Crowd-funding open source development

Bounty Chocolate BarsIf you want to influence the direction an Open Source project takes, you traditionally have two options: Do it yourself, or do the Google and fund a team of engineers to contribute to or take over a project. There is a third way, languishing in the shadows: Bounties.

The principle is simple: Many users pledge a small amount of money towards a project, a bug, or a feature. Once the pledged amount is large enough, a developer picks it up, does the work, and collects the money. The code goes back into the project and benefits everyone.

Open Source bounties have been around for a long time, but they never really took off. Bountysource is now giving it another go, with their complete relaunch last December. We are not affiliated with them, so we have no inside information, but it looks like they’ve seen some decent growth since then. In a world where Kickstarter and Indiegogo work, we should have an easy, directed way to contribute to Open Source software as well. I’m hoping that we can make funding Open Source more democratic and accessible. There must be a middle ground between doing the work yourself and bringing to bear the resources of Google to contribute to an Open Source project. Bounties might be that way.

To put our money where our mouths are, we’re using Bountysource to fund a new feature in Qt: The Tiling Window Manager. We started the process with $1000, and we’re hoping to get to about $4000 from many backers for the whole feature. If you’re a Qt hacker, I invite you to take up the bounty and fix the bug. If you’re a Qt user, I invite you to contribute to the cause.

I’ll keep posting updates here, with the bountysource category, to let you know how it goes!