A plan for open source software maintainers

I've been writing open source software for about 15 years now; while I'm still wet behind the ears compared to FreeBSD greybeards like Kirk McKusick and Poul-Henning Kamp, I've been around for long enough to start noticing some patterns. In particular:

It seems to me that this is a case where problems are in fact solutions to other problems. To wit:

I'd like to see this situation get fixed. As I envision it, a solution would look something like a cross between Patreon and Bugzilla: Users would be able sign up to "support" projects of their choosing, with a number of dollars per month (possibly arbitrary amounts, possibly specified tiers; maybe including $0/month), and would be able to open issues. These could be private (e.g., for "technical support" requests) or public (e.g., for bugs and feature requests); users would be able to indicate their interest in public issues created by other users. Developers would get to see the open issues, along with a nominal "value" computed based on allocating the incoming dollars of "support contracts" across the issues each user has expressed an interest in, allowing them to focus on issues with higher impact.

I have three questions for my readers:

  1. If this existed, would you — an open source software developer — sign up and use it?
  2. If this existed, would you — a user of open source software — be likely to pay to support, and receive support from, an open source software developer?
  3. Does anyone want to build this?

Pending the answers to the first two questions, I'm enthusiastic about this idea; if I wasn't already running Tarsnap I would probably go ahead and build this myself. But I'm not Jeff Bezos and there's no way I could run two startup companies at once; so finding someone else interested in building this would be crucial.

I think something like this could fill an important gap in the world of open source software. Maybe I'm crazy. Feedback requested.


Q: Are you talking about bounties for open source software development? There are websites for doing that.
A: No! This would be different from bounties in several ways:

  1. Sponsors would be supporting a specific developer, not setting aside money for whoever comes along and claims it. This is important because bounties tend to result in horrible "drive-by coding" which causes problems for maintainers later.
  2. This would be about providing ongoing funding for a developer, which would allow them to spend time on long-term code maintenance, not just chasing after the latest in-demand feature.
  3. While there would be a "dollar value" attached to issues, that value would just be informational — telling the developer how much users care about that particular issue. The developer would get money from their monthly subscribers regardless of which issues they address. (Of course, if they don't respond to issues they may find that supporters cancel their ongoing funding.)

Posted at 2017-05-11 04:10 | Permanent link | Comments
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