I almost missed this if I hadn't seen Guido's tweet. Also strange enough that Gittip didn't try to send me any message. However finally I saw Phil's blog post "Rewarding the community" and it made me think. A lot.
First of all: I'm flattered. If there were only two people in the Magento community somebody would like to say “thank you”, should I really be one of those? I'm not so sure about that. I don't think I deserve this. But regardless of that, what Phil is doing/suggesting is actually taking saying thank you to the next level: by giving real money.
And that's the point the made me think. I spent a long time having a closer look at Gittip and I must say it's a neat idea. In general I don't think there's anything wrong accepting tips/donations for the things you give out for free (but also, I hope you Americans realize that your view on tips is very different from the rest of the world's). But still I feel very uncomfortable accepting money for my contributions to the Magento community. Let me explain why:
But first of all in case you don't know Gittip yet and you didn't look it up by now: Gittip allows you to donate money on a weekly basis to any person on Twitter or Github (and a couple of other networks…). Donating $2/week to a single person ends a being quite some money (of course this is nothing compared to what this person did that made you save money, time or both. But that's a different story...).
Before going into details let me tell you a little bit about Phil (in case you never heard of him): He's not only a super nice a smart guy, he also spent endless hours on http://magento.stackexchange.com giving excellent advice and solving OTHER PEOPLE's individual problems. He's currently the person with the second highest reputation on magento.stackexchange.com. So, if somebody deservers a big thank you – whatever this is – you know who should be on your list.
Ok, so now: What's wrong with accepting money? Well, of course there's nothing wrong with that, but what I'm trying to say is that money changes everything. If there's no money involved everything is a lot easier. First of all there are no expectations, nobody has the right to be disappointed, nobody is allowed to complain and the main motivation of people is and remains the passion for what they're doing. And when it comes to individual contributions to a community this is what's important.
Don't get me wrong. I know that “open source” does not necessarily mean “free” and in most cases actually there's a lot of money/investment/risk involved with open source – even the type that is being given out for free. But I think there's a crucial difference between strategically giving something out for free by companies or individuals giving stuff back to a community. Although of course I'm part of one of those companies and my company welcomes employees publishing code, I still consider most of what I do being personal contributions. Mainly because the majority of work is happening in my free time (actually late at night when my wife and the kids are sleeping).
So this is not about any strategic plans of an agency but about personal contributions to a community, where it's not the money that drives the developer, but the passion, the love of doing things and the friendships.
Open source (or community contributions in general) is about giving and taking. And that's not only limited to code. Think of all the good blog posts, conference presentations, trainings, stackexchange and other forums. Sometimes it's even a simple 140 character message on Twitter that makes your day.
And I strongly believe that this cannot be driven by money. Indeed money might have a destructive effect on a healthy community ecosystem.
I do what I do because I love to do this. And because my employee likes what I'm doing, he's paying me. And because our customers like what we're doing, they pay us. And because we end up using many things for free others have been sharing, we like giving back. That's how the circle works.
I'm not saying that only because you're using other free software you need to give out everything for free. Selling Magento modules or asking for money to continue working on a tool that will save you hours is perfectly ok. And also buying something from a developer's Amazon wish list is a great way to say thank you (I wish everybody would share a wish list for occasions like this…)
At the same time I hate companies use open source for free (in some cases even complaining about it) and not being thankful for this. Maybe they not even aware of this and never reflected what's running their business. (Is everybody realizing that most – if not all - of the stuff that runs on your web server is open source?) And in some edge cases it gets even worse: Others taking your free open source contributions and selling it.
I personally get rewarded by doing what I do: I have a good job in nice in a team of excellent developers. I deal with interesting projects and I love tackling hard problems. Because of people using my modules, reading my blog posts and listening to me speak at conferences, companies get in touch with us and we get involved into interesting new projects. And that in turn is reflected on my payroll.
Accepting money from any dear friend in the Magento community would make me feel bad. I'm very thankful for so many things we're using in our daily business and I feel we're (me included) not saying "thank you" enough to those individuals.
But “Thank You” shouldn't be necessarily money (unless you're a company and you just saved a lot of money because of my contribution). And that's why I changed my Gittip settings to “I'm here as a patron, and politely decline to receive gifts.”
“Thank yous” that mean so much more to me (and are for free – as in “free beer”) include:
- Giving me any constructive feedback, ideas, suggestions
- Contributing features or bug fixes (or pointing them out)
- Retweeting tweets and commenting on blog posts
- Dropping me an email telling me they appreciate my contribution
- Letting me know when you see me in person (actually this happened a couple of times in 2013 and this feels kind of nice. Thank you!)
Happy holidays,... :)