Free software is NOT free

Yesterday I wrote this article and today I want to elaborate some things about it.

You see, free software is free of charge, but there is much worse price to pay than a few bucks – quality and cadence.

The first thing that annoys me is people that think “open source should be done by volunteers and kept free (as in free beer).”
Imagine this:
Guy X starts an open source project
Guy X realises that he is human (gee, imagine that!) and that he needs money to live
Guy X tries to make money out of his indie project and fails
Guy X gets a real life job, so he will be able to eat and pay his bills
The real life job takes guy x’s time and energy to work on his project and as a result the product he made is worse quality and gets released rarely
Aftermath – open source software gets hurt, because guy x can not work on his project full time and I challenge you to find me any open source person that likes open source to gets hurt.
This partizan way of thinking needs to go as soon as possible, fullstop.

Second thing – “if you wanna make money, go proprietary.”
That is driving me nuts. Folks, we (people that create open source software) do not want to make our stuff proprietary if we can avoid that. We love the open source philosophy and want to follow it. And then some people come and tell us to basically ditch that, because it is next to impossible to make money out of open source. Advise us to go the proprietary way, despite that they also love the open source way. Well, excuse us for being such damn annoying idealists and having the desire to actually keep our work open. Are you people that advise us to go proprietary wanting to say “Hey, I would prefer keeping you project proprietary and paid, instead of open source and paid / funded by donations.”, because that is exactly how it sounds.

Third thing – “look at the RedHat model, they make money out of open source.”
That is obnoxiously moot argument. I am talking about small projects and indie development here and RedHat is a huge company. Here is a realisation – not all indie open source devs and designers can create a huge million/billion company, infact it would be great even if 0.0001% can do that. Took you by surprise, didn’t I? Well, no I did not and you know it.

Fourth – “I will have to spend a fortune on open source if I start donating to indie open source projects I like.”
No, you will not. Lets say you choose to donate to 4 projects (which isn’t a small amount) monthly. I did a quick math yesterday and the results are that if everyone who has circled our Numix Google+ page throws just 5 dollars monthly (which is next to nothing for the downright crazy work we do) all the team (three people) will be able to make a decent living of Numix and we will be able to work full time on it, hence improving the quality rapidly. 5 bucks monthly, that’s all it takes. Which is what? A pack of fairly cheap cigarettes? Your coffee for two mornings? A small SubWay sandwich? And that is for relative new project like Numix (albeit quite popular when it comes to theming). For projects like VLC, GIMP, Inkscape and etc … the amount would be much smaller for the userbase is so much bigger. Yeah, for smaller projects the amount would be greater, but in those cases the creators of the project have to improve it and popularise it before asking for money.

Fifth – “But even if I throw money at some project it won’t make a difference.”
Yeah, that is true, your small amount of money will not, but small maount of money from every members of the projects’s userbase will make a difference. Find a fairly project you like (or like and use) and ask the devs/designers if he would want some money for his work (or even make it his job) and the advise him to ask people for money. It may work, it may fail, but even if the latter is the case you would have at least tried. To make it easier for you projects like Numix, Moka, elementary and Nuvola Player can definitely use more money.

Folks, you must realise one extremely simple thing – all we indie open source developers and designers and yada yada are human and that means we need money to make a living. By not giving us money you literally force us to get real life jobs and those jobs (an most of them are related to making proprietary software and I doubt you like this) eat up the time and energy we can devote to our projects. If we were paid to work on them full time, than those projects would have been tons better and needless to say that would have been good for open source. Full time working on a project means the products will be better and have better cadence. It is up to you if you want to use free of charge software, that is of not so good quality and released rarely or if you want to throw small amount of money at projects you like on monthly basis for open source software that is of good quality. I personally think the first is not really an option, but hey, I can not make all people actually using their brains and having some very basic common sense. Want to not keep using our stuff for free? Fine. But don’t expect this stuff to be of as good quality as it can be or anywhere near the top.

