Dirk Riehle's Industry and Research Publications

You just don’t understand (open source edition)

Listening to open source developers complaining about companies not donating money and then getting ignored by said companies reminds me of a quarreling couple, where one side has a lot to say and the other side is just silent. Let me turn this silence into statements a company would make. Let’s go!

Open source developer: Thank you for using my software. Please make some donation!

Company: No thank you, I’d rather spend my money on shareholders and employees.

Developer: But you really should donate!

Company: I thought open-source software is free of charge to use?

Developer: It is, but you are morally obliged to donate!

Company: Why? Where does it say so?

Developer: There is a big Donate Now! button on my website!

Company: Donations are always voluntary; I don’t see a moral obligation.

Developer: If you don’t donate, I’ll suffer. You really must pay.

Company: I think you are confusing sales with donations. There is no sales contract that obliges us to pay for your software.

Developer: But you are making a lot of money with my software!

Company: We make money by solving our customers’ problems. Your software is a small piece in there. Because everyone else can also use your software to compete with us, it is not the reason why we make money.

Developer: If you don’t pay up, I’ll complain loudly about your behavior.

Company: (Thinking a lot, but not saying anything.)

Developer: OK, what can I do to earn a living by getting some of the value I’m creating for you.

Company: Oh! “Creating value.” I know those words. Now I understand. It is not so difficult: Sell me something that I don’t get for free. This could be support, this could be more timely bug fixes. This could be complementary (not free) software. This could be operating the software for me. So many options.

Developer: But I don’t want to start a business.

Company: Then it will remain a hobby.

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