For background, I read this and thought is was interesting:
A reverse auction of this type might be good for one side of the equation (those who benefit from features) but not so great for those on the other side who would hope to make a living from doing work on such features. In the 18F experiment the contributor receives $1 in monetary value. Presumably they have received more value from the goodwill and exposure, but nonetheless a $1 return wont sustain anyone’s interest for long.
Is there a way to do it better?
Could micro funding rather build up the value associated with completing a feature until someone is intrinsically motivated to get it done? Is there an example of this approach being used anywhere? If so, please add to the discussion here as I’d be very interested in taking a look at all options.
In the case of a company like mine (Link Digital) there is a $150 AUD opportunity cost associated with each hour of fully realized development time. The actual wage cost is less, there are on costs and costs associated with inefficiency and lots of other factors that drive up costs like sales, marketing and community contributions. If we are lucky then over the course of an entire year then we might make a profit, sometimes a loss, but generally we stay in business and pay all the bills over a two year average. The only net win for a company owner in a market with fair competition and fair pricing is to grow the company as an asset by raising revenues year on year, with the hope that one day the asset could be sold or they could retire out under a succession plan with a residual revenue each year.
Right now Link Digital turns over around 1.4 Million per year but yet still cant seem to contribute more than we already do to the core of the CKAN project without generating cashflow risks (and after reviewing the last year our company has contributed very little in direct code). The most we’ve been able to do is promote CKAN and generate interest and adoption wherever the opportunities arose. Some of our paid projects have helped with providing extensions, but not enough for me to feel comfortable with the claim of being a ‘gold member’ of the CKAN Association.
Anyhoo - I’m just keen to get a solid set of resources behind CKAN over a sustained period. As a for-profit company I’m locked out of receiving grants, or perhaps that is as much a condition of being in Australia where philanthropy around for-good innovation is not yet on anyone’s agenda (unless you are a startup without any actual wages to pay or any enterprise level capability to leverage).
But, back to the topic… for every good feature in the ckan roadmap I’m sure even a company like mine would gain benefit from putting in $10 to $100 toward it getting done and merged with core. I’m sure even some individuals would likely put $5 or $10 toward bugs and features they want to see done but just don’t have time to do themselves. And, as CKAN is ultimately born from within a for-good movement which seeks to open knowledge I suspect small donations would come from a range of non technical donors.
I’d be interested to know what people think of this kind of approach.
Could we trial something?
I’m the current treasurer for Open Knowledge Australia and we use Xero for bookkeeping, eWay for credit card transactions and Westpac for banking. Xero allows for categories to be tagged against revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities. I believe this could be used to essentially allow donations to flow through to category terms which are setup to mirror github issue numbers. OK Australia has recently setup a read only public account so that anyone can check the books. Working this all together with a simple donations page would allow people to donate small amounts to particular issues in GitHub.
Those ‘contributors’ who feel they can take up an issue, get it done, then have it merged and released within the core CKAN project should be able to provide their own pitch of what they’d need to be paid to fairly work on the issue. With a little bit of work the combination of a pool of micro donations and a reverse auction could help us advance CKAN much faster than it would under current conditions.
What do people think of this approach?
The membership model still remains entirely relevant. I don’t want to suggest it isn’t going to work by posting this. It is just something that takes quite a lot of effort to establish. We are essentially aiming to convince large corporate to invest 50k USD per year into CKAN so that should be an easy pitch once the right people are talking with each other. However, some of the actual features we are talking about to keep CKAN moving ahead are just one or two days of real world effort, so I think we could leverage a fair market driven approach as well