Hacktoberfest: Sustainability Ideas

This Hacktoberfest, Gitcoin is giving away funds to selected projects which have meaningful contributions from participants. For those projects, Hackttoberfest brings both funds from Gitcoin and contributions from community members. Both of these things are great - but they are ultimately fleeting, as October is only a single month.

To encourage longer-term, more sustainable growth, we’re encouraging members of Hacktoberfest (and, in particular Gitcoin grant recipients) to talk about how they’re working to make their projects more sustainable. This thread is meant to be a place for them to drop their ideas over the next month.

So - what does sustainability mean for your project, and how are you working towards it during Hacktoberfest?


To kick off the discussion, I wanted to post Nadia Eghbal’s “Lemonade Stand” repo:

Before her work on Working in Public Nadia actually made a bunch of other contributions to OSS sustainability and this was one of them. Would love to get people’s thoughts on the trade-offs between models presented here!

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Thanks for the guide Scott and great chatting with you offline on this topic.

Here are some additional links that have influenced my general philosophy on open source: code should be openly available, but the more money your company makes off of open source, the more you ought to pay.

Guiding philosophy:

The problem (recommended read):

OSS Business models:

Crazy idea

One idea I’ve had around resolving is to develop a new copyleft type license where the foundation behind the license sends a single annual bill to companies above $x million in revenue. Yes, the foundation would have an actual billing/legal department. That payment would be split between all projects used by a company under that license according to a standardized pricing doc included in the repo. In my experience companies largely don’t pay because it’s a pain to manage lots of small payments/donations which are fundamentally at odds with the nature of corporate procurement.

The goal here isn’t to get to 100% compliance but to capture a significant enough share of the value of open source that maintainers can be well-paid and do OSS as a full time job.


Welcome, @devx!

I’m curious; have you looked into Tidelift? What you’re suggesting sounds similar, to me.

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Thinking about this further. Tidelift essentially charges large companies to use open source by offering support and validation. They then take some of the money they get and offer that to maintainers to maintain their work. Essentially, they tie together large swathes of projects under a single banner, and then sell that directly to enterprises that are set up to buy things this way.

What they don’t do, as far as I know, is dual license. Is that what you’re suggesting?

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I like Tidelift, and they seem to be able to navigate the corporate procurement process which is key. Issue there though, is that it’s still mostly goodwill on the part of companies whether they want to participate. And strikingly few opt-in.

You are correct that I’m thinking of a foundation that manages compliance to a dual license. So something like GPL with a commercial license that only gets activated above, say $x million revenue. If you’re a lone hacker, researcher, early stage startup you’re guaranteed to have $0 liability even if your product is proprietary. But revenue generating companies would also be able to deterministically calculate their financial liability given their revenue and a list of projects under the dual license (using the pricing file in each repo).

I think the big downside of traditional GPL/commercial dual licenses was that individuals/small orgs were put in legal risk. And two, it was a massive pain to figure out the varying terms of each commercial license. This would simplify all that.

The foundation would act similar to a MongoDb in enforcing the commercial license, but act as a Tidelift in distributing the revenue to all projects under that license based on their usage.

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I think you’d have difficulty getting a critical mass of developers to either relicense their work, or to license it under Dual Licensing. That’s partly what xs:code is doing, too. I like the idea, but I’m not sure how it would work in practice.