Open sourcing income

Can we change how developers make money?

Stanislavs Beguns
Money tree image via Shutterstock

Open source IT projects and large sums of cash are not the most obvious bedfellows. But Stanislavs Beguns and MinoHubs are making the case for a change of perspective when it comes to developer prospects.

As software developers, we’re quite lucky – we have several different options for making a living. We can work full-time or contract for a company, both remotely or on-site. We can write our own apps and independently earn from sales and in-app purchases.

These are all well known sources of income, but there is another which is often overlooked – open source development. Millions of developers and businesses use open source software which provide billions of dollars in value. Despite this, very few developers are able to make a living by dedicating their full attention to crafting great open source libraries and applications.

Making a living from open source development is hard

There are three clear ways to monetise open source software – attracting donations, providing paid support and selling commercial licenses (i.e. Pro features with support packages).

1) Regular donations don’t scale. A few people will express gratitude, but in general people aren’t incentivised to donate if they don’t receive any value in return.

2) Overcoming the barriers to monetising an open source project represents a huge distraction. Project owners need to be able to process payments, have a pipeline for paid support requests, host discussion boards and set up email campaigns to update project users. Only a few small to medium size projects such as Django or Sidekiq have either managed to, or are very close to becoming sustainable.

How can we fix this?

At MinoHubs we’ve built the tools necessary for a software project to get funded, build a community, and grow. A project is represented as a hub with the following features:

  • Discussion boards – with markdown and code highlighting support. Advanced scoring of threads, similar to Reddit and HackerNews.
  • Backing – monthly payments from project users. In return for backing, threads created by backers are promoted by boosting their score.
  • Paid support – using a simple flow, with customisable hourly rates, that gives a project owner confidence that they’ll get paid for their time.
  • Announcements – a system that sends project-specific updates to all followers.
  • Domain and repository verification – to prove ownership of and increase user confidence in a hub.

In this context, backing provides real value; posts by backers are promoted, but are still affected by voting. The project owner and the community can recognise their contribution and be inclined to react favourably, perhaps with quicker responses to feedback or development requests. We believe that this model benefits the project without damaging the community.

Why are we improving open source funding?

Working on an open source project is very fulfilling – you get to work at your own pace on something that you’re passionate about and that can provide immense value to others. MinoHubs enables developers to build communities and fund their projects in a way that makes the opportunity of sustainable open source available to everyone.

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Stanislavs Beguns

Stanislavs Beguns

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Stanislavs is co-founder of MinoHubs, a platform for software project hubs.

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