Sudo Show 32: Open Source Sustainability

Eric and Brandon jump and their soap box this episode to address the critical issues surrounding open source development, ongoing lifecycle management, securing the supply chain, and monetizing developers time.

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Sponsor: Bitwarden
Sponsor: Digital Ocean
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Elementary AppCenter
Tidelift: Finding #5: More than half of maintainers have quit or considered quitting, and here’s why.
Linux.Com: Measuring the Health of Open Source Communities (Blog)

MongoDB Switches Up Its Open Source License
Twitter: Brandon’s Thread
Ars Technica: No, Open Source Audacity Audio Editor Is Not Spyware

Joplin Notes
Open Collective

Chapters

00:00 Intro
00:42 Welcome
01:30 Sponsor - Digital Ocean
02:34 Sponsor - Bitwarden
04:03 The Open Source Problem
10:47 MongoDB and Elastic Search
15:19 Just Fork It
21:18 Development Isn’t Just a Hobby
31:47 How Do We Fix FOSS?
41:07 Wrap Up

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The state of donation systems in Linux is extremely poor. Even if donations are successfully encouraged toward different projects, the projects those projects rely on don’t see any of that donation despite being part of what makes them work (sometimes 99% of what makes them work). Similarly contributors who might be critical to the project’s success aren’t included unless the project implements something. This leaves core development, frameworks and contribution mostly out in the cold.

What i’d like to see is an industry standardized format in which developers and projects can notate their donation information in their GitLab profile or perhaps at the bottom of the license so it’s machine readable and if someone wants to donate they can see everyone involved along with some mechanism to make donating to everyone a “one-click affair”.

Of course the devil’s in the details in terms of “who gets what for doing what”. Presenting sliders with a suggested value can help but the incentive structure around weighting would need to be VERY carefully addressed.

All said… it’d be another vast improvement even if it’s not perfect.

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Like a package manager manages dependencies, just with developers instead.

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I think that’s where a company like Tidelift and Open Collective come in. They’re goal is to help developers get paid for those underlying libraries and development tools.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction and as you said, no solution is perfect but every step we take towards paying developers for their work helps not only open source developers but also helps protect the future of open source!

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I think Tidelift and Open Collective are a giant leap forward and I have the uptmost respect for them. They do more for FOSS in a day than I might do in a lifetime. I also agree nothing’s going to be perfect especially in this space but I think some tools for greatness are still missing.

Though a godsend…

  • They’re proprietary solutions with closed databases.
  • Donation can’t occur unless both? parties sign up for the platform.
  • Donations trickle down through projects but only for maintainers who signed up.

I can’t for example just Paypal the 3 people who fixed my bug request as a thank you unless I manually hunt down their information or message them. A “greatness” solution would make the information freely available so users and developers can decide how they’d like to interact with it. Where things become burdensome (like sending Paypal to 1,000 individuals) it opens the field to competition for solutions because there’s no database lock in.

An example solution would provide a REST API that accepts the donation parameters set by the user in a 3rd party app and distributes the payments to those 1,000 individuals requiring the user only pay the bulk amount to one address.

No accounts would be required and both the app and payment splitting service can be created by anyone so competition will favor ease of use and the best deal for the transaction.

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I almost never login to the forums but the bug hit me today to login a respond to a few things.

Open Collective is a donation-based system meant for anyone (individual or corporation) to donate to a project. Their code for the platform is on github (https://github.com/opencollective). I believe Donations need to be tracked. Even “anonymous” donations are not really anonymous. In many jurisdictions, I believe, donations need to be tracked back to a person for tax purposes. Signing up for these platforms streamlines this and the Maintainer doesn’t need to track these transactions themselves. I’ve talked to a few maintainers, the reason why they don’t take direct donations is it is more trouble than it is worth. So Github Sponsors or Open Collective tracks the donations for them and solve the stress of needed to track every dollar they receive.

Tidelift is a different story, this is a company set out to make a profit. Unlike Open Collective, Tidelift is acting as a broker between a business and a maintainer to facilitate the B2B transactions. Tidelift actively recruits maintainers to their platform, which in turn expands their product offering. I really don’t want to compare them to Uber or Lyft, but that is what they are doing, bringing paid gig work to open source developers.
Their platform is not Open Source but since it is a SaaS solution, there may not be much value in them open sourcing their code. Their database of their maintainers is their intellectual property and is critical to how they run their business. Even though their platform is closed, I still think their service is not just required it is essential to the future of open source development as far as keeping maintainers engaged.

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