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How to sponsor an open source project?

Thursday, September 20, 2007 by Dave Winer.

A picture named tramp.jpgI'm looking for ideas, established practices, do's and don'ts for sponsoring an open source project.  Permalink to this paragraph

An upfront caveat -- this is not an actual offer. It's totally hypothetical. If I make the offer it will be done in some other more formal way.  Permalink to this paragraph

The project: I want the OPML Editor to run on Linux. Permalink to this paragraph

I don't want to hire someone to do this project, rather I want to offer a reward when the project is completed.  Permalink to this paragraph

The source code is already released under the GPL, in versions for Mac OS X and Windows. Of course Mac OS is a flavor of Unix, but the internal API is quite different, I imagine, from Linux. I'm not looking for elegance, I'm looking for functionality. I don't care how the port is done, just that it be maintainable, and then be released (of course) under the GPL.  Permalink to this paragraph

Personally, I think the most likely way to get this done quickly is to compile the code under WINE, using the Windows version of the code, and then go back and connect up the Unix system calls, so that all the Unix related verbs work. (Note the OPML Editor is actually a rich programming environment, despite its diminutive name. It's an instance of UserLand Frontier, which goes back to 1988.) Permalink to this paragraph

To me, it would be worth $10,000 to have the OPML Editor running reliably on Linux, because then all the projects I've built and am building would then automatically run on Linux. Now I'm not saying that the project can be done for that amount of money (it's possible that it can), but I also don't feel I should be the only person funding the project. And maybe it's enough of a prize to incentivize someone or a group to do it. Permalink to this paragraph

Now, of course, I see problems. Since it's an open source project, how will I know who to give the reward to if the goal is met. It might be the result of the work of a group of people. If so, I think they would have to figure out among themselves how to split the reward. On the other hand, I don't see any movement right now to port the codebase to Linux, so maybe if someone is interested in the project, you should do it on your own, and just present the results. If it works, then it seems you would be entitled to the reward. Permalink to this paragraph

I seem to remember people proposing groupware systems for creating these kinds of projects, a few years ago. Not sure if they came to fruition, for all I know there could be an eBay for open source programming projects. If you have any information to share on this, please post a comment here, and thanks in advance. Permalink to this paragraph

Postscript: Jim Russell makes an excellent point. "If you had a third choice on the download page, making the source as widely distributed as the app itself, you would have had a port a long time ago." Maybe so. Let's leave no stone unturned. I have added a link to the source on the download page, per his suggestion. Also here. And in today's comment thread. And in the sidebar on the support site. BTW, there's also a source listing site that's indexed by search engines. Permalink to this paragraph

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