Indie Hackers: learn how developers are writing their own paychecks

Cool site, Indie Hackers, shows off the projects that are making software developers money. It is a directory of products and services that developers are offering and shows how much money they are earning. It should be inspirational to any developer, coder or software engineer.

Some of the projects are:

  • Compliance, a daily planning app which made $2500 a month at its peak.
  • Webjay, a music playlist service which its developers $400/month at its peak.

On each project page, it’s a bit of an interview with the developers/founders of the project.

One of the most important questions is “How did ____ make money?”, the founder of Webjay answered that question in this way:

I monetized through banner ads. It was a native format where a sponsor’s music was available for adoption among my users. I also monetized by using my accrued reputation to get better contract work as a programmer.

Eventually I was acquihired by Yahoo. It was much easier to close a deal, because I had no investors. I didn’t get rich, but I got enough to buy a house and dramatically improve my standard of living. I also got a big promotion, from coder to exec, and now make a much better living.

This is a hopeful story, you can hack on a project and make some money through banner ads (without tracking people) and you can use your improved skills to get better contract work. That side project you’re working on could be a real money maker for you even if you don’t make money from it directly.

The Webjay interview is really good, here are some tips that Lucas Gonze offers to other developers/founders:

  • Do things the easy way.
  • Have a razor sharp bullshit filter.
  • No metrics unless you will act on the data. No work that doesn’t matter to users.
  • Be yourself. Be a human.
  • Don’t try to raise money from investors. They will waste your time and your project will die. Be deeply suspicious of anything like YC.
  • Be very careful about lawyers. They have little to offer you.
  • Be tough. Things worth doing are usually hard.

Click here to check out Indie Hackers and see other stories about successful developers.

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Librem 5 – The World’s First Truly Free Smartphone Announced

The KDE foundation is working with the Purism organization to create the world’s first truly free smartphone. The phone is called the Librem 5 and you can help fund the development of the hardware and the software for the phone by clicking here. As of this moment, they’re hoping to raise $1.5 million and have already reached $844,150 with 24 days to go!

The Librem 5 phone will not be running Android or iOS. It will be running PureOS which is a GNU/Linux derivative of Debian. Basically, any app you write for PureOS and the Librem 5 can also be made to work on your desktop Linux computer. This is a huge advantage that you don’t get with Android or iOS apps, most developers end up using Qt or Unity to be able to create multi-platform applications.

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Since the Librem 5 functions as a small computer, you can also hook it up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard and use it that way. All of our smartphones, iPhones and Android phones alike, are powerful enough to be used as desktop computers but they don’t provide a convenient method for doing so. One of the Librem 5’s goals is to change that. Take a look at the crowdfunding rewards, the higher tier rewards include a monitor, mouse, and keyboard with them ($1399 includes a 24-inch monitor, $1699 includes a 30-inch monitor)! When you fund the phone, you’re funding the development of a privacy-focused computer that fits in your pocket. It feels like some days we forget just how powerful the phones we have in our pockets are. The Librem 5 aims to remind us of that.

It will feature end to end encrypted chat with Matrix along with other privacy and security features. By default, there will be no tracking.

If you want to break out of the duopoly that Apple and Google have over the industry, you will definitely want to check out the Librem 5 smartphone.

Uber Apologists, a Corporate Invasion of Open Source, and a Tool for Organizing Online – Unevenly Distributed #1

What is this? Where am I? All good questions! Unevenly Distributed is a new column on SourceContribute. Usually I post about open source projects, sponsors of open source, free/open source conferences and recently expanded to cover peer2peer technology and professionalism in software development.

In Unevenly Distributed I post in a longer format (and as a newsletter) with a focus on startups, acquisitions, the tech industry and tools we can use to prefigure and build a better future. With that comes a particular perspective that will shine a light on what is missing in most articles about the tech industry.

Let me show you what I mean with an article from that most celebrated of tech/startup news publications, TechCrunch.

Uber Apologists

TechCrunch published “Inside Uber’s new approach to employee performance reviews”, where an Uber Senior Vice President Liane Hornsey discusses how their performance review process has changed, how it used focus groups and the input of employees to improve that process. Previously Uber used employee ratings and rankings, with managers forced to pick the top 3 strengths and bottom 3 weaknesses (which TechCrunch euphemistically calls “things one could improve on”). It’s essentially a fluff piece.

After Fowler’s allegations came out, Hornsey conducted a survey of Uber employees to find out what they wanted performance reviews to look like moving forward. About a third of employees responded to the survey, and the first 600 to volunteer to be involved in the process were brought in to develop prototypes for performance reviews. Once the focus groups came up with their ideas, they brought that to 200 leaders at Uber. Initially, some of the senior leaders were not down with the proposed changes, Hornsey said. But then Hornsey pushed the “wisdom of the crowd” angle, and the leaders agreed.

Let’s say it plainly: an Uber worker was harassed and went public. Uber executives realized that in a market where the demand for skilled workers is very high, a lot of workers could just walk away. They could pursue new careers with more agreeable employment terms.

So the management [think: “The Management” from Kubrick’s The Shining] acted as any king would when confronted by the mob: they would appease the peasants and farmer-tenants. A simple survey would not require massive bonuses or begging to keep the workers around. The “wisdom of the crowd”? Hah, more like the wisdom of the crowd carrying torches and pitchforks outside the king’s castle! Survey issued, rage redirected, the human resources pipeline continues to flow.

