[ubuntu-web] Another idea for Ubuntu Wanted's future

Oli Warner oli at thepcspy.com
Sun Aug 10 00:11:56 BST 2008

Hi all. I've been reading the Ubuntu Wanted postings going on and I 
think it hold great potential for getting existing developers with free 
time hooked up with projects that interest them. I think we might be 
missing an opportunity though, one that could really change the way 
business looks at community-supported Linux. I could be wrong and the 
idea may, once implemented, actually do more harm than good, but I'm 
just "putting it out there".

Companies like commercial support. They need bullet proof systems that 
always work and sometimes they need flexibility. Desktop Linux is by no 
means a complete project. There are issues in places that prohibit some 
people using the system, or really limit its abilities. In my personal 
experience, this has come down to bugs in some packages. I've submitted 
a fair few bug reports but as you all know the time-to-fix is heavily 
variable, usually depending on the availability of the project's main 
developer(s) and their willingness to help. This isn't great for people 
whose livelihoods depend on the bug being fixed, especially when bug 
reports get filed as WONTFIX.

In the commercial software world, the same thing is true but it is 
mitigated by threat of refund or not repurchasing. There can be both 
carrot and stick incentive for those developers to improve their apps. 
In FOSS there is neither.

My proposal (sorry it took until the fourth paragraph) is to create a 
marketplace for mercenary FOSS bug fixing and development. Organisations 
and individuals can start projects and pledge money for them being 
completed with certain criteria. Developers can look at what people want 
and then take on the work, submit their fixes and addons, give 
instructions on how to use them, submit everything upstream and getting 
paid after review.

I hope the benefits are clear. If devs can get paid for working on FOSS 
(for the benefit of everybody), chances are they might be able to devote 
more time to it. It also means a lot more people could see the point in 
getting involved... Oh and people get what's important to them.

The downsides are harder to predict. This would undoubtedly be 
controversial. Existing developers might see this as people getting paid 
for releasing buggy software and patching it on demand. The hippier 
purists might see this as bringing in unwanted commercial interests. 
Quality of software might fall. Developers might stop producing free 
updates. Other development inside projects might slow down too. The 
direction of the software might head against the majority of its users. 
It's hard to say.

The largest real problem would be payment handling. I'm sure lots of 
people pledging would be faithful but there might be silly bids coming 
in that mess up the system. We'd need an escrow service but that 
introduces a whole new set of issues.


So yeah... Some immediate benefits with plenty of issues. Just thought 
it might be relevant for discussion while you're all fleshing out 
functionality ideas for UW.


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