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    It is nice to see donation/contribution numbers for popular open source projects, as well as estimations as to could they be maintained only based on these.

    At the same time, I find this writeup a bit one-sided. It ignores a couple of things:

    1. Some is the most popular open-source projects are funded mostly by tech companies by their engineers working on them full-time or part-time. Think: Angular (Google), React (Facebook), Atom (Github) or Tensorflow (Google)
    2. Many open source contributors work full-time at companies and contribute to open source company time. Myself and my team are good examples: we have shipped improvements to existing open source projects and released new open source software in working hours.
    3. This post makes it seem like the goal would be for open source contributors to make a full-time living based on donations and company sponsorship. But is it? Groups who decided they want to make money off open source have shown the part is providing services. See Ghost (blogging platform), RedHat (one of the largest Linux contributor groups) or Darabricks (founded by the creators of Spark selling consulting for Spark and now a unicorn).

    The post seems to prove that for some open source projects that have nothing to do with big tech companies, there is actually a way to generate meaningful donations/sponsorship.

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      I don’t believe in donations. To finance Open Source there are two other options:

      1. Big companies collaborate to make commodity software cheaper for everybody. Apache and Eclipse provide such a neutral ground where companies can do that. Angular, React, Atom, and Tensorflow do it without neutral ground, but it seems to work.

      2. Services for smaller companies. The already mentioned Ghost and RedHat companies are examples.

      This means, if you are a developer running an Open Source project and you want to get well paid for it, either found a company (2) or get hired by a big one (1).

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        It works for the companies themselves, but most of these technologies hardly bring any social value. Most of the times they are used by companies to destroy social value. Just having more software in the public sphere instead of some company repo doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something positive.

        Escaping profit logic in the current system is necessary to produce social value unconditionally, otherwise you will always need to change your priorities to satisfy the stakeholders, until they completely cannibalize the project. Look at what happened with NPM.

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          The premise of this discussion is to get well-paid. Getting well-paid for providing social value is an unsolved problem as far as I know. People who provide social value are usually badly-paid no matter if they work with software.

          I consider NPM an exception though. RedHat is a good example where the company is much bigger than NPM ever was, but the social project Fedora is still going strong. Any reasonable company will understand that the Open Source community is a stakeholder which must be satisfied as well.

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            The premise of this discussion is to get well-paid.

            Is it? Well-paid or “paid just enough to be able to keep doing it for the rest of your life”? Because there’s a huge gap.

            Getting well-paid for providing social value is an unsolved problem as far as I know. People who provide social value are usually badly-paid no matter if they work with software.

            There are solutions, we just prefer to ignore them with varying degree of fuckupedness that range from Texas to Norway.

            Any reasonable company will understand that the Open Source community is a stakeholder which must be satisfied as well.

            This is what has been going on for a while, but the more power they gain, the more they redefine what “open source” means, shifting slowly definitions to accomodate their needs. It’s just an adopt, embrace and extinguish on a systemic level to expropriate value from the work of countless programmers operating for the social good. It’s clear that in the last 20 years this shift has completely redefined the values of the community, allowing for a lot of stuff (licenses, “open core” and so on…) that before was unthinkable. In the long term this will remove all the social value and leave only the exploitation of unhired programmers since there are no reason to believe this trend is going to end.

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            Remember that being paid is a proxy for social value. Someone in society is willing to pay for a thing because it brings them value… In the aggregate, that’s social value. When an ubercorp builds something, they are still providing a social value because people are still willing to pay for their services.

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              Remember that being paid is a proxy for social value.

              That’s your assumption, not a fact. It’s instead extremely ideological to the point of being nearly a form of religious thinking: the market is perfect therefore where money goes, there’s value. There are arguments to defend this but sincerely, in 2019, we are faced with so much evidence that this mechanism was faulty that it’s very hard to defend such a position, even for liberist thinkers.

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                Why do you spend money where you spend money? Unless it’s a fine for some action, like keeping balance on your credit card, it’s typically because you get some value from it. You find it enhances your life to park right there. That overpriced cell phone brings that much more value to your life than the cheap model. And thus the money flows.

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                  That’s individual value, not social value. More often than not the two are confliciting

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                    Individuals in aggregate are society.

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                      umh, nope? Where did you get this thought from?

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                        Ad hominem attack. It seems the fallacy fallacy does not apply either, so I shall not answer your question. This argument can not continue productively. Have a good day!

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                          I asked you to clarify your statement since it defies common sense and the common meaning of the word. But if you cannot elaborate, goodbye^^

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                            Oh you were asking a different question. Society is what happens when many individuals operate somewhat together. Otherwise there is no justification for the bootstrap case of one person on a homestead going all the way to a massive city.

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                              Individuals are not present in every society and they are a relative modern invention. Not every single human is an individual. You could argue that, numerically, in 2019, the vast majority of humans are not individuals. Society is an agent in itself that enable different communities, different tribes, different bodies to operate with a mediation of tension instead of a violent release of said tension. Individuals, in some modern societies, are part of the picture but often they are not the most relevant element that compose a society. You could say that today, in the USA, they are but it’s a very specific and extreme case where other actors have been mostly eliminated over time.

