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    making the case that a for-profit company should hand over money for something they’re getting for free is hard! You need a lot of buy-in from a lot of stakeholders for anything involving spending money

    This does not match my experience. I’ve seen both sides of this:

    • When choosing between implementations of SQLite database encryption, my management picked SQLite’s own SEE over SQLCipher, despite the former requiring a paid license of several thousand dollars a year. One of the stated reasons was that SEE comes with tech support. I’ve gotten similar guidance when making other decisions — “it’s fine to choose a library we have to pay to license, if it seems technically superior or has better support.”
    • Conversely, my employer’s software has generally been open source, but available in a paid “enterprise edition” with a few more features and strong support. This has been a sound business model, since IT departments really want someone they can call when things go wrong.
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      Funny thing, the only time we tried this, ca. 2014-2015 for OpenStack, we simply didn’t find anyone. IIRC the offer was pretty open-ended, like “we feel in this component are a few bugs or edge-cases or simply documented, and we’ve been poking at it, but we’re a bit lost now. Anyone got some an hour or two for paid support for consulting?” No takers, but I think in the end someone could point us in the right direction via some logfiles and descriptions anyway. But if your org is willing to do that, yes, worth a try.

      I do think it really depends on which project. OpenStack at that time was very much one of these mostly corporate-backed open source projects, where folks worked on it during their work hours. Then there’s also the tax thing, it’s kind of a meme meanwhile but I know enough people of several nationalities who’d be “I prefer helping you for free for a few hours instead of complicating my taxes twofold by taking a sum less than 1000 EUR for consulting”. Sad as it is.

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        That feels a bit different to me.

        If you email me and say “I will pay you $XX money for a one hour commitment via Zoom giving a short talk snd answering questions from our engineers” it’s very easy for me to say yes.

        If you put out a call for pitches for paid support the terms of the engagement are a lot more open ended - now I have to think about negotiating a rate, and having an introductory conversation/interview to see if this is a good fit for both sides, and then doing custom work, and tracking hours and suchlike.

        On the surface an hour long zoom Q&A and a short consultancy/support gif may seem similar, but my hunch is that there is a meaningful difference between them in terms of friction.

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          Agreed. Additionally, there is a status difference – the distinction between “expert” and “hired laborer”:

          “This company paid me $500 for me to be the speaker of honor in front of their devs for an hour”

          vs

          “This company paid me $500 to do janitorial cleanup work in their codebase”

          These are the extreme versions, but I think this difference is important, if only unconsciously.

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            Especially if you also have a day job that prohibits you from working for other companies. Giving a talk would likely fly, moonlighting probably not, with your day job boss.

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              “This company paid me $500 to do janitorial cleanup work in their codebase”

              If it’s for the same hour I’d take it. That’s quite a bit more than I’m making currently :)

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            The tax thing probably depends on the country. In the UK, consulting income is easy to add if you are already completing a self-assessment form, but if your only income is from a salary then you don’t need to do this. And once you’ve completed a self-assessment form one year, it’s incredibly hard to stop (though last year they finally implemented a feature that I asked for 10 years ago and now pre-populate the form with the information that your employer provided to them, so you don’t need to copy things from pieces of papers into a web form). If you’re already doing some consulting, it’s trivial.

            The bigger problem may be non-compete clauses. If you’re an employee (this situation where taxes would be a problem) then your employer may not like you going and giving training courses to a potential competitor.

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              I wonder if you could elaborate on a couple of your points:

              once you’ve completed a self-assessment form one year, it’s incredibly hard to stop

              I’m not sure what you mean here. As I understand it there are specific conditions under which you need to file a self assessment. If you don’t meet those conditions you don’t need to file (though you still can), regardless of what happened last year (although you might have to tell them you’re not filing).

              they finally implemented a feature that I asked for 10 years ago and now pre-populate the form with the information that your employer provided to them

              Interesting. I noticed this when I filed online for my latest return. If this didn’t exist before and they added it because you asked, then thanks, that’s very helpful!

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                If you don’t meet those conditions you don’t need to file (though you still can), regardless of what happened last year (although you might have to tell them you’re not filing).

                The rules might have changed, it was quite a few years since I checked. Originally if you did SA once you had no way off. I think then if you filed SA without anything other than PAYE income for a few years then you could stop. You might be able to stop more easily now.

                Interesting. I noticed this when I filed online for my latest return. If this didn’t exist before and they added it because you asked, then thanks, that’s very helpful!

                Given that it took ten years, I doubt very much that there was a causal relationship between my complaint and their implementing the feature.

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              In the Netherlands at least, there’s a rule that if you’re not considered to be an entrepreneur by the tax agency, you don’t have to file separate taxes. You just list it as “extra income” in the same part of your form where your regular employment income goes and you’re done.

              But the rules are super murky and it’s very unclear when exactly you qualify and when you don’t. And there’s no feedback, only fines when you accidentally/unknowingly break the rules. This is something that definitely intimidated me when I just got started with freelancing.

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              I like this idea. In the US I believe this works if you pay them less than $600, otherwise you probably have to do a 1099 and that’s likely too much hassle for a single engagement.

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                Sending 1099’s is basically automatic for any business of two or more employees. Essentially every platform for doing payroll will collect contractor information, issue payments, and send 1099’s for contractors. Any company lowballing below $600 because of a 1099 is absolutely not worth getting involved with.

                I would encourage people doing this to bill more than $600. Assuming this isn’t their main job, putting together a presentation and spending an hour on the call is going to take several premium hours of personal time. The way I calculate this is salary / 2000 * 2.2 for a regular consulting project, but it is personal time, so I’d 2x that and assume at least 4 hours of work. For $150,000/y this comes to about $1,320.

                I’d maybe even double or triple that. Assuming a developer team of 5-6 people they’re going to be paying ~$500 to their developers to attend. A few thousand dollars for an expert to present is nothing.

                An OSS developer should make bank doing this, because part of the point is to compensate them for the countless hours the company has already derived value from for free.

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                I’ve done Lunch and Learn sessions with companies before. This is a great idea and relatively easy for OSS developers to package into a one hour session you can give over and over to companies. It’s also a great source for feedback.

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                  I use plenty of open source code at work that I would be glad for us to pay for, but I don’t necessarily have any interest in a talk from the authors.