A call for schwag

Two things happened this morning which started me thinking. First, I read Zed Shaw's rant about how he thinks he deserves more recognition and money from his Open Source work; and second, I looked at my pile of t-shirts, and realized that while I have 4 Google t-shirts (one from August 2006, when I interviewed there; and three from Google Summer of Code), I don't have a single t-shirt from any company which is using code I've written.

Now, this is not to say that I haven't received any rewards for my work on FreeBSD. In the summer of 2006 I spent four months working full-time on FreeBSD in exchange for almost $15k in donations; I've received a USB-attached hard drive; the FreeBSD Foundation paid for my flight to BSDCan'06; and last summer a FreeBSD user sent me a book off my Amazon wishlist. But aside from the book, those were all about enabling me to continue working on FreeBSD, not about acknowledging work I had already done. Perhaps the most significant benefit I've received from people recognizing my work on FreeBSD is the indirect benefit via my tarsnap online backup service: I've seen lots of people saying "I love Portsnap / FreeBSD Update / your work as FreeBSD Security Officer / etc, and based on that I'm sure your backup service is worth trying out".

Maybe it's unreasonable to expect any more recognition than this. After all, the FreeBSD project is big -- a few hundred committers, not to mention the thousands of people who contribute patches which other people end up committing -- and most companies won't have the budget to send t-shirts to hundreds of people just to say "thank you". On the other hand, my bsdiff binary patch tool has been used by Apple's Software Update tool, Firefox's software updates, and the Amazon Kindle; I'm sure they all have promotional schwag available, but in two of the three cases (I'm not going to say which) I didn't even get so much as an email to tell me that they were going to be using my work.

One of the strongest motivations for people to get involved in Open Source software is the allure of being recognized for their work. It's nice to be recognized by other developers, and this happens quite often; it's also nice to be recognized by people using one's work, and this also happens fairly regularly. But being recognized by companies? Aside from Poul-Henning Kamp, whose "beerware" license has resulted in companies sending him beer, I'm not aware of FreeBSD developers receiving any form of recognition from FreeBSD-using companies. (Again, I'm distinguishing between sending someone a gift to thank them for their work and making a contribution towards keeping the project running -- many companies have donated hardware and bandwidth to the FreeBSD project.)

So I am hereby issuing a call for schwag: If your company uses Open Source software, and your company has promotional t-shirts, bags, hats, USB disks, et cetera, please pick one of the developers who worked on the code you're using and send him/her an email:

To: Open Source Developer
From: Big company
Subject: Thanks for your work on XYZ

Dear Mr. Developer,

Thank you very much for your work on XYZ -- it's [insert comment here about why you like and are using XYZ]. Would you like a BigCo t-shirt? Let me know your address and what size you'd like and we'll send you one.

Guy who works at BigCo

Obviously, money is even better than schwag, and many developers (myself included) are available for consulting work; most companies, however, can't afford to throw money around. But a t-shirt is a much easier thing to give someone than a consulting contract; and when it comes to telling someone that you recognize and appreciate the work that they've done -- well, as they say, it's really the thought that counts.

Posted at 2009-07-14 14:15 | Permanent link | Comments
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