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Author Topic: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.  (Read 9189 times)

mouser

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Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« on: August 02, 2006, 04:25:22 AM »
I absolutely love jeff atwood's Coding Horror blog, but found myself in rare disagreement with him this morning.
He posted some reflections on another blog entry by Scott Hanselman on the death of the open source project NDoc.



Scott:
Quote
NDoc: The Death of a (great) Open Source Project

On a related note, it's going to take a while (6 months to a year?) for Microsoft to really get Sandcastle to the point where Kevin Downs got NDoc. Will this new tool be as rich and useful? Or will it be forgotten like HTML Help Workshop?

Recently Kevin Downs, the leader of NDoc, emailed a NDoc folks announcing that NDoc is dead. I was shocked to get this email, but sadly, not surprised. Here's an important part of his email:

Unfortunately, despite the almost ubiquitous use of NDoc, there has been no support for the project from the .Net developer community either financially or by development contributions. Since 1.3 was released, there have been the grand total of eleven donations to the project. In fact, were it not for Oleg Tkachenko’s kind donation of a MS MVP MSDN subscription, I would not even have a copy of VS2005 to work with!

To put this into perspective, if only roughly 1-in-10 of the those who downloaded NDoc had donated the minimum allowable amount of $5 then I could have worked on NDoc 2.0 full-time and it could have been released months ago! Now, I am not suggesting that this should have occurred, or that anyone owes me anything for the work I have done, rather I am trying to demonstrate that if the community values open-source projects then it should do *something* to support them. MS has for years acknowledged community contributions via the MVP program but there is absolutely no support for community projects.
...
For "base of the pyramid" fundamental stuff like Build, Test, Coverage, Docs, will we pay for them? We should. Should we have given the NDoc project $5? Did NDoc help me personally and my company? Totally. Did I donate? No, and that was a mistake. I agree with Phil. Support those 5, 10, 20 truly Open Source projects with a little of your time or money.



Jeff:
Quote
...
Open source software is at its best when you aren't obligated to do anything at all other than use it.
..
You definitely shouldn't have to pay for it.
...
Personally, as an Open Source project co-leader, I'd much rather folks who use DasBlog pick a bug and send me a patch (unified diff format) than give money. I suspect that Kevin would have been happy with a dozen engineers taking on tasks and taking on bugs in their spare time.
...
Contributing code to an open source project is a far greater extravagance than any monetary contribution could ever be. It's also infeasible for 99 percent of the audience-- those who have both the time and the ability-- which makes it an even more extravagant demand.
...
If contributing money is foolish and contributing code is an extravagance, what's a poor user to do? Nothing. Nothing at all, that is, other than use the software.
...
The highest compliment you can pay any piece of open source software is to simply use it, because it's worth using. The more you use it, the more that open source project becomes a part of the fabric of your life, your organization, and ultimately the world. Isn't that the greatest contribution of all?



I'm not quite sure where Jeff is coming from with his conclusion that "contribuing money is foolish".
Here is what i wrote in reply to Jeff:
Quote
i wrote about these issues in my article on donationware, "When Do Users Donate":
http://www.donationc...icles/One/index.html

if you back up from your conclusion and simply ask yourself the question: "*IS* contributing money foolish" - i'm not sure youd often come up with an answer of yes. in fact you might come to the conclusion that donating $5 to an open source project you love, if many people did it, would enable a few developers to quit their day jobs and improve the quality, reliability, documentation, of the projects.

isn't it at least feasible that widespread acceptence of a donation-based approach to funding open source projects, if we all took it seriously, could make it possible for open source coders to spend more time polishing their software and working on some of the finishing touches that many of us bitch about (lack of docs, etc.)?

Your thoughts?

NeilS

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2006, 08:01:26 AM »
I think there's an element of truth in what Jeff is saying, but in typical Jeff style, he jumps pretty quickly to a set of conclusions that are likely to annoy some portion of his readers. I've found that most of the best writers/bloggers out there have similar tendencies. In fact, that's probably what makes them worth reading in the first place, but being worth reading and always being right aren't necessarily the same thing.

Jeff seems to be taking some kind of purist view of open source software, where the main aim is to get people using your software, with a secondary goal of getting some people to help make it. That's fine - it's a nice model and it works for a lot of people, but I must have skipped the section of the rulebook that says you can only do it that way.

If someone wants to start up an open source (or closed-source freeware) project on the basis that some people will donate to (or sponsor) the work, then that's their choice, and they should be free to make it. If someone does it this way because they can't get a critical mass of developers helping out on the project (and thus have to put in a significant amount of work or money themselves), then it's not even a choice - it's a neccessity.