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                                And this is where we disagree. I am a liberal. I believe that people are individuals and should be treated as such, not herded like cattle beneath the watchful eyes of the ruling class. I find this approach to be the only truly moral approach, and appreciate that I live in a time and place where such ideas are possible.

                                As for societies being tension between individuals, balanced so as to prevent outbursts of violence, we agree. Nuclear deterrent is great, for this reason. Individuals decide on a society so interactions can stay far from “biggest stick” politics.

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                                  I suspect quite a bit (definitely not all) of the political difference between liberals and not comes down to whether you feel like you’re currently protected from violence (and whether you expect to remain protected).

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                                    That’s a brilliant insight. I think you are correct.

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          1. Some is the most popular open-source projects are funded mostly by tech companies by their engineers working on them full-time or part-time. Think: Angular (Google), React (Facebook), Atom (Github) or Tensorflow (Google)

          I think it’s worth at least asking whether or not those projects count as “sustainable” in a broader sense. Take Atom – it duplicates much of what we see in VS Code, and Microsoft/GitHub’s corporate priorities could change tomorrow. If they do, Atom is essentially dead in the water without some very very big changes to who contributes, and how their time is compensated.

          Is Atom, in the long term, on solid ground? Do we believe its development is “sustainable” over an indefinite time horizon? I don’t know that the answer to that is a clear “yes”. I could see it rotting on the vine inside of 5 years.

          1. This post makes it seem like the goal would be for open source contributors to make a full-time living based on donations and company sponsorship.

          I think that’s only a consequence of the goal – the primary concern is: are Open Source projects sustainable, or on solid ground for the long term?

          Put another way, the end goal isn’t to ensure that the OpenSSL or curl developers and so on are making six figures, the end goal is to ensure that the OpenSSL and curl and so on projects are healthy ongoing projects over the long term – and it may well be that in the capitalist society we live in that happens to require that there are some dedicated developers on those projects making six figure salaries to make the ongoing health of those projects worth their time.

          OpenSSL was a moribund, decaying project just a couple of years ago precisely because it lacked enough funding. If the goal is sustainable projects, making a living at it is going to be necessary however much we might wish that developers could eat and pay their rent with high-minded rhetoric about “openness”. It’s not really enough to just say “services” when many projects don’t lend themselves well to “services”, and those that do face cloud providers like Amazon who are happy to use their scale to run the project itself’s services arm out of business.

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          He talks about donations getting 4-, 5- and (rarely) 6-figure salaries for projects. I’m doing 7-figures with my open core Ruby project. Some people diss open core but it gets right at the heart of the matter: charge money for value.

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            Nice writeup, happy to read some hard numbers! The most compelling idea I took from it is that if tech workers unionize, we could make organized, sustainable donations to open source projects.

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              Dude, if the majority of the tech worker class unionized, we could short-circuit the finance sector, end the attention economy, avert climate change and bring post-scarcity full automation to the whole world. But sadly those beefy salary to optimize adtech algos are necessary to buy a Tesla, so…

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                Yeah. It’s hard to unshackle yourself from golden handcuffs. It’s even harder to do it on a mass scale.

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                I’m reminded of the old observation that managing programmers is like herding cats. The kernel of truth in that makes unionization not very likely.

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                  In a field where the expectations change significantly every five years and skills can range very widely among individual software engineers, unionizing doesn’t seem to be appropriate anyway. I’m willing to have my mind changed about this, though.

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                    I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I tend to think the fact that our field changes rapidly is more of a hurdle to overcome rather than an indicator that it isn’t appropriate to unionize. Given the ageism, sexual harrasment, wildly varying salaries, and extreme unneccesary overtime in our industry, I think unionizing is wholly appropriate.

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                      The ageism is huge.

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                        Historically, older workers are where unions come from - they’ve got the life experience to understand why shifting the power dynamic matters.

                        Ageism is perhaps the ultimate union-busting technique…

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                          In startups, or everywhere? I’m in my late 30s. In my team there’s probably 2 guys younger than me, 4 older and a couple around the same age.

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                        Read the material from Tech Worker Coalition: their strategies for unionization rely on very different assumptions from traditional blue collar unions.

                        Also there’s a wave of mobilization in the USA that might result in mass unionization in the short term: it’s the present, not the future.

                        To read more about these topics, there’s this very good issue of Notes from Below: https://notesfrombelow.org/issue/technology-and-the-worker

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                    My main issue with this article is the software it concerns itself with. Damn near all of it is WWW garbage. I don’t really care if ’‘Gatsby’’, ’‘Storybook’’, or ’‘Prettier’’ receive ’‘only’’ hundreds or thousands of dollars in donations. Everything would’ve held much more weight if he’d mentioned more important projects that perhaps receive little or nothing, rather than frivolous projects that are merely underfunded in his eyes.

                    As an aside, he recommends some garbage licenses that violate freedom zero at the end, but that’s a relatively minor issue with the rest of this article, I suppose.

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                      Maybe dial down the anger a little bit and realise that you’re not the final arbiter of value? The merits of the web platform can be debated, but obviously these projects are in some way useful to thousands of people.

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                      I didn’t read the full article. The title suggested something else to me: Software designed for people living below the poverty level who often are using older tech. You would think (free) OSS is aimed at such people, but it often isn’t.

                      If you do OSS and are trying to improve your monetization, I like this idea: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10863939