It’s not completely clear. Linux Foundation executive Chris Aniszczyk has been an outspoken opponent of open source “tip jars” that seek to sustain projects with donations. “These [open source developers] should be encouraged to start businesses or your business should hire them directly,” he argues. But many such developers don’t want a 9-to-5 corporate job, preferring the independence of contract work. Open source sustainability, in other words, is messy. Most open source project maintainers with whom I’ve spoken got started because it was a “fun” way to spend their free time. They had a variety of personal “itches” they needed to scratch. Exactly none started coding because they were hoping to get paid for that work.
In fact, in some cases, it was specifically to create space from their employer that they started the project. For Datasette founder Simon Willison, for example, he “wanted a creative outlet.” That is, a project that he got to have complete control over. In some ways, he said, it was perhaps “a way of blowing off steam,” but really it was a place where he could express his creativity without a corporate overlord steering that creativity. See the problem…?
Aniszczyk reasonably suggests that the most sustainable source of funding is a paycheck, but that’s precisely what many of these developers don’t want. Or, at least, they don’t want a paycheck that comes with restrictions on their ability to code freely… [O]pen source sustainability will never have one, meta answer for all of open source. It’s always a project-by-project analysis and, really, a founder-by-founder (or community-by-community) decision.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.