Question on the sustainability of contributors in OS projects

I have a question. Everybody knows that Opensource is a socialism-like movement unlike the proprietary softwares.

So, a lot of people give in so much to making sure these OS projects are a success. We also know projects get sustained through grants, crowfunding, sponsorship and maybe bounties? Also, things like “buy me a coffee”. But truth is that not everyone gets the chance to grants and sponsorship in Opensource except you’re a “big name” or have a “big name” backing you up (I stand to be corrected on this). Even when you ask people to buy you a coffee, a lot of times they’re just concerned about using the software and not necessarily buying you a coffee.

I need someone to please help explain how opensource contributors can get paid, even if it’s a token on their effort towards the success of OS projects. Personally, I’ve heard people leave their 9-5 to focus on contributing to an OS project only for them to get real broke and can’t even live a decent life.

Would really love your thoughts on this @Germonprez @georglink @sgoggins @Elizabeth

I reply to you directly with a document I don’t want to share publicly (yet)

Much appreciated @georglink
Can I reach out to you on Slack as regards this?

Hi @Maryblessing – I think that you are referring to people who are not necessarily working for a company but are still being sustained financially. Is this correct?

Yes, you can always reach out via slack

1 Like

I just had a similar conversation (but slightly different) about this with someone recently. Her initial take was that most people are volunteers, but I don’t really think that’s true anymore (maybe it was true 20 years ago)?

I actually don’t think that most open source projects these days are volunteer led. Most open source contributors (like me) are paid by our employers to contribute.

For example, this survey of CNCF contributors shows that most of them contribute on work time CNCF and TAG Contributor Strategy microsurvey: open source contributors say contributing helps careers | Cloud Native Computing Foundation

Stack Overflow shows something similar, and while it’s not all open source, a lot of the technologies people talk about on Stack overflow are: Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2022

Not everyone wants to work for one of these big companies or can get a job like this. There are other models for making money, but I haven’t really seen them be successful for people over the longer term.

1 Like

OS companies? Yes. You’re correct

My point exactly @geekygirldawn
In as much as it’s a voluntary work, a lot of people will say a big yes to compensation of some sort. But it’s looking like a lot to do already, kudos to orgs that already have a functional model around this

Relevant to this thread is this announcement from Open Source Collective today: Open Source Collective is Hiring Maintainers - Open Collective. Although they require the project to be well-resourced, OSC will act as an “employer” for those who don’t have one, and provide things like health insurance, paid sick time, and other benefits. An interesting spin on what it means to get paid to work on open source!

1 Like

broadly agree with everything @geekygirldawn is saying. As for folks not getting paid, doing it from sheer engagement, love, interest…I have noticed a lot of them are in the larval stage (at least for software engineering, other disciplines that contribute may be different).

“Not really out loud stated” to many people, and certainly not designed by anybody but big picture net, it’s seemed to me this general motion (be a community contributor, later get a job) tends to function in our industry like an apprenticeship does in other industries. And it’s hard to make that work long term. No easy answers/solutions.

1 Like

Within the WordPress project, there are several ways. Anyone can contribute, paid or unpaid.

Within some companies within the ecosystem, employers might give staff hours to contribute, whether full or part-time. There is even an initiative to provide 5% of resources back to the project via Five for the Future.

Additionally, contributors at times open up GitHub sponsorships on their own profiles, approach organizations to sponsor them as contractors, and more recently I helped launch The WP Community Collective which uses OpenCollective as our fiscal host. This allows individuals and organizations to contribute money for recipients to be sponsored.

Other programs, such as Google’s season of code, exist as well to back contributions.

WordPress still struggles to appropriately fund people to do the work.

1 Like