Independent journalist Bailey Reutzel recently wrote about the often undiscussed problem with open source software (hint: it’s not open source itself).
The problem she surmised (and confirmed in an interview with OpenBazaar CEO Manu Sporny), and which many agree with after decades of seeing the cycle, is that corporations rely on open source software for their profit model but do little to compensate the hardworking volunteers.
Her article centers around the OpenSSL project, which suffered a serious vulnerability in recent memory with the Heartbleed bug. She points out that only a couple of full-time programmers are attached to the project, with a total of 11 core maintainers. For a project that supports basically the entire Internet in 2015, this seems dismal at best. While the open source e
thos says that one should code in the way that great fiction writers write, the fact is that Heartbleed may never have happened if more folks had been dedicated to the project – that is to say, if more people could afford to work on such a project.
A project has risen up in the last few months which may offer a new paradigm for freelance programmers. Synapsi.com bills itself a “blockchain-powered knowledge market,” a mix of ZapChain and StackExchange. But a quick survey of the entries on the site show a new possibility emerging: users who want to see bugs fixed faster and new features implemented sooner can post bounties. Any programmer with a Github account can quickly sign up and answer questions, or, potentially, take bounties.
The Synapsi.com platform also easily integrates into Github repositories, so that code maintainers can allow users to put money toward issues they’d like to see solved sooner. An example of a bounty that could represent the future of this platform is this one requesting a feature for the Electrum server, which would allow logging to be anonymized. The requester is willing to pay somewhere around $100 to see the job done. Others who’d like to see such a thing in Electrum could add funds to this bounty.
If all programming were done this way, where users of free and open source software simply pitched in a few bits toward whatever feature they wanted to see, the future of software development and usage could look very different from today. Programmers would be rewarded for things like respecting privacy and the temptation of adware in Windows binaries would likely diminish.
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