Monday, April 4, 2011

Dear Open Source Developers - Don't Ask for Personal Donations

Dear Open Source Developers,

Do it because you love it...

I believe that open source is a wonderful thing. I've spent countless hours working open source since I started my journey in 2005. I like to solve problems and architect solutions all while sharing this with the world.  I've learned more as a developer working on open source projects than on my day job.

However, greed is a bottomless pit. If you love something, just give it away. Don't ask for personal donations to fund your open source development.  If your heart isn't in it, then you shouldn't be working on it.  It's very easy to loose perspective on why you are involved in a project.  If wishlist items or donations are the only thing that keeps you going, then just stop.  You're efforts aren't helping anybody.

What to do about personal donations...

A couple years back, I was asked about a personal donation for my efforts on the Mach-II Project.  I decided that all donations should be make to a charity or non-profit on a per contributor basis.  Here's an example from the Mach-II Contributor's page:


For gifts of thanks to Peter, please consider donating to Second Harvest Heartland - the Upper Midwest's largest hunger-relief and food bank organization or Hands Together - helps the children of Haiti and runs a K-12 school in Cite Soleil slum for 7,400 students. They provide uniforms, books and daily meal to all students. Donations for Hands Together can be made at JustGive.

Most of the contributors for Mach-II have listed one or two places where donations can be made in their name for causes they care about.  I consider myself lucky because I live a life that is more comfortable, safer and fun than the majority of my fellow human beings around the world.  Just look at the disasters in Japan, New Zealand, Libya and other shaken places around the world. I don't need donations to be happy and I don't need them to stay involved in open source. My heart is in it and that is all that is required.

The challenge...

I hope this letter to open source developers makes you reconsider asking for personal donations.  There is nothing wrong asking a business for free hosting or other infrastructure so your project can do what it needs to.  We all know that most open source projects do not generate enough (or any) revenue from training and support to pay for the services needed to run their project.

So please take my challenge and ask for any personal donations to go to a charity or non-profit of your choice in your name. Help the world; you help yourself.  Plus, it's great karmic energy.



  1. Hey Peter just wanted to offer my support for the idea. Your delivery maybe could have been better - the general challenge is a noble one and I don't see how anyone could take issue with it. Your work on Mach-II and dozens of other projects in particular makes you one of the most prolific and generous Open Source CFML developers out there which in my book gives you even more right to express an opinion. Keep up the good work. You rock.

  2. @Lyle, thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog. My post was spiritual in nature and not a judgment against any specific person. If I had issues with anybody in the OS CFML community, I would have just named them directly instead. My intent was to offer an alternative point of view. I guess people had issues that I did it in a declarative manner.

    I've been in contact with Posterous technical support and they admitted there is something broken with commenting via Facebook on blogs with custom domains. They were unaware of this before I notified them. This issue has not just affect Posterous. For example, Facebook login for the Engage app at CFO does not work either. In the meantime, I've enabled non-login comments with comment moderation until the issue is fixed.

  3. @Peter - Sorry, I do not agree that comments like ,

    'However, greed is a bottomless pit. If you love something, just give it away. Don't ask for personal donations to fund your open source development. If your heart isn't in it, then you shouldn't be working on it. It's very easy to loose perspective on why you are involved in a project. If wishlist items or donations are the only thing that keeps you going, then just stop. You're efforts aren't helping anybody.'

    are 'spiritual' - at least not by any definition of the word of which I am familiar. Telling people they are not doing things for the right reason is not 'spiritual' but it sure does sound 'judgmental'.

    As I pointed out on my blog, you may have had a wonderful message, but it got lost in the delivery. Its sad that, after so many people have suggested that maybe you did not convey your messages accurately, you still feel compelled to put the blame on us for 'not getting the point'

    BTW - Thanx for opening up comments without having to login. Might I suggest that you make the switch permanent? Makes it a lot easier.

  4. @Scott, thanks for your comment. It was never my intent to make anybody feel personally singled out. Again, if I wanted to attack somebody I would have just said so. I'm just not that sly of a person to write subtext like that. I've also extended an olive branch directly to Ray via email since he felt like my post was aimed at him (based on his comments). I apologize for the missed delivery. It all depends on your initial POV.

    Personally, my initial reactions would have been better if you had taken the time to contact me first. Your post definitely put me in a reactive / defensive position as it would for any other blogger in my position. Maybe you can sympathize with me on that or maybe not.

    Sadly, the Facebook login issue occurred at the same. I think we can both agree that spam comments are no fun. While you allow anonymous comments with moderation as your method of spam control; I used the FB / Twitter / Posterous login model as my spam prevention. Honestly, both ways have their suckage. One requires the blogger to moderate each comment which may take hours or days to get moderated by a blogger. The other way requires the commentor to id themselves. Then throw in captchas as an alternative. Currently, I don't believe there is a perfect solution out there yet. No matter which solution you use, there will be a subset of people that don't like it.

  5. @Scott, thanks for your comments. I did not continue to comment on your blog because I had nothing additional to add. I have a feeling that Matt made a similar decision. I have no hard feelings about what anybody said. We've all explained our points of views by now -- whether differing or agreeing. At this point, I have no further comments that will add to the conversation. It is what it is... Honestly, let's just go back to writing great open source software. I think it would a better use of our time.

  6. @Ravi, I'm glad my blog made you think about your own projects and rethink your plan. Precisely the point of it...

    @Sarah, thanks for your comments. I've always been taught that the most declarative sentences and titles gain the most attention therefore I tend to write in that style. Clearly people noticed and their opinions whether or not they agree with me are accepted. Weather I respond is another story (as you indicated as well)...