It seems to me that there are lots of ways to make a software project sustainable, ranging from selling it like a normal product, right through to the lone freeware programmer who continues a project because he uses the software himself, or simply enjoys seeing other people benefit from his efforts. Different projects have different needs in this respect, as do the people who take part in them, so it simply doesn't make sense to have one definition for open source software which only supports a narrow range of "acceptable" sustainability methods.

I wonder if Jeff believes that the sponsorship given by large companies like HP, IBM and Novell to a number of open source projects is also wrong and, if so, does he believe that all of these projects would still exist without this sponsorship? Would he rather some projects died than having any money change hands? I don't think that's quite what he's trying to say, but it does seem to be heading in that direction.

BTW Mouser, your point about donations being used to encourage more effort on the less-enjoyable parts of software (like manuals) is a good one. I don't think "the purists" really have an answer for that one yet.


- Neil.



mouser

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2006, 01:56:09 PM »
nice take on it that i agree with:
http://haacked.com/a...FreeLikeAFlower.aspx

NeilS

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2006, 04:56:28 PM »
nice take on it that i agree with:
http://haacked.com/a...FreeLikeAFlower.aspx

Yeah, good article. If you extend his flower analogy to the concept of financial donations, it's a bit like someone on your street offering to build a nice flower garden that everyone can enjoy, and they'll keep it up as long as they can, but any donations will help to ensure that it keeps going as long as possible, and maybe even allow them to spend a bit more on fancier flowers. It's hard to imagine anyone getting annoyed at the person making this offer, but that seems to be exactly what's happening when people start talking about using donations to help sustain software projects.

Coming back to Jeff Atwood's blog, his main argument seems to be that, since contributing code is far more useful than money (which somehow means contributing money is foolish), and since most people can't contribute code, we shouldn't do either. But - surely - if people take a view that they "do what they can", then lots of people contributing a small amount of money each will help to encourage the small number of people who can contribute code to do so?


mouser

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2006, 05:12:09 PM »
well put NeilS.

Do what you can.

People can help projects in different ways, and to different degrees depending on their abilities, time, financial resources, etc.  There are lots of ways to help support a project, big and small.

Those of us who have been advocating for a donation based approach to funding are very keen on the idea of being flexible about letting users figure out for themselves how they can and want to contribute..

it's frustrating to hear someone say that its foolish to contribute to an open source project.  Different people can help in different ways - the central tennet of donationware advocates is to figure out a way to let people express their support and help a project in a way THEY choose to.

zridling

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2006, 09:46:52 PM »
I'll have to disagree with Jeff Atwood. Think of an open source project as you would an organism, or a puppy — neglect to feed it, and it will fade and eventually die. Think "Long Tail" and its impact, and you get a sense that many projects may not need to die on the vine.

I'm no coder, but I have a "great software" recommendation list, but in it I try to inform users like myself to:

"Communicate and donate. If you use freeware or Open Source software, make a donation in support of its continued development, and simply in appreciation. Few users realize how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into any good program — especially one that is actively developed. If you use it through an upgrade, make another affordable, modest donation to encourage its continued development. In other words, donate what the program is worth to you, not what it costs you. We all love freeware, but stable, useful software is worth supporting, and by donating small amounts — $5-$20 — you won't notice it in the pocketbook. Many Open Source projects have to pay for wiki and site hosting costs even though they're considered "free," but a good rule of thumb is to give what the program has saved you in the cost of commercial software. And if you cannot afford to donate a small amount, write the author a brief note telling them how you use their program and how much you appreciate it...."

I know LOTS of users hate any software that isn't absolutely free to them. But as others have mentioned above, who the hell has that kind of time? No one. Eleven donations over the entire life of the project was an insult, and it devalues the hard work and brainwidth it takes to write code that provides solutions for the rest of us. I make $6/hour, but man, I'm neither that cheap nor heartless.

Rover

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2006, 10:20:52 PM »
Jeff says:
Quote from: above
The highest compliment you can pay any piece of open source software is to simply use it, because it's worth using. The more you use it, the more that open source project becomes a part of the fabric of your life, your organization, and ultimately the world. Isn't that the greatest contribution of all?
In short, not always.

There are some people who want exactly what he described it's true.  That doesn't mean that every programmer thinks this way.  Personally, I want cash.

The question of Free Software, Open Source or Moneyware (in any form) is one of a philosophical position.
1) I want to create something to share with humanity....we can be one bonded by our shared use of something I created... (angelic singing)
2) I worked hard on this, give me money if you want to use it.

