When Crowdfunding is not enough for supporting OSS

Christofer Dutz, creator of Apache PLC4X, said he will stop providing community support for the software if corporate users fail to step up and open their wallets.

C-ware has launched several crowdfunding initiatives to adapt Apache PLC4X to Python, Rust, and TypeScript, among other enhancements, but these have barely attracted any funding commitments.

Finally, the lack of crowdfunding or corporate support has led him to look for an exit.

“This is my final attempt,” he wrote. “If this also doesn’t help with getting at least some form of financial attribution for my hard work, I will close down my business and there will be no further form of support from my side.”

Crowdfund was never enough. Stats from Liberapay shows top teams are getting less that 500 EUR a week (2000 EUR a month).

In industrial automation funding comes top down from projects. Projects may include dozens of companies and cost billions of Euro. It hard to me to imagine that project costs include Open Source software, because it can not be bought by a procurement division, and it is hard to impossible to argument to that division why “a crowdfunding donation” is the part of the project. Not only the “donation” logic should change to another term like “sustainability chain backing”, but also the connection of the department to the project development and support teams. The bureaucracy and rigidness of industrial systems is probably the top among all industries that are supposed to be innovative. From 15 years ago I am still receiving letter to attend conferences that are discussing the topic from back then with no clear progress. And the fun thing is that industry carries no media that can publish an article that there is no progress in this area, because media sponsors won’t like it. They like to be portrayed as VIPs. Even Elon Musk releasing all Tesla patents still not backing up Open Source. At least I don’t see any traces in search engines.

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Crowdfunding for Software is hard. Here’s another interesting article from Dr. Felix Breuer, about how the public could be incentivized for supporting the development of digital books and open source software through crowdfunding.

The question is that no matter how convenient or beneficial could be the crowdfunding goal, always people would choose the most egoistic approach for themselves and the problem of free-riding will never be solved when financing public goods, as everyone is expecting that the others should pay for the greater good.

What Felix Breuer is proposing consist on launching the software as proprietary closed at first, then after gathering enough financial resources developers would liberate the software as FOSS if the public demands it.

However few years later we’ve discovered that it couldn’t work either.

My answers to that stuff.

  1. People are bad at micromanaging donations
  2. People are bad at having enough money

The first point is completely UI/UX and addictive gameplay problem. F2P games are good at engineering workflows that make people buy inside stuff, and if somebody wants people to trigger for a better good, they should compete with their practices.

The second point can be solved by making people use not their money for distributing funds. Or using a fraction of their own to distribute greater value as with quadratic funding (I would only add a quadratic opt-out from suspicious projects I haven’t heard about).

It’s not a new approach, the “escrow” model is as old as the GNU project. Ghostscript by the company Aladdin used to follow that model and it was acceptable by the GNU project as a good example respecting user’s freedom and allowing developers to make a living.


BTW, it’s the same model that LWN uses, for news rather than code :slight_smile: