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Is there a service which could help me reward (pay) the contributors of an open-source project by their contribution to the project (Maybe using data from where the code is hosted GitHub)?

Maybe by getting them to map their bank/paypal account to their account on a service like GitHub?

How do projects currently reward their contributors?

If I were to develop such a service, what would I need?

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OS projects mainly reward their contributors by the fact that, once they contributed, the program works better for them (the contributors). –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:01
When I'm making profits off the code they contributed, it only feels right that I re-pay them somehow. –  Sathvik Nov 20 '11 at 13:06
I guess that's very noble. But that's not how it usually works. If you want to repay them, then one way is to include them in a credits list. If you want to pay them, that's nice, but.. I don't know of any services. –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:11
Ask them what they need based upon how much you are willing to sponsor. All developers likes faster hardware :) –  user1249 Nov 20 '11 at 15:22
Eric S. Raymond wrote an interesting essay, Homesteading the Noosphere, stating that the OSS / hacker community is basically a gift culture "in which participants compete for prestige by giving time, energy, and creativity away". –  Péter Török Nov 20 '11 at 15:46

5 Answers 5

There is no such service - some contributors to open source projects do it for fun and prestige, not payment and if you offered to pay them may take offence.

And how do you select which ones? The early ones that no longer contribute? The new ones that built on top of earlier work? Do you divide the amount equally?

Some contributors are already paid to do so by their employer (though these tend to be a minority).

A much better option is to donate to the project itself - this way they have more money for hosting and can decide for themselves how to "reward" their contributors.

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if you offered to pay them they would probably take offence. Pfft. Really? –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:01
@Yam - yes. It devalues their contribution. Known psychological effect. If no money is offered, the value is unknown. If a value is put on the contribution, one start to compare it to other things. –  Oded Nov 20 '11 at 13:02
Okay doctor. :) I guess I'm a very rare exception then! –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:04
I'd feel richer by $10. –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:05
I'll just say that when I develop an OS project then I obviously don't care about the money it can or can't make, and any further contributions would be very much welcome and appreciated. –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 13:08

I don't think that there is something bad in paying someone to contribute to an open source project.

As an example: we needed some additional features included in an OS tool and we contacted the maintainer if he would like to implement them (paid).

We could have done it ourselves (the source code is there) but the code learning curve would have cost us more than the contribution/donation.

But, going back on topic, there is no platform for OS donations contributions. We contacted the SW author and asked him.

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My concerns about your plan:

You want to add extrinsic motivation (money) to existing intrinsic motivation. Your contributor are currently doing it for free because they take a great pleasure out of the job. If you add extrinsic motivation in addition to intrinsic motivation, you will see overall intrinsic motivation to decline (Eisenberger & Armeli, 1997; Eisenberger & Rhoades, 2002). But that doesn't mean extrinsic motivation doesn't work at all. If you give extrinsic motivation based on competence it works, for a longer time (Deci, 1995). The best proof is Stack Exchange Network.

Another problem I see with those extrinsic motivation you plan to give is the potential change of your contributor's behavior. They may start to commit useless code to get more points. You may generate frustration: what you measure? Lines of code? Usefulness? From which point of view?

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Hmm.. Ubuntu got a whole lot of contributors when it put a cash prize for each of the features it wanted people to implement - which would be open-source.... A whole lot. And it was great code (at least compared to most of what you see in common OS projects). –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 16:01
That's a contest. Something very different that exploit other (but similar) human weaknesses –  user2567 Nov 20 '11 at 19:30
It wasn't no contest - they wanted features done and the person who implemented it to meet their demands got the money. –  Yam Marcovic Nov 20 '11 at 20:17
Like a contractor? For that amount of USD, you develop feature A, B, C, etc? That's something different too. –  user2567 Nov 20 '11 at 20:45
The OP don't want to get more contributions, he wants to reward existing ones. I tell him it's a bad idea because the effect will probably be the inverse. I think he is more concerned by his culpability. He thinks he exploits them. It's not true. It's a win-win scheme. If it wasn't one, they would not contribute at all. –  user2567 Nov 20 '11 at 21:36

If i have understood your question right, i think we are discussing how to allocate contributions to contributors in a balanced way? I think the assumption is, that there IS an open source project, and there is an inclination on part of someone to pay.

If you look at source forge, you see a a $ icon which links to how payments can be passed to the respective developers. Same thing is true for (some of the) firefox addons indicating message like "Like this add-on? contribute! ($5)

Both these tools in the back uses paypal. So you need the the same tool that these sites are using in background. What is important is to establish the ownership, - for example, whoever, is the owner (sole contributor) of a feature should be transferred to this money. Otherwise, there is always an issue of who deserves how much.

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First of all, I am bit sceptic and unsure of how you are making the money out of an OS project. In case you are building something upon the OS code, then its fine to sell it as a service or product and you deserve to earn the profit.

But, if you are just making the money out of the OS code only, then it's illegal, so be aware

Other thing is that people contribute in a opensource project not for money but making good code freely available to all for reuse accordingly. If they had been working for money, they would have never contributed. Just make sure that OS project lives longer and grows to help one and all

BTW some of the contributors might be making a better product of the OS code and earning themselves.

UPDATE : Sorry i forgot to tell, there is no such service as you asked for. If there had been, there would been no OS projects as there are today :-)

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Just a small note: it is not illegal to sell OS code as long as it also freely available: see –  Matteo Nov 20 '11 at 14:04
Not all "open source" is GPL. Please check the terms of the license under which contributions were given to you, to make sure that they permit commercial redistribution of those contributions before you start selling for money. Remember that unless you have a signed document in writing which assigns copyright to you, you do not own the copyright to other people's contributions to your open source project. –  Trevor Powell Nov 21 '11 at 9:18

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