In his first post on his new blog at BMC Software by William Hurley (A.K.A. Whurley) wrote of a metaphor for the open source community called “Opensville”, and alluded to how its a place where everybody wants to hang out but nobody wants to live because socially and economically, it’s straining. This discussion has boomed over the last few days, and has been generating some excellent commentary on Open Source communities.
Dave Rappo, a good friend of mine, has a project which has the primary objective of taking some of the strain off open source project managers as well as developers who wish to contribute to open source initiatives. This initiative uses monetary incentives in the form of “bounties”, placed on tasks and feature requests, by the users who request them. Essentially, he’s created a streamlined workflow for the concept of “put your money where your mouth is”.
This project is appropriately named Bounty Source.
Bountysource itself is a Ruby on Rails application, coded by co-founder Warren Konkel (in his free time no less…he’s a full time contractor for the famed Revolution Health Group). Another very interesting part of the model is that Bounty Source, which acts as an integrated project management and source control tool (similar to Trac and SourceForge), is itself driven by the BountySource incentive model, and portions of it are open source (the SVN browser, for example). That is to say, the tools used to make BountySource what it is are available to have bounties and feature requests placed on them. Then, like any of the projects that they host, a developer can come through, choose a task, complete it and submit it for review. Upon approval, the bounty is released to the developer.
Bounties vary in size because they are created by users who want to see a feature included. If they want to see the feature really really bad, and can afford it, they could place a rather sizable bounty on it. Also utilizing the power of strength in numbers, multiple people can contribute to the same bounty. So if someone else wants the same feature you do, they can chip in (less, same, or more than you) towards the total value of the task.
This realistic monetization of tasks takes away a large amount of the dissent in the OS community, where projects stagnate due to a lack of resources, or developers and project managers get frustrated about the number of feature requests with no “contribute back” factor. Many open source USERS forget that OS is a two way street. Bountysource goes out of its way to remind people, and lets them contribute in a real tangible way.
One of the latest bounties posted to BountySource actually stemmed form a conversation Dave and I had in the car yesterday, regarding the lack of Firefox extension support in Camino. Evidently, someone had just posted a ~$200 bounty on creating a fork of the Camino project that had a single customization: enable middle-clicking on tabs to close them. THAT WAS IT. Someone wanted this feature SO BADLY that they were willing to pony up 200 bucks. Dave and I weren’t ready to drop $200 on a single feature, but we agreed that we’d switch to Camino for speed and stability if it supported XUL/Extensions.
So Dave created a bounty for Firefox extensions and addons for Camino within the same project, dubbed “Alternative Camino“. This bounty calls for Firefox 2.0 Extension support (at a minimum) in Camino. I’ve dropped $10 of my own money (as did Warren) on this feature request, and if you’re a mac user frustrated with the general instability of Firefox (not unusable instability…its just not Camino) but stick with Firefox for plugins…drop a couple of bucks and see if we can’t get this bounty fulfilled.
And while you’re at BountySource, check out some of the many (372) projects that they do host, and see if you want to ask for anything, or take on a challenge to collect a bounty yourself.
[tags]whurley, david rappo, warren konkel, opensville, bounty source, communities, opensource, incentive, camino, camino + firefox[/tags]
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