2013-04-07 23:04:24 by jdixon
I was recently cold-emailed about a new service, Catincan, that offers a Kickstarter-like bounty system for open source software projects or features. Someone representing the company reached out to me (and presumably, many others in the open source community) for feedback, generally about the funding of open source development, and specifically about their own service.
This was the first I've heard of their product or company. Looking at their website, it's a straightforward crowdfunding service, applied to the domain of open source software. In their own words:
Catincan breaks down the wall between developers, users and funding to help open source project developers gain the funding necessary to continue making great software for users.
And even more telling, from their email:
Our goal is to help more open source projects become self-sustaining and competitive with propriety solutions.
For the sake of privacy, I won't share this person's name or the entirety of their email. But I find that quote particularly humiliating, in that it implies that a) FOSS software is somehow uncompetitive with their commercial counterparts, and b) that money will somehow solve this [imaginary] dilemma.
I think there was a time when project hosting costs would have justified this sort of service. Those days are long gone. Thanks to services like GitHub, TravisCI, and other FOSS-friendly companies that invest in open source (rather than leeching off of it), it's almost imaginable that a project couldn't exist, let alone thrive, without any expense to the founder or maintainers.
Here is my reply to their request for feedback. I hope that my opinions correspond with those of the greater free software / open source software communities, but I don't pretend to represent them.
Honestly, I think it's disturbing. It attempts to coerce FOSS development into a system of bounties. You're not attempting to "help open source projects become... competitive with [proprietary] solutions". You're aiming to make a quick buck off the backs of FOSS developers using the popularity of the Kickstarter model.
Good open source software doesn't exist because someone offered a bounty for it. It exists because someone scratched an itch and had the foresight to make their creation or improvements available to others.
I think what you'll find over time is that the bounty system for software sounds good in concept, but most FOSS developers write code because it solves a personal need. Ask yourself: if you were "hired" to develop an open source feature for someone else, who maintains that software when the project is complete? There's a very high likelihood that the code will go unmaintained or orphaned over time.
Conversely, I like the Gittip model where FOSS developers are rewarded for their works after-the-fact. This not only conveys gratitude from the user, but it also motivates the developer to develop and give away even more code.
I am genuinely curious as to whether this jibes with others' opinions. Please leave your feedback in the comments below. I will compile the results and deploy my competing service within a few weeks.