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Cover image for I pay $1 every hour I spend working on open-source

I pay $1 every hour I spend working on open-source

kossnocorp profile image Sasha Koss Updated on ・3 min read

Open source saves a shit ton of money for modern companies. It's used on every level starting with software that powers infrastructure and ending with the libraries that developers use to build the company products. Yet, maintaining an open-source project is undoubtedly the most underpaid job in our industry. I will be shocked if the average hourly rate is more than a dollar.

It's certainly less for me. Actually, it's negative. I pay $1 for every hour I spend on date-fns, a JavaScript library for working with dates that have 8M+ monthly downloads on npm. Our estimated annual budget on Open Collective is $371. On average I work 20 hours per month and pay about $50/mo for the website hosting. I'm not even talking about my hourly rate and thousands of dollars I invested into the development so we can get on par with Moment.js functionality.

The average household spends an average of $3,008 per year on dining out, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports

If a family spends $3K on dining out then given the average tip size 20%, an adult spends at least $300 on tips. Then why every developer doesn't spend $25 monthly on donations to open source teams or individuals? That should be minimal considering that the average developer salary is at least twice as big as the average income of an American household and we're using low-skilled labor as an example.

Furthermore, if you'd try to calculate how much money companies save using open source, I won't be surprised if the number would overcome the total company funding. However, most companies suck on giving back to open source. Why's that? I think the problem is in developers again.

Developers are notoriously bad at estimating practically everything, starting with hours they need for a feature and ending with the value they bring to the company. So no surprise they don't value the time of open source contributors as well. When an open source maintainer asks for money, they either ignore them or label them as beggars or salesman. Some developers that employers should fund open source, but they look at the problem from the point of view of a Microsoft employee. And as a result, they get things such as event-stream. How many dramas do we need to start waking up?

Developers are responsible for communicating the value they get from open source and convincing their managers to pay to open source they use. Managers won't realize it by themselves unless they use it as a marketing opportunity.

With Open Collective, their Back Your Stack and Patreon it's easy as never to support the open source, so what do you waiting for?

Just go and donate to your favorite projects and maintainers and then bother your manager until they pay too. Let's make open source sustainable.

Discussion

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This is a hard problem to solve.

When I was creating mobile games, the biggest hurdle we had was getting a user to cross that barrier of free to one cent. Once they were a pay user, it was much much easier to convince them to pay more. But to convince them to open their wallet even for a penny was next to impossible.

I see a similar mentality with mobile apps. $1.99 for a mobile app? It better be the best god damn app of my life. Of course I'll just throw out a few bucks to someone on the street with their hand out without even thinking about it.

When I was younger I would drop TONS of dollars in an arcade. And now that I can buy a game for $1.99 I balk. And when you buy it, you buy it once and can put 100's of hours into it. You can't do that with an arcade. But still... wish it was just $0.99.

It's the same with open source. We're not used to "buying" open source. There are too many barriers to move from a $0.00 user to a $0.01 user. None of our peers are doing it. I have 1000's of node_modules in my folder, which ones should I contribute to? How do I convince my boss? That's not gonna happen.

There are too many projects and I would have to contribute to each one individually. Each using their own preferred method of payment.

Those barriers are far too great. But that doesn't mean they cannot be solved.

I see an opportunity for something like the Basic Attention Token in the Brave Browser. Something that you could contribute a monthly allowance into and could automatically distribute funds to content creators you use the most.

I see an opportunity for an Open Source fund that people contribute to. This fund could then distribute money to worthy open source projects.

The problem is real, but shifting peoples mentality on a mass scale is a near impossible task.

 

Auto distribution of a monthly donation would be a great feature for Back Your Stack. Let me donate $10/Mo and have it evenly split between all the projects my code depends on, whether it's 5 or 500. Making that first step easy would help a lot of people to get started donating.

 
 

It really sucks that corps are willing to pay tens of thousands $ for something that has better OS alternative, but if they are asked to spare some change for OS donation they are just throwing "We're not charity" shit.
@kossnocorp you have another backer, I've used date-fns a few times and it's great. Couldn't spare much but I hope that more will follow. Thank you for your work.

 

Thank you a lot, any contribution is much appreciated!

 

I think one problem is that with so many similar OSS and all free, everyone needs to switch to paid at the same time or users would just migrate to the free OSS left.

Another problem is that in companies, developers are not responsible for where the money goes and often, the people who are in charge of this would just not understand why the developer would be asking to pay for something that's free ...

 

I heart date-fns. Using it in my latest project. Thanks for the information, I had no idea Open Collective existed.

 

Thank you for kind words!

 

I'm not even talking about my hourly rate and thousands of dollars I invested into the development

Well we should, and I will keep asking successful companies how do they contribute to the OS projects they use. I think that speaking about problems and applying pressure is a good thing.

 

Bruh, that's so brutally honest. Appreciate it...

 

very upfront and true. for the amount managers will pay for adobe, etc.. there is no reason to corner off a part for our investment into our own community: open-source.

 

How do you manage to pay 50$ per month on hosting? That is already too expensive per year for simple hosting. And even more a more potent VPS is under 10$/mo

 

I use Firebase Realtime Database, and the price is coming from the outgoing traffic. I used to pay a couple of dollars for that, but for the last year, the number grew from 20 to 50 (this month it's 60). It definitely could be optimized, but it will cost me dozens of hours which would be much more expensive than hosting. Also, I have more important things to do for the library.

 

What do you use the database for? Looking at your site, i see nothing that looks not like a normal static site

For storing documentation for every version of date-fns. You can see the source code: github.com/date-fns/date-fns.org