating time for the greater good of the community. I also think that it would be very beneficial to create more tools to further encourage the development of open source projects by compensating the talented engineers that lead the development in order to at a minimum offset the opportunity cost of time spent developing open source. I also think it is fantastic that companies and organizations like Khan Academy, P2PU and many others are attempting to build sustainable organizations based on open sourcing their code.

Related Discussions: Reflections on Using Kickstarter for Open Source Projects - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2875255 Gun.io Debuts Free Group Funding for Open Source Projects (gun.io) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3348358

I know quite a few people with a stay at home wife, child, high cost of living, etc.. that have figure out ways to make money to supplement their cost of living so they can have some free time. There are ways to get side income that would be enough to free up some time to do these open source projects if you're willing to do what it takes and think about it. Just wanted to put my two cents in on this portion of your comment and let you know that it is possible if that is something you want to explore.

That said, I agree with Overshard that Kickstarter has have open source projects and is fine for that sort of thing. Don't use one example you find off Gun.io as a reason for it not working. By that argument, people shouldn't do startups because it sure is easy to find examples of failed ones... Diaspora was open source I believe and that did just fine on Kickstarter. Just saying.

Thanks for the feedback. I totally agree with the your point that if spending more time coding was my number one priority outside of the other things mentioned I could make time for that. Without laying out every single detail of my life, it's not possible to paint the picture but it always comes down to priorities. Currently because of my priorities I will not spend the time building this software that I think would be super beneficial to a lot of people but if I was able to raise a reasonable amount of money, than I would be able to re-prioritize accordingly. It's not that I couldn't make time it's just that at this time in my life I won't for these projects because they don't rank in my top 3-4 most important things that I'm trying to focus on.

Kickstarter has worked for some open source projects and seems to do a decent job. I however can imagine a site that was more tailored to open source software would be able to offer a lot of useful features that Kickstarter won't provide.

Thanks for the feedback. Fun to think through these things.

I'm sure I understand why funding would make you re-prioritize if you don't want to already in pursuit of what you want to do. There is an old adage about how having more money doesn't solve a person's problems. In this case, the same principle to a varying degree can be applied.

But to be fair, I don't know anything about you, your situation, your priorities, etc... So take the above as general advice and not specific advice. I just personally think that its the wrong way to look at something and that if you want to pursue something, you have to make an effort to do so rather than believe money will help shift your priorities. It shouldn't hold you back.

I don't think that the analogy between speculative physical projects and open source software projects is that strong. Kickstarter enables people who have the idea and the people, but just lack the funds. Generally with an open source software project there's no funding required, one or two motivated hackers can build the first version on their home machines without any extra resources required, and then as the project grows they can get input and funds if necessary from their userbase.

Kickstarter is about lowering the barriers to entry for new products, but the barriers to entry for an open source software project are extremely low already. Perhaps a structure to make starting up new projects easier would be useful, but it wouldn't operate like kickstarter.

Is anyone building a website similar to Kickstarter but focused only on open source software?

Actually, I am :) I'm not quite ready to go public -- please contact me privately.

I think that getting crowdfunding contributions for a completely new project would be extremely difficult, unless you are already very well known in the Open Source world. I think you have to just write version 0 and put it out there and see what happens. Well, you can talk it up in appropriate forums, but if that doesn't attract users, I don't know what else you can do.

If it does attract users, though, you have at least demonstrated that you're solving some problem that affects people other than yourself. Then I think you might have a chance at raising some money.

I've seen Kickstarter used for open source apps fairly successfully before. (Sorry I don't remember one off the top of my head.) I don't see any reason to reinvent the wheel here. Maybe even contact Kickstarter and ask if they can build a section for it?

The compensation I get for developing open source projects is recognition in the community, a nice resume padder and a general feel good associated with donating because I generally don't just donate straight up money to anything.

When I can walk into a possible employer and hand them a long list of projects I've worked on then they can see exactly my capabilities. I get job offers much easier without having to jump through hoops to prove coding skills directly.

Novacut Open source video editor, recently got funded sucessfully through kickstarter.


We're building a WordPress plugin that allows individuals to crowdfund for their own projects - http://ignitiondeck.com

We're still in beta, so the software is not perfect, but it's off to a good start.

We've had a LOT of people ask us to support MU, but we're not really interested in that customer base, at least until we get phase 1 finished.

Cool idea. Do you know anything about what percentage of Kickstarter funders come from links that the fund raiser posts vs. Kickstarter.com? Just curious if it will be harder to raise funds if not on the Kickstarter.com domain.

I've read some case studies wherein most people that were successful had to do a majority of the promotion themselves, at least early on. I think this is probably more true now than when Kickstarter was new and the story was fresh.

I only know two people personally that have tried their own KS campaign. One was successful and the other was not. He was gutted to have done all of the work to reach 50% and then not see a dime when the campaign didn't make it. Those are the people we're trying to help.

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