Is Money Useful to Open Source Apps?

Two months ago, Jeff Atwood posted on his blog, Coding Horror (external link), about his experience donating $5000 to the open source .Net project ScrewTurn Wiki (external link). In a nutshell, Atwood donated $5000 of his advertising revenue into the project and four months later none of the money had been spent. Most single-developer applications simply run on time and not on money. Developers tend to work on open source projects, at least at first, simply for the enjoyment, doing the development in their free time.

Personally, I imagine if Ottoman was still an active project, how $5000 could help. The only thing that comes to mind is to hire someone to design a better interface or possibly to advertise somewhere. I think part of the issue is that there are a number of rather expensive things that could be done to improve an open source project and it is difficult to decide exactly where to spend the money. For example, say I decided I wanted to spend the money to improve the documentation and to spruce up the interface. I could very easily spend all the money just on one of those things, simply because getting that work done professionally is not cheap. That is the main reason I can see why the money has not yet been spent by ScrewTurn Wiki.

On the other hand, $5000 would buy an amazing Mac Pro...


  • $5000 is a massive donation to be made by a regular individual, and I would personally rather see that the money hasn't been spent after four months than it being immediately spent; it shows that thought is being put it to it, as you mentioned above.

    I think one of the better places to spend the money would be for good UI elements, because a good UI can make or break an app.

    For console apps like Apache; I don't think it'll matter what gets done, most anything will eat up that money fairly quickly.

    Maybe spending it in a place like SitePoint contests would give you good bang for your buck.

    Posted by -=Hero Doug=- on Sat 13 Sep 2008 at 0:14

  • Server infrastructure is another area where the money would be pretty useful.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Sat 13 Sep 2008 at 9:13

  • As Doug says Id rather see that the money wont be spent that fast as really there isnt that much stuff to spend such a huge donation on.

    The only use I see for money overall would be to pay server space or so to keep hosting the project and being able to have a place hosted for a community for the project for feedback and bugreports etc.

    Other then keeping a host up I dont really see much things thats really worth spending money for, and money from donations shouldnt be a reason to keep developing some stuff. (Which seems to be the case for some projects, even tho they keep making it.)

    Posted by Markus Maga (external link) on Sat 13 Sep 2008 at 20:20