COfundOS - Collectively fund Open Source Projects
Thursday February 07th 2008, 0:54h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Research

As in many situations in our daily life, particularly in open source projects there is often the collective action problem: Many people want a specific feature enhancement of a software, but as there is not a single firm which owns the software and thus has a financial incentive to improve it according customer needs, the feature gets not implemented (or not within a reasonable timeframe). Of course also voluntary developers listen to their open source software users. And also many of today’s open source projects are company sponsored and thus follow again the traditional market logic. However in open source projects, feature demand and feature supply does still not match in many cases.

COfundOS

Therefore, platforms such as COfundOS are necessary. They provide a market place of feature seekers and providers for open source software projects. Although such Bounty systems are not uncontroversial because of motivational crowding aspects, to my knowledge so far no one has provided empirical evidence of negative effects within the open source software environment.

Now doing a little action research experiment I asked my friends at Swiss Open Systems Users Group /ch/open to fund a particular feature for Scribus, the DTP application I use for the OpenExpo booklets. Thus I filed a new COfundOS project for this PDF handling need we had. Luckily, Andreas Vox from the Scribus developer community signed up, specified his solution and offered to accomplish the taks by end of April. (well, I have to admit that I helped my luck and talked to Andreas on IRC before about suitability, timeline and costs… ;)

As initiator Sören Auer told me, the platform isn’t yet the huge place where thousands of features and millions of Euros get in. Also some mechanisms such as trusted payment are quite tricky to solve (Fundable did this in a smart way). However I believe the potential of such a open source feature market place is great. Imagine SMEs or public administration offices channelling their needs for open source applications and submitting small sums of money for the implementation of certain enhancements. (big companies hire the core developers themselves) I vision the more open source solutions are used in daily business, the more users are willing to pay for improvements. And because the source code is all open, a perfect market for open source programmers may evolve.


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