Disclosure: I wrote this quickly, proofed it via Grammarly, applied a few suggestions from ChatGPT, and revised it several times. The words and typos are still mine.

Discussing funding within open-source communities is often a minefield of strong opinions, self-proclaimed expertise, and a need for practical, real-world experience. This landscape is fraught with contention and quick escalations, where the mere mention of project monetization can lead to widespread panic and criticism.

Jacob Kaplan Moss hit the nail on the head with a post that pretty much sums up the dilemma:

“Open source should keep going strong, and the folks behind it deserve a paycheck!”

But then when a maintainer tries adding paid features:
“Hold up, not like that.”

Or when they join a big tech company:
“Eh, still not like that.”

Or even when they accept some investment money:
“Nope, not like that either.”

Everyone wants developers to get paid, but we are highly critical no matter their path.

Why I’m All for Paying Developers

Let me be clear: I’m totally on board with developers getting paid for their hard work. Why? Because making open-source software is a lot like any other job—it takes time, skill, and a lot of effort. And just like any other job, it should come with some financial reward.

Some folks worry that bringing money into the equation could change the spirit of open-source work. But here’s the thing: anyone can pick up open-source projects. If a project starts going in a direction that doesn’t sit right with the community, it can be forked. That’s the beauty of open-source. Someone else can take the project and run with it in a new direction, ensuring that the project lives on.

The Great Thing About Forks

This ability to fork a project is like a safety net. If a project starts to lose its way after being funded or commercialized, the community can fork the original code, make their version, and chart a new course.

Finding a Middle Ground

Let’s not shy away from the money talk. Paying developers isn’t just good for them and the entire open-source community. By finding ways to make open-source work financially sustainable, we’re ensuring it stays strong, vibrant, and, most importantly, around for the long haul.

The key is to keep talking about it, to be open to new ideas, and to remember that we all want the same thing: to keep open-source software accessible and sustainable.