Open source software you can pay for

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Before contributing code as a part of Google Summer of Code (twice), I used to wonder how open source worked. How could entire organisations, maintaining huge operating systems and other very popular software and systems keep running if they released their code out in the open, so to speak ? How could developers afford to pour in months of hard work into countless lines of code, and then let it all out there, for everyone to use, modify,share as they please ? I wasn’t skeptical, just immensely curious.

A few years down the line, I have a slightly better idea. Organisations accept donations, community-built software often gets built cheaper and quicker than developing commercially, using open sourced platforms in proprietary systems is not uncommon, and the like. As a part of Google Summer of Code, I (and every student developer) was paid a stipend, sort of as a compensation. After all, bills need to be paid.

Another approach I have come across, interestingly, is the “Buy me a beer” concept, which is now seemingly dead. The idea is, put in a “cool” way, that I need beer or coffee to keep on putting in those hours to make the code better for you, so please pay for a beer or coffee so I can work on it a little bit longer. This, of course, also depends on whether your code is good enough for someone to want you to continue developing it further.

Almost all my code I have developed so far is open, but I admit, almost none (except my GSoC contributions) are in substantial use. But as is habit, I found and wrote more code to automate my work that extra bit further. Where is this going ? Wait for a moment and see 🙂

I have a photo-log, a collection of photos from two and a half years, documenting my life and travels over this time. I do not mean occassional albums, but regular pictures of people, places, things, activities. It amounts to 66 GB including videos and pictures. I already had written myself a tool to help me organise my collection better, but when Flickr announced the recent largesse of 1TB for everyone, I thought this was a great solution to backup my photos and share them. So I came across a script to bulk-manage my uploads, and modified it substantially to suit my purpose. Then I thought to myself, there must be a lot of people with needs and thoughts similar to mine, hoping to leverage the extra space. I am sure my script would be pretty useful for them. I would love to add features to it too, but I have a full time job as well. And then the concept of “buy me a beer” and Instamojo, a startup my friends are working on came to mind. That’s when I decided to experiment with “selling” code (the difference , of course is, that I am not selling the “code”, but documentation, tips and hacks to better leverage the code instead), though in a style similar to a performer who lets you pay if you wish to (and my friends at Instamojo tell me however-much-you-wish-to will be possible soon).

Do use the script, and buy me a coffee, if you think it helped you. You can get the script here : http://go.ankitdaf.com/uploadr . I don’t need to make much money out of it, but it would be a nice incentive to keep going. Also, I’d like to see how many people find it useful, and how many like it to the extent of paying for something they could have for free 🙂 And of course, the coffee would help me stay awake ! Cheers !

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