A proposal to facilitate users getting what they want from free software.

Guido Arnold guido at gnu.org
Fri Nov 30 23:48:21 UTC 2007

On Fri, Nov 30, 2007 at 01:19:07PM +0100, David Picón Álvarez wrote:
> Hi,
> I'd like to call to your attention an article I've just posted on the FSFE's 
> website.
> https://www.fsfe.org/en/fellows/modulus/user_driven_software_development

That's an interesting approach. RMS mentions the possibility of
founding an organisation for a certain feature or project in a few
speeches. What you are suggesting is rather like a marketplace for
such "organisations" which makes a lot of sense to me.

Here are just a few thoughts:

1. Pledges should not be binding forever.

Reading your proposal, I don't quite understand when a pledge can be withdrawn.

Let's say I gave in pledge a certain amount for a certain feature in a particular
project and since there weren't enough others with me, no programmer
was willing to implement the feature. Meanwhile, another project is being
developed and comes up with excactly the feature I wanted to see.
Then, I would like to have the possibility to withdraw my pledge and
invest the money in something that has not been solved yet.
If I put my money somewhere, I would like it being used. Which brings
me to the next point:

2. Proper investment of asset

Since the users transfer the money to "FUDS" in advance, it might sit
there for a long time without being used. Especially when the
foundation grows and with it the number of "orphaned" projects, that
might accumulate a remarkable amount of money. Any ideas how this
idle capital could be used to serve Free Software?

3. offers in both directions

I would also provide programmers the opportunity to offer their

Almost every project/program has its mailing list where the users
raise their concerns and express their needs. There might be a
programmer who has a nice idea how to solve a problem or implement a
feature neatly, but has not the time/money to do it. S/he could offer the
service on the the platform of FUDS: "I'll fix bug #123 within three
weeks for 1200€." and the users could vote for it.

4. Complexity

For most users the complexity or triviality of a particular problem
will always stay hidden, because they are not interested in how the problem
is solved. They just want it fixed or be done. They want a piece of
software that does what they want. And they have no intention in
spending a lot of time reading scopes of work, contracts, discussions
and contract negotiations. 

But they could still participate and support Free Software by paying a
monthly contribution to the "FUDS" and their allotment could be
assigned proportional to the "established" projects. The definition of
"established" needs to be determined, of course. Thus, they would rely
on the expertise of the others and trust the system that their money
is well invested.

They should still have control over their money. Let's say they commit
120€ per year. If they want to support a particular project, they can
pledge 80€ for it. If they don't pledge for anything else, the
remaining 40€ will be divided to other projects.

> It's a proposal for an organization that would help users and SMEs to pool 
> resources and risk so that they could collectively commission the 
> improvements to free software that they need. Incidentally, it might also 
> help free software writers to get contracts. I think it is a potentially 
> good idea, but I've gotten some negative feedback about it on the #gnu 
> channel at freenode. I'd like to know if I am in the wrong track with this.

What kind of negative feedback did you get?


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