Quality Software Costs Money – Fund FOSS Projects

Poul-Henning Kamp has written a fantastic article about why companies should just “throw money at developers” of free/open source software projects. The recent Heartbleed problem with OpenSSL could have been caught had there been more developer time devoted to the project. However, that developer time costs money and we should be far more giving to free/open source projects.

FOSS does not materialize out of empty space; it is written by people. We love what we do, which is why I’m sitting here, way past midnight on a Saturday evening, writing about it; but we are also real people with kids, cars, mortgages, leaky roofs, sick pets, infirm parents, and all kinds of other perfectly normal worries.


The only way to improve the quality of FOSS is to make it possible for these perfectly normal people to spend time on it. They need time to review patch submissions carefully, to write and run test cases, to respond to and fix bug reports, to code, and most of all, time just to think about the code and what should happen to it.

Two ways of funding FOSS mentioned in the article:

  1. hire FOSS maintainers, with the understanding that some part of their time is focused on the FOSS project and the other part is company time
  2. companies can donate and sponsor FOSS developer teams without hiring the maintainers

Creating a foundation for the project can also help because the foundation’s goal is to handle all fund-raising, which lets developers get back to work on developing using the funds collected by the foundation.

The article is really good, I recommend everyone read it twice and then figure out a way to get their company to donate to all the valuable open source projects out there like Node.js, WordPress, Linux, Firefox, etc.


  1. Yeah, first of all I am biased, having tried to code and publishing it under an open source license. Companies should definitely donate. For a great example of this model, check out the Haiku OS project website (not spamming any links here). They take in donations, hire programmers on what I think is a modular approach: one programmer takes on a specific mission to squash issues and errors in, let’s say Webkit code for their web browser. If enough money is available they can get a lot done and eventually complete the mission. They have a blog where developers report on what has been done, so now and then you’ll have a chance to read about what great things developers are able to do with your donated money.

    Ther should never be a requirement to blog in order to get your donations or anything like that, but consider it as a bonus. It is also a nice way to document your work progress and show future employers what a great programmer you are. Beneficial is also the fact that the code is open for the employer to read (and even modify, improve upon or borrow from!).

    So yes, donations will go a long way. Just do not forget that smaller, promising projects with talented programmers deserve to have donations thrown to them as well. I think Linux is at a state where enough money is pouring in already, so if you’re new in the donation game, you might want to browse places like Sourceforge or Github and see if you find something interesting and serious enough, something that feels like a good match for your company.

Leave a Reply to teknisktsett (@teknisktsett) Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.