Innovation, funding and FS (was: to git or not to git)

Paul Boddie paul at
Sat Sep 15 15:20:26 UTC 2018

On Friday 14. September 2018 09.06.50 Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> Am Donnerstag 13 September 2018 17:05:41 schrieb Andreas Nilsson:
> >
> > The idea is to make an economical funding platform. The platform itself
> > only communicates between the two parties users and developers,
> > economically.
> This has been tried a number of times in the past and hasn't worked out
> well.

It is worth noting that there are a number of recurring obstacles. Gratipay 
was attempting to pioneer consolidated payments between individuals, but there 
is a very narrow path that needs to be navigated to avoid being considered as 
some kind of financial institution that holds other people's money whilst also 
processing payments (or delegating that processing) in a way that does not 
overwhelm the actual payments with processing fees.

Liberapay took over where Gratipay left off, but their payment processor has 
discontinued its relationship with Liberapay, apparently claiming that they 
didn't think that Liberapay was fulfilling its obligations:

There seems to have been an account linked to an organisation which cannot be 
legally serviced by the payment provider, and I guess the blame fell on 
Liberapay for that. (This is from a quick perusal of public information about 
this, so it may not be completely accurate.)

Other organisations exist, but it isn't completely clear how they operate in a 
similar position without getting hassled about financial industry/crime 
regulations. Here are some examples:

Open Collective seems like it promotes a model that I may have advocated 
before, emphasising collectives (which Gratipay and Liberapay both support). 
If you have an organisation like the Python Software Foundation, to take an 
example I tend to use, then one could envisage establishing a presence on such 
a platform to solicit funding for Python development, where those giving money 
might have reason to assume that their money is going to the right people due 
to the presence of an entity they know and trust. Meanwhile, those doing the 
work would presumably be able to receive payments in a properly-regulated way.

Then again, I am inclined to think that such platforms tend to favour 
transactional work, often underpriced, that is viewed as fashionable amongst 
the relentless promotion of the "gig" economy (hence the venture funding for 
some of the companies above). Instead, I think that structures to fund Free 
Software should enable developers to actually draw a salary, not have people 
speculatively do work in order to compete for payouts.

Maybe what is really needed is some kind of virtual organisation for Free 
Software, maybe some kind of consulting organisation. Naturally, there are 
non-virtual organisations of this nature already, but the bottlenecks are 
getting hired by them and for those businesses to be able to hire people. And 
recruitment is still largely performed using pre-digital techniques (if you 
ignore the superficial use of digital tools).

> What could help would be a system for micropayments that is easy and
> has low transaction costs. Another approach would be to have a
> organisations that distribute small amounts of money (e.g. GNU system
> distributors would be in a good position to do so.) A key point is peoples
> willingness to pay for something, even if they are not force to.

Micropayments with low transaction costs is like the Holy Grail of payments, 
though. But the matter of persuading people to pay for stuff is worth further 
thought, and there was a blog article about that recently:

One thing I ought to mention is the need for solutions that use real money as 
opposed to today's favourite cryptocurrency. When looking for creative 
solutions there always appears to be someone wanting to sweep everything off 
the table to further their "cipherpunk" anarchist pipedream.

People need genuine solutions that do not involve financial speculation, legal 
uncertainty, and exposure to criminal schemes. A crucial aspect of funding 
Free Software is exactly that of giving people certainty so that they can 
focus on what they actually want to do.


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