Open-source code is a huge boon startups and the internet at large — it allows for apps and services that would take months or even years of coding to spring up without much extra work. But there’s also a distinct problem with open source: It doesn’t pay.
Khan Academy, the online learning platform that has been active in the open-source community and released its code through GitHub, is now trying to bring financial as well as technological support to developers that contribute their services for free.
Under the plan, each member of Khan Academy’s 23-person development team (including interns) will donate $5 a week and can decide which developer to give that money to. The team then is allocating roughly $125 per week to open-source developers.
“This seemed like the ideal scenario: Developers gets full control of how their money should be allocated, and Khan Academy gets the benefit of their financial contributions coming from a unified source,” jQuery creator and Khan Academy developer John Resig wrote on his blog. The money is being pooled through payment service Gittip.
While the company has already donated $83.50 to developers through Gittip, Resig says that they’re making a concerted effort to contact other developers that aren’t on Gittip to include them in the program.
Of course, another winner in this scenario is Gittip. The year-old company that requires media outlets to do”open interviews” on YouTube is becoming a landing pad for developers to fund hosting costs and grab some extra money for their contributions to coding overall. Donations through the service are usually small — people donating $3 every week, say, and allocating it towards a few people — but it could become a great way for a community to take advantage of small donations and pool resources (like Khan Academy).
The open-source ecosystem is one that has thrived on accessibility and freedom, but it’s not directly rewarding in a monetary sense. Resig believes that helping to fund developers that are doing cutting-edge work could lead to even greater returns — in the form of better code:
“I hope others are as excited about Gittip as we are at Khan Academy. I strongly think that this is the future of providing developers with a financial incentive for creating useful open source work.”