Requirements for community funding of open source

Last month another site for aggregating donation pledges to open source software projects launched.

I’m not sure there’s anything significant that sets Cofundos apart from microPledge featurewise. Possibly a step where bidders (pledgers) vote on which developer bid to accept. However I’m not certain how a developer is chosen on microPledge — their FAQ says “A quote will be chosen that delivers the finished and paid product to the pledgers most quickly based on their current pledging rate (not necessarily the shortest quote).” microPledge’s scheme for in progress payments may set it apart.

In terms of marketing and associations, Cofundos comes from the Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web research group at the University of Leipzig, producers of , about which I’ve written. Many of the early proposed projects are directly related to AKSW research. Their copyright policy is appreciated.

microPledge is produced by three Christian siblings who don’t push their religion.

Cofundos lists 61 proposed projects after one month, microPledge lists about 160 after about three and a half months. I don’t see any great successes on either site, but both are young, and perhaps I’m not looking hard enough.

Cofundos and microPledge are both welcome experiments, though I don’t expect either to become huge. On the other hand, even modest success would set a valuable precedent. In that vein I’ve been pretty skeptical about the chances of Fundable, they seem to have attracted a steady stream of users. Although most projects seem to be uninteresting (pledges for bulk purchases, group trips, donations to an individual’s college fund, etc), some production of public goods does seem to being funded, including several film projects in the small thousands of dollars range. Indeed, “My short film” is the default project name in their form for starting a project.

It seems to me that creating requirements and getting in front of interested potential donors are the main challenges for sites focused on funding open source software like Cofundos and microPledge (both say they are only starting with software). Requirements are just hard, and there’s little incentive for anyone to visit an aggregator who hasn’t aggregated anything of interest.

I wonder if integrating financial donations into project bug tracking systems would address both challenges? Of course doing so would have risks, both of increasing bureaucracy around processing bugs and feature requests, necessity of implementing new features (and bugs) in the relevant bug tracking software, and altering the incentives of volunteer contributors.

Via Open Knowledge Foundation Blog.

5 Responses

  1. Berwyn Hoyt says:

    Nice write-up, thanks. You ask how microPledge developers get chosen when there is more than one quote for the job. In most cases the answer is simple: whoever is both cheapest and quickest.

    It only gets complicated when when one person is cheapest and another is quickest. In that case we project the current rate of pledges into the future to guess whether the pledges will meet the quicker guy’s more expensive target inside his development timeframe. If they won’t, we chose the cheaper guy. There are some other tweaks in the formula to handle extreme cases, but they are unusual.

  2. Berwyn, thanks for the explanation!

  3. Graue says:

    Of the first four microPledge projects I clicked on, three said “License is closed-source” and one said “License is proprietary”. You can imagine how I contorted my mouth in an expression of disgust.

    Cofundos is dedicated to open source, making it feel comfortable to me.

    They require results under an “OSI approved open-source license”, though unfortunately this would seem to rule out public domain dedication.

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