Open Source Development and Money

Funding is a problem that plagues many small Linux projects which are not catering to the mass First World markets. This is a universal struggle, for any software project that doesn't have a proverbial pot of gold payoff. Greed is a much stronger motivator than generosity -- this isn't meant to be a knock on humanity, I believe it is part of human instinct. We are wired for self-preservation.

As far as funding goes, the DSL project couldn't even afford its own hosting on the amount pulled in the 'damn small donation fund' -- that's despite its enormously popularity. I've really had to think out of the box to keep this thing going and in the black.

Here is the challenge:
keep a project free
keep it active
keep it in the black (or even make money?)

That seems to be a Universal struggle for Open Source projects. I can tell you that hanging out on the corner with a soup bowl isn't going to fund a project, it will just going to be a source of frustration.

Here is an evolving formula:
--Engage your user-base and foster a community
(this is the most important step)
--Ask for donations
(do not expect much)
--Sell related tangibles if you can
(we sell CDs, bootable pen drives, and mini-itx related items)
--Put ads on the project's website
(it will do much better than your donation fund, this is leveraging self-interest, not asking people to give.)
--Always give credit where it is due
--Don't be afraid to lean on others
(we get a lot of bandwidth help from Ibiblio and other mirrors)

Yes, doing all this is a lot of work, but I do not see another way to keep a small project thriving.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I think your biz model kicks

I think your biz model kicks the proverbial ass but with any offer or idea you have to market it. Sell it. The geek sheek set knows all about DSL but they are used to free stuff and most people are not tripping over themselves to give up their cash. To me, the "donation fund" has the strongest potential for earning, you just have to show users what a priority funding is. No one wants to sound like a broken record but, like you alluded to above, human nature has to be dealt with.

No $ = No Damn Small

no it doesn't

A business model should make money. If it doesn't, it certainly doesn't kick. Some would go so far as to say it sucks.

People pay for things that give them something that they can't get cheaper or easier somewhere else. Does a tee shirt, a coffee mug or a hat give anything? More than paying for something I already got for free.

People talk about games and Linux. People don't like making games for linux because open source makes no money. Because people who use a free operating system are far less likely to pay for ANYTHING they get. You think I saved on the operating system so now I have more cash to spend on you? Right.

Linux is good will, and that's cool. Don't call it a good "business model" because you need to make more than you spend before you pretend to be that.

linux and open source

Making games for Linux is not the same as making open source games. The same is true for any Linux application. People don't like making applications for Linux because 1) Linux is not popular enough to make development worthwhile, 2) Developers are still under the false belief that a Linux application has to be free, or 3) Developers' only concern is profit.
If an application is good enough, and there is enough demand for it, people will pay for it. Look at Unreal Tournament, Maya, Cedega...these are projects which are both closed-source and commercial, and they make money.

If you choose to go with an open source project you must be prepared to gain very little cash directly from the application(s). The only way to make profit is through marketing tangibles, support, and other project-related efforts rather than through the software itself. Open source as I see it has little to do with profit, so I think it's funny to hear the term "business model" applied to it.


I think calling it a 'business model' is a bit of a misnomer, I'd call it more like a 'keep your OS project from making you go into debt' model.

right, but i wasn't really a

right, but i wasn't really attempting to be eloquent with my semantics. and your preference is quite a mouthful. business, commerce, the exchange of goods and services for cash, is what we are talking about. the beauty of OSS is the freedom and the donation format is truly a viable option. you just need to push it more, that's all.

too many good hackers act like artists with the whole "it's not about money" bs. unfortunately, it is about money because it's a material world... and I am a material girl. couldn't help myself

keeping any project going for a substantial amount of time while keeping it in the black means having a business model. i use an awesome shell account that was free to get but is sustained by donations. they are constantly asking for funding and showing exspenses vs income. it works for them.


thought i was logged in.

Happy New Year

A little adds up to alot

It appears that some people are against donating to open source projects and I am not sure why that is. I have a Not For Profit that completely relies on donations and I understand the difficulty of receiving financial assistance. I'm currently scraping together some donations so I can turn around and send a percentage to this project. It is only right since I am using the technology provided by John and Robert.

Maybe people think they need to give a large donation? Well, let's do some simple math and let's base it on a $5 donation. C'mon, are you telling me that DSL is not worth less than the price of eating at McDonalds?!

There are over 3,000 members in the forum
3,000 x $5 = $15,000

Half the membership
1500 x $5 = $7500

One third of the membership
1000 x $5 = $5000

Most number of users in the forum on one day
61 x $5 = $305

One third of the membership pledges to give $5 in Jan, Apr, Jul and Oct..
1000 x ($5 x 4) = $20,000

As you can see, there is strength in numbers. If you use DSL on a daily basis, especially as your main OS, you should give to the project. To me, that is just a moral responsibility. If you are using DSL or a remaster of DSL for profit, you should most definitley be giving ongoing donations to this project. I have other NFP's that are interested in copies of my remaster and I am adament about donating back to DSL.

It gets frustrating to know that you are doing something that is helping people yet they are hesistant to support you and then you turn on the news and find out that John Kerry has 17 MILLION dollars in donations LEFT OVER from his presidential campaign. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Read my blog "Changing Lives". Believe me, if that grandfather could give me $20 then we can all give something to this cause.

Sounds like a good New Year's resolution.......