Software has become part of our lives. Businesses, homes and even individuals more and more rely on software to meet their goals and serve their needs. Recently, I
had tried to have a discussion with people who are active in the FLOSS ecosystem about if and how the development process of free software could be improved in order to increase its quality and efficiency. As usual, the conservative minds within the community did not let the discussion get far. This was not the first time nor the first place I tried to start a discussion like that. Nevertheless, the outcome has always been the same.
A few minutes ago I ran across a news item about the ReactOS community seeking to raise funds in order to hire developers who will work full-time on the project. The community realizes the fact that dedication to the project is the determinant factor in the process of creating a high quality product. In their announcement we read:
This year we want to do something different, something even grander. ReactOS is quite close to transitioning to beta testing and we are constantly improving the development process itself. However for many core developers ReactOS remains a hobby in which they participate in their spare time as all have other real life obligations to meet. All of the developers are extremely skilled and every contribution they make helps significantly improve ReactOS’ quality.
For the first time ever, the ReactOS Foundation seeks to go beyond the usual small fundraising campaigns aimed at paying infrastructure expenses. We wish to raise money to formally hire as many core developers as possible, to work on the project they believe in, the project they’ve been working on, to transform a hobby into a job so they can dedicate all of their time to the ReactOS project.
In light of the significant advances the project enjoyed thanks to work done as part of Google’s Summer of Code 2011, it became even more obvious that the fastest way to accelerate the development of ReactOS is by directly funding developers to contribute to ReactOS. As such, the project is reaching out to our many fans and believers to help make this happen. Together, we can make ReactOS into a true competitor and alternative for computer users worldwide.
I could not agree more! In my opinion, paid development is a key step in the evolution of the development of free software. The benefits are pretty obvious:
- The current development model mainly involves people working on FLOSS projects in their spare time. As a result, it has become customary to release incomplete and buggy “stable” releases for us to debug. On the contrary, there are several companies which pay developers to work on FLOSS projects or invest their own capital on the development of a FLOSS project. Comparing the quality of the two kinds of projects, it is quite obvious that paid development results in a higher quality product. Money alone cannot produce quality. But, money can greatly help with the creation of the right environment for the right people to produce a high quality product.
- Usually, a Do-It-Yourself mentality reigns the FLOSS ecosystem. No matter how important the “freedom to customize” is, it is also extremely difficult for people who are not software engineers or who are extremely busy with other things to follow such practices. Donations currently do not work as they should. Contributing money to a FLOSS project should buy nothing more or less than dedication.
- Funding the development of FLOSS projects will preserve stability and help them survive in the long run. The users will have a greater assurance that a project won’t be suddenly abandoned or dramatically change its goals. This is very important, especially if you base your own work upon such a project.
Today, there is an abundance of free software out there. But in several cases quality is below par. Both users and developers can change things. In my humble opinion, “paid development” and micro-donations (in the form of a subscription) is the necessary next step in the evolution of the model of FLOSS development.
The ReactOS fundraising campaign‘s goal for 2012 is set at 30000 EUR. This means that if 6000 people donated 5 EUR each, the goal would be met. Quite easy I guess for a vast community like the FLOSS ecosystem. I just donated my 5 EUR. Now, it’s your turn. I’m sure this money won’t be wasted. Even if it is, hell, that’s just 5 euros. But… on the other hand, if this plan works out, it will act as a great example for other open source and free software projects about how they should go ahead. It will also be a great example for us users about how important a micro-donation can be and how much it can change things.
The Why ReactOS leads the way with their decision to hire full-time developers by George Notaras, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.