This is painfully obvious to me... how could he be so stupid?
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mouser

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2006, 11:04:39 PM »
rover i think it's important to realize that many of us fall into the category of:
"1.23) I want to create something to share with humanity....we can be one bonded by our shared use of something I created... (angelic singing) - but i don't want to be locked up for failing to pay my student loan - can those who can afford it donate so i don't have to choose between homelessness or giving up this project."

Rover

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2006, 11:16:23 PM »
mouser - yes that too.  which only continues my point that Jeff was on crack the day he wrote this blog.

I'm sure there are many variables along the way.

1.1 - You can use this for free, send me a post card or something if you want to.
1.2 - Donationware model 1: I hope you like it en ought to send me some $$. It's ok if you don't.
1.7 - Donationware model 2: I'm letting you use it with the expectation that you'll donate.  If you only use it a few times a year don't worry.  If you live your life around it send my kids to college.
1.9 - Is Shareware stupid, you can try it before you buy, but you will buy.
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mouser

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2006, 11:20:08 PM »
yes. and let's not forget this one that i think really needs to be talked about and worked out in the open source world:

-2.0 : i don't care if you donate as long as you aren't getting filthy rich off my backbreaking labor.  but if you are getting filthy rich by making a 1 line change in my life's work, i expect to get a reasonable share of the profits.

app103

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2006, 04:22:55 AM »
Open source has nothing to do with the price of the software...it only has to do with the source code of that software.

Many confuse the term "open source" to mean freeware.

It's not. It's software in which you are entitled to the source code, entitled to change that source, and entitled to redistribute that software, providing you give the source to those that receive it.

Nowhere in there does it say that the programmers should starve themselves while coding it and nowhere does it say they have to give their work away for free.

Why do people get confused and think that open source software is a type of freeware? Because many open source projects are freeware/donationware.

But not all are free. There are some where you only receive the source once you buy the product. And this is OK, and it's still in the spirit of true open source software. And those projects are the ones most likely to survive because they force you to give back something.

In the true spirit of open source is a concept of sharing. In any sharing relationship, it won't last if one does all the giving and the other does all the taking and giving nothing back. It leaves the first party feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, and totally drained.

If someone shares with you, etiquette says you should share something back with the giver...become a giver yourself. Etiquette says you ARE obligated. Everything has a price...no exceptions.

There is no such thing as a 'free lunch'. At the very least you should 'kiss the cook'.

Even if you are broke, you can share something in return for what was shared with you. It is the only right thing to do. Think about it for awhile and I am sure you can come up with an idea or two on how to do this.

And if the software is making you money, you better damn well share the wealth with the reason why you are making money. Otherwise you are not only being a stingy miser, you are exploiting people for your own personal gain. (There is a name for people like that but I won't say it because this is supposed to be a family friendly forum.)

If everyone that uses free open source software actually gave something back to these projects then the quality would rival or even exceed the payware versions of similar products and we would all come out as winners...the developers and consumers alike.

It is up to you, the user, to determine the best way to give back, and be generous about it, no matter what it is that you are giving. Try to give back equal to what you received.

If you love it, support it...it's that simple.

Takers may eat better...but givers sleep better.

Rover

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2006, 11:05:03 PM »
So app, are you agreeing that Jeff is full of it?  His claim is that using the software is the best kind of payment.

Any BTW you are 100% correct.  Open Source != Free Software


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JavaJones

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2006, 04:03:09 AM »
You know, an interesting - albeit obvious - thought occurs to me: Remember all the discussion about sliding scale pricing and general price reduction on the "Why is so much software cracked" thread? In a sense donationware is the realization of that. If you find a good donationware or open source project that takes donations, and it is clear it's well-maintained and that the developer reinvests support in the app, then donating to that app could essentially be like buying its future. You contribute to The GIMP and it gets a bit closer to Photoshop perhaps? This would only work for well-maintained, long-term (stable) projects, and would work best in conjunction with feedback to the developer on features you want, but it makes some sense. There's more to it that's percolating in my brain but it's not quite digested yet. ;)

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2006, 06:56:49 AM »
another related post:
http://mikeomatic.net/?p=44

app103

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Re: Recent Blog Discussions of Open Source Donations, etc.
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2006, 08:54:24 AM »
So app, are you agreeing that Jeff is full of it?  His claim is that using the software is the best kind of payment.

I sure am glad I am not his wife, with the way he shows gratitude.   :P