Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bountysource Open-Source Crowd-Funded Software : Mini-Review

Bountysource : Show me the Bounties!

Crowdfunding for OSS : Where are the "funds"?

Bountysource, which is being promoted as "the first crowdfunding platform dedicated to supporting open-source software" (OSS) in news releases today (about their seed round funding), is perhaps a semi-interesting concept, though from my quick look at the site has me questioning its merits on a few levels.  Being "first" does not mean it will succeed or even be useful.

The whole point of this site is supposedly to "accelerate open-source development" by offering "bounties" to get desired OSS project(s) or project-feature(s) implemented or OSS-issues/bugs fixed quicker.  Well, what I saw when quickly perusing the "projects" is that there is a large list of "projects" (where Bountysource probably just loaded a database with a list of popular OSS projects from Github and other places), but hardly any "funding" available for any of them.

No Global Search-Available-Bounties Feature?

Maybe I just cannot locate such a feature (if it exists), but it seemed like for a site called "BOUNTYsource" (key word: bounty) you'd be able as a site-user (potential developer) to quickly search all projects to see which ones had active bounties so that if you had skills to apply in hopes of being rewarded by those bounties that you could find such projects quickly and see if any were a "fit" for your skills. I could find no such search-by-bounty feature on Bountysource.  Seems quite odd.

Sure, you can "search" an individual-project for a bounty, but what is the point?... any bounties on a project are easy to see at an individual level, but the time to go through a bunch of projects one-by-one is just ridiculous (especially when that list of "projects", is like I mentioned earlier -- and apparent "dump" of popular project names, where most have no issues to work on listed anyhow).  I'd go further: what would really "accelerate development" of OSS projects would be the ability for a potential developer to search for all projects with bounties that required certain skill(s), but good luck with that for now -- such functionality apparently does not exist.

Not Much Bounty-Money Available

I suspect the reason for this (apparent) lack of search functionality is a simple one: they (Bountysource) do not want you being able to quickly see that there are VERY LOW TOTAL BOUNTY dollars available (in total) for all these supposed "bounties".   Maybe that will change over time, maybe not.  But, quickly perusing the most popular "featured fundraisers", the highest bounty amount I could find for anything was just under $10K USD, and that is a *standout*.

The Bigger Issues with this Concept

Aside from the bounty money thing, the site itself was super-slow (perhaps due to the press-release today?  search speed was terrible and/or timed-out for me) and the "chat" feature was useless... I saw a list of (supposed) logged-in people (perhaps 20 or 30) and asked a question or two... waited... waited... NOTHING.... useless.

But, the biggest issue has to do with whether this "bounty" approach to accelerating open-source-software development is even a "good thing" to begin with.  I understand that many OSS developers could sure use any funding they could get to help offset their invested time/cost (I for one develop OSS for "free" otherwise), but I can also see this leading to Bountysource becoming the next eLance or oDesk or such in its own right: i.e., pure garbage! Don't over-analyze that comparison too much as I realize this will be a bit different, but I do think it could end up with similar issues.

For one, I think there is likely to be a group of people that search the web for existing-code to simply copy/paste (with perhaps minor alterations) where possible to make a submission toward a bounty (in hopes of quick cash), and bring into question all sorts of copyright mess.  Hopefully I am wrong about that, but it seems inevitable.  There is going to have to be some code-plagiarism-detection of sorts or this will likely happen (and the day other developers find their code posted as a "solution" to a Bountysource item without their consent, things will get ugly).  The bottom line is that I can see how simple it will be for money to "corrupt" the entire open-source-software paradigm; hopefully that is not the case.

Either way, you may want to check the new service out and decide for yourself whether it is "good or bad" for OSS software development.  Who knows... maybe Bountysource will implement a useful search feature for developers to locate projects that may be something they'd consider working on for money, and in tandem maybe they will find a way to (try to) ensure that submissions are not substantially-copied-source-code/fixes/etc that others have published or own already.  I will admit there are times where I would gladly pay a "bounty" to get an issue in certain OSS software fixed, or a feature implemented quickly, if I could... but, most of the time I am able to fix things myself, submit the fixes, and/or simply be patient and wait for a reported issue to be fixed or implemented by the developer(s).

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