Fixing Uber’s Direction Requires More Than A Survey

Uber is a 12,000+ employee company funded by massive amounts of VC. A small survey is not going to fix the direction of the company. Perhaps the new CEO will have better ideas, but from all the “allegations” of wrong-doing, it is built into the company that they will behave in awful ways:

The list of Uber misdeeds is already long and has been growing. TechCrunch engaging in a soft-ball interview with a Senior VP, does the reader a disservice; it’s why Unevenly Distributed exists, to sharpen the critical edge and examine Silicon Valley and startups from a tech worker-oriented perspective.

Kite is the bad apple that spoils the open source bunch

Kite is a startup that develops productivity tools for software developers, things that can be integrated into your IDE. They decided that the best way to “growth-hack” their way to success was to hire the developers of some popular extensions. After some time, those developers inserted code that promoted Kite in one way or another. This offended a lot of open source developers because Kite is a proprietary tool that sends data to its own servers. It was a clear power move to use open source projects to promote their proprietary tool.

It’s one thing to hire a developer and acknowledge that they work on a popular open source project and to give them time (or resources) to work on that project. It’s quite another to also promote your company through that project. It’s deeply offensive if you see the free/open source world as a gift economy, where gifts of time and effort are given to the community in the hopes that other community will also contribute their own gifts.

In 2016, Kite raised $4 million in VC funds to grow their business. That is a lot of money and it is enough to pay for a decent growth-hacker and marketing team. It’s enough money to sponsor the developers and maybe down the line, Kite’s goodness in the community helps promote their product.

The next time a startup hires a developer who runs a popular free/open source project, the community around that project will have a very good reason to be nervous and to perhaps considering preparing to fork the project. We’ve seen this with larger enterprise such as Oracle which stripped Sun Microsystems clean (almost all of the free/open source projects from Sun are now maintained by the community, which is good overall but bad for the developers at Sun who lost their jobs). Kite’s actions are on par with Oracle, looking at the ROI rather than being part of the community.

This invasion of free/open source projects by companies that are backed by millions in VC funding are not new but I have a feeling we will see more of them. If you run a free/open source project, you would do well to find sponsors who don’t have any demands other than a logo on your project’s home page and fundraising in other ways. If you want to defend against what a company like Kite did, you should consider the GPL or AGPL as the license for your next project.

Organizing Online With Keybase.io

Keybase.io released a new encrypted group chat program similar to Slack. It allows people to chat in chat rooms that are end-to-end encrypted and lets them upload files too. This makes it a valuable tool for organizing online.

A lot of free/open source projects rely on Slack and so do a lot of startups but they never really consider that all of their communications are stored on Slack’s servers. This data can be handed over to the government at any time. Startups rarely consider the retention policy that Slack and HipChat and other tools have. Because Keybase is free/open source, you can host it yourself for an extra-measure of security (you can also do that with Riot.im/Matrix and Zulip).

Keybase also offers accounts where your profile will list your email, social network and social media accounts alongside your encryption keys. What is unique is that each account is confirmed as yours. You post a tweet with a particular message and Keybase will confirm that a particular Twitter account is yours. This works for Github, Twitter, Facebook, Hacker News, Reddit, and your domain names.

You can share your Keybase profile with others to let them quickly find your PGP encryption key to send you safe and secure messages. Or, they can use Keybase itself to send you a message online (though I would think this is slightly less secure) or use their command-line program.

Keybase is one of many tools that we can use to protect ourselves from surveillance capitalism and mass surveillance and a tool that we can use to organize our projects for building a better future.

What Kind Of Future Do We Really Want?

The articles above lead me to ask, what kind of future do we really want? Do we want startups that are led by bros who have little or no ethics? Do we want to work at companies where harassment is not punished?

The name for this column, Unevenly Distributed, comes from the William Gibson quote, “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”. It’s true and the truth is becoming more widely known as we see Uber not being punished for their bad behavior, as we see the anti-diversity crowd becoming braver in expressing their hateful views (more on that in the next column), and when a company like Kite invades open source projects.

A thought to contemplate, dear reader, is whether or not we want to keep building a future that is unevenly distributed.

Running GUI applications in LXD on Fedora 26

Instructions on how to use LXC (Linux Containers) to run GUI applications within a container. The example shows how to run chromium with X11 and GPU-accelerated.

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Create container:

Install needed tools:

Map UID and GID ramges:

Set UID/GUID ranges for container:

Mount X11 socket and .Xauthority file:

Passthrough GPU device:

Check results with:

Now we can install and run chromium browser inside:

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Learn How To Create a Cool NaiveCoin Cryptocurrency

Naivecoin is an open source implementation of a cryptocurrency. It includes all the major components needed to build a cryptocurrency such as a miner and the blockchain. If you’ve been reading about BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies and still don’t quite understand how they work, you should check out the code in Naivecoin.

Sometimes to understand a concept we have to implement it ourselves. Or in this case, we can use someone else’s implementation as a live simulation that we can watch and read through the code.

Naivecoin is written in Node.js which should make it easy for everyone to learn from. It is short and the author aims to keep it as small as possible.

We had a blog post about Copay, a shared bitcoin wallet. It would be cool to see someone implement a shared wallet for NaiveCoin. Another idea is to add smart contracts to NaiveCoin.

If you have an idea for how a cryptocurrency could be better, you can use Naivecoin as a basic implementation and proof of concept.