Yeah I am being brutally honest, but do not expect me to cut any slack for I am tired of so open source getting hurt because of so many great projects being kept as pet projects only, because of lack of money. We all want open source software to be of better quality, to replace the proprietary one and because the world is using the monetary economics model we need money to achieve these goals.

So, if I’ve managed to put at least some basic common sense (in your what it seems quite stubborn heads), start donating some money to indie open source projects you like and are still being kept on not professional, because we need those money to make these projects our full time jobs and by doing some actually making great products.

So, to sum it up have this picture:

PLEASE throw money at open source projects

Blimey, loooooooong time no post! So much has happened that I won’t even bother to write it down for it will take me few millennia times.
Now, lemme jump straight to the point – open source is utter rubbish when it comes to monetising.
Imagine for a second that I am leading a lecture in some open source conference and I ask this – “How many of you have some open source projects you work on?”. I would imagine all or at least huge percentage of the attendees would raise their hand. Now imagine how many would raise their hand to the question – “And how many make a living from open source projects?”. Yeah, most likely no one or very few.
And that folks is a big issue.
No, I mean not just big, or big big, I mean freaking HUGE issue.
You see, creating products requires time and effort and the better this products are, the more time and effort they require to be made.
This spring I co created a visual brand called Numix with two more open source mates. For the little time Numix has been there it has become insanely popular and we’ve been improving it on daily basis. I kid you not, the thing is very popular and very large, hence it is also quite hard to maintain and improve.
We are selling some aspects of it (mind you, the majority of it is free) and we also have a donation for at our webby (feel free to buy some of our artwork or throw some quids at us ;P) and we’ve made approximately around 900 USD for about 6 months. Compared to the crazy amount we put into it (and we will continue to put) this sum is next to nothing.
How much a designer (because this is artwork we’re talking about here, not really hardcore app development) that works for some company? Well, even in my crazy Balkan country he will make more than those 900 bucks on monthly basis. Now imagine if we’re talking about designer at bigger company in a normal country in normal end of the world? 2000 dollars monthly? 5000? More?
So, to sum it up, we are doing crazy amount of labour and we get next to nothing in return from a financial standpoint compared to the labour.
Wanna know why this is an issue?
Well, because money are necessary evil and the world is spinning around them.
Which is why mostly ALL open source work is volunteered and it’s done by folks in their free time. It is bloody hard/next to impossible to make a living out of open source (unless you get hired by a big company to do so), so most open source people have real live jobs and work on their open source projects when they have the time and energy. This results in slower and not so good development and/or designing and I challenge you to find ANY open source person that will say – “hey, I want worse quality software”.
Now, imagine for just a second how much better it would have been if the talented open source people were actually paid proper amount of money for their project so they can continue to work on them full time and as a result make them so much better. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, hell, of course it will be ooysum.
Which is why I think the “if it’s open source and I can avoid paying for it I will” way of thinking must die.
So, please, all you people that support open source software, if you want open source software to get better throw money at whatever projects you think its worth it and encourage others to do the same, because otherwise we (creators and drivers of the projects) are forced to have real life jobs and work on open source in our free time with the little remaining energy we have, which results in worse products and much much much slower development.
Let me get back to Numix for a while. I believe I speak on behalf on the entire by saying that we would love Numix to be not just our pet project on which we work in our free time, but our job, because it is our baby and we want to make it better and bigger. For example our newest icon theme – Numix-Circle has over 190 applications icons (and if you count the other icons from our basic numix-icon-theme, which are thousands the number gets scary) takes us a lot of time and effort and wanna know how much we have made from it? 12 dollars. Well, if you think that’s OK, then I don’t want to know how much work we should do to make Numix our real life job. We’ll probably need to clone ourselves a few hundred times to get it done. ;>
The current revenue is enough for us to buy three of four fancy devices for almost an year, but that doesn’t pay our bills, buy us food or … you get the point. So, if you want the project to be developed faster and better throw money you can spare at us. Because without money we are forced to keep it as just a pet project and needless to day that has a quite the negative impact on the products quality.