People just don't willingly contribute enough money for long term support of Free, Open Source Software, or any free community projects for that matter. The numbers don't lie. Most free software projects put a PayPal link on their websites so their supporters can make donations (non coercive payments). But somehow, their bank balances retain double goose egg balances, or close to it, in absolute perpetuity. These freeloading dead-beats must be pushed into paying. A commercial, "paid for" (coercive payment) model, is the only way that we can ever really sustain GNU/Linux projects and distributions. Wake up and smell the coffee!
Is this true? Do people need to be pushed into paying? Could there be some other reasons, here to fore unexplored, that are the possible causes of what may be perceived as lack luster support? Could a flawed (donation) support model be the main bottleneck in the flow of support dollars?
Consider for a moment typical individuals who's sensibilities are such that they very much want to support each and every person and project that had a hand in building their favorite FOSS distribution. They can go to their favorite distributions home page. Pay the suggested 10, 20 or so dollars and be happy, they did their part. They contributed. But that doesn't cure that knot in their stomachs. The knot, I believe, many of us have been feeling since our first introduction to free software, but just can't get a handle on. What about those people and projects that wrote the underlying code, the foundational core of the distro? Those unglamorous library builder/maintainers etc.., who are disenfranchised by their obscurity.
The FOSS distribution builder/maintainers don't divide up the money they're given and pay these obscure projects anything. Commercial GNU/Linux distributions don't either. They do give back to the community by directly supporting some choice projects that will later help them to increase their market share by using the resulting code (In fairness, this does in fact help to advance the entire community). But, the small, obscure, application and foundational core programmers are still left wanting. For me, and hopefully for all of you, this is "Unacceptable"! If no money is collected, that's fine. Some people simply don't have money to give. But if money is collected for a distribution or project, justice and fairness dictates that these collected monies be shared in some way with all who were involved. Not just to the people who did the final assembly of all the code sources into a completed usable packaged Distribution.
We'll do it ourselves:
Under the current support model, what do individuals with these sensibilities do? They set out on their own to remedy this injustice of course. They find a list of all of the 1000 plus packages used in their favorite distro. Find all of their home pages, reasoning to themselves that they will contribute to each one separately. That's the only thing that will truly clear their consciences. Wait a minute! Have any of you done the math yet? What is the actual cost of doing the right thing and a clear conscience?
Time: Huge amounts of my time would have to be dedicated to finding, surfing to, and conducting a separate payment transaction at these 1000 plus websites.
Cost: The transaction fees alone could add up to far more than what would be a reasonable, even generous, amount to pay for the whole distribution. If each individual paid one dollar, one time, at each packages website, that's 1000 plus dollars. Not counting any transaction fees.
Unacceptable Payment Options: All of you who need, and are asking the community for financial support. You will dry up and turn to dust before some people, who very much want to support you, will ever use Pay Pal, or give their credit card information to any website. Let alone 1000 plus websites. It shouldn't be a great, shocking revelation to you, that Patriots, Privacy Advocates, and other Freedom loving malcontents are drawn to GNU/Linux. The staggering number of anonymous post on GNU/Linux news sites should tell you that. These people are chasing what is left of the privacy that freedom cannot exist without (Freedom Cannot And Will Not Outlive Privacy). Malcontents are the non-coder core of the GNU/Linux community. If they weren't in fact malcontented, they would save themselves a lot of time and aggravation by staying with Microsoft and Windows. The concept of privacy however, is something that the Microsoft agenda has long since abandoned in their quest to appoint themselves the gate keepers of totally tracked and locked down computing. This leaves Free Software as the only acceptable alternative. Very much worth supporting with our dollars, and fighting for with our votes and our time.
The GNU/Linux community needs an acceptable way to equitably share the support dollars it gets with everyone involved in helping to make GNU/Linux the best Operating System/Environment available today. It also needs to address its need for better, more adequate funding, by addressing the needs of their core freedom loving malcontents; to enable them to support you privately and/or anonymously in some practical, convenient way. Instead of chasing them away by giving them no acceptable payment options. Where neither they, nor the GNU/Linux community gets what they want or need. Free software isn't about price or total cost of ownership (TCO), it's about Freedom and the devastating total costs involved in losing it.
The freely redistributable unedited original version of this article is available at this link.