After being heavily involved in the SugarCRM community and the communities of other open source software over the years, there is one thing that has started to really bother me. In the BitTorrent world we call them leechers. These are the people who take and never seem to give back to the cause.
The problem that I have with this is that people are continuously leveraging others hard work while many times refusing to pay for anything attached to it. After download the platform they get the free modules, then they want consulting and haggle about the rates trying to make a point that the software was free stating “why would I spend so much on consulting when the platform came at such a little cost”. Lets face it, peoples time deserves compensation.
In building WapSnap and GetSocial Twitter Pro I thought long and hard on how to give to the community without rewarding the leechers. This leads to the idea presented in the title, “Contribution Based Upgrades.”
The concept is that the software is open source but to get the upgrade packages you need to contribute. This concept isn’t without it’s hurdles but we will get to that next.
Here is how it works. First off the software creator will require the user to sign up to download ( Even though I hate this concept ). During that process they will be told that they will not receive upgrades without contributions. The software provider will maintain a portal with a forum, documents area, and any other content sections needed to support the software which can take contributions from users. When a user posts any content, they will get points from the system or other community members with minimum and maximum points allowed based on the type of contribution.
The catch is that they must maintain a certain level of contribution averaged over time to have access to the upgrade packages. The level doesn’t have to be high but the fact that they have to contribute in some way is a step in the right direction. Maybe they could even get extra points for external blogs posts, who knows.
Now for the problems.
1. First is that current licensing of open source software will allow one person to download and distribute the upgrade packages without any recourse. Not that you want to go after users but you do need a “leg to stand on” if needed. To fix this you will have to draft your own license agreement.
2. Since the system is points based you will have to make sure that people aren’t gaming the system. This will probably be a constant battle for an active project but as long as your cover the majority of issues it shouldn’t be a huge problem.
3. People posting garbage. If people continuously post garbage to maintain there status the community will usually report it. If not, the moderator can troll for garbage and take it to the curb.
I’m am sure that there are dozens of other issues that could arise but at least the list is started.
In theory, this would greatly enhance the project quality and allow users to give time back to those who so graciously gave to them. I am interested in your thoughts on contribution based upgrades so send them to me or make a comment.
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