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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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While reading some forum postings at the Sublime Text Editor site, I came across a pointer to an experiment that the developer at  is running in something he calls "Fairware":

How does Fairware work? All hours developers invest in projects are public, as well as their hourly rate expectations. All contributions from fair users are also instantly made public (anonymously). When contributions are made, they are allocated to unpaid development hours (see the F.A.Q. for details). Everyone can thus easily know how many hours have yet to be compensated. Also, users are made aware that the software is Fairware with a dialog that pops up for users who haven't contributed yet, reminding them of expectations from developers. With enough fair users, such a system allows open source developers working on software for a wide audience to do so full time. I don't know about you, but I find that awesome.-
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Of course, since the software is open source, you could build a version without the nag.  But it seems most (or at least enough) people aren't interested in bypassing the nag that way.

It looks like has been doing this for about a year, and it appears to be more or less successful.  The applications look interesting enough that I may give a couple a go.  Also, there's a bunch of information and statistics about the Fairware concept itself (including stats on hours spent working on the software and the donations/payments received in return).

Interesting stuff.

I like this!  None of the software really appeals to me unfortunately, but I might contribute just to support the idea.  I wish we could get something like that going here in as an addition to the donation credits system.

Verry interesting.. time to go check out how the unpaid hours thing is tracked and how donations are divied up -- that has always been the part i've been unsure how to handle when you are talking about multiple authors of an open source project.

We need to support efforts like this  :up:

It is an interesting approach. But I still think it's largely preaching to the choir.

From my experience, the general software using public doesn't care how much work or effort has gone into something. They generally expect to be charged for software. And, if given the opportunity, they'll often try to find a way to "borrow" a copy rather than pay for it. Which is why the so-called "honor system" doesn't work very well. This is something the Association of Shareware Professionals learned back in the 80s: If you don't REQUIRE a payment, you'd best not expect to be paid.

The Free Software crowd got around it by basically saying: Screw it! Here's some software. Use it..

There was a certain subtext in there that also that said: It would be really cool if those of you people who are using it could throw some dollars our way so we can continue to develop and refine this thing. But after that, they stopped worrying about it. And if enough people didn't help support their efforts, they stopped developing. It was pure Darwinism: Software which filled a genuine need got supported and survived. Software which didn't (or was of limited or special interest) either continued on as the self-supported  'hobby' project it was - or shut down.

At the core of this was the realization of a simple truth: People (mostly) only pay for what they need. They're far less likely (and willing) to pay for stuff they merely want. And, if given the opportunity to avoid paying at all, about 98% of the people out there won't. Which is why Microsoft developed Genuine Advantage - and we get to live with all the nonsense various other DRM mechanisms put us through.

What Fairware boils down to is yet another form of crowd-sourced project financing. But  this time with a fairly interesting and complex (and IMO slightly self-righteous) allocation system for distributing whatever funding is received.

 If experience is anything to go by, there won't be much to distribute for most projects.

I personally think Fairware is a great idea. Smacks a little bit of "old wine in a new bottle" but so what?  I wish them all the luck in the world getting it to fly. :Thmbsup:

But I also personally believe it's doomed.  :(

(And I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.)  :)

"Do what you love and the money will follow"

Well, it worked for Willie Sutton. :)


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