FOSS Factory Takes a Run at Software Bounties

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 09, 2008

It's long been a weakness of open source software development that only projects that interest developers get finished. While some view this as a proper democratic process, others point to the disproportionate number of programmer tools as compared to end-user applications, or complex projects that have languished because the work is too hard. New site FOSS Factory wants to tweak the process a little by making it easy to incent developers with cash bounties.

We've seen bounties in our community before, of course. In some cases, they're specific to individual projects: Gnome's Desktop Integration Bounty Hunt or the Rails Documentation Project are examples. Others have tried to create industry-wide bounty systems, with little success: both Cosource and SourceXchange are out of action.

FOSS Factory is trying to learn from the past by setting up a bounty system that is transparent, and that offers incentives for collaboration on projects (rather than winner-take-all bounties). Anyone can fund a bounty at any level; in addition to flat amounts, they let you choose to dedicate monthly support so an open source developer can have some reliable income. A key feature is that projects are managed and broken down into subprojects, so that people can work together to split a pie. This management is intended to be done collaboratively by the community, through discussions and forums, rather than dictated by either the bounty-giver or the site.

It will be interesting to see whether this funding model can gain any traction this time around. At the moment, the site is in beta, with only a few projects posted. One of these, though, offers a $5,000 CAD bounty for finishing voice and video plugins for IM client Pidgin (with an additional $10,000 available as matching funds). That should at least generate some initial interest.

Do you think these funding models can make an impact?