Subject: How to get paid well for free SW dev (Was: Re: RFD: Split fsb list)
From: Bob Weiner <>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 05:21:33 -0700

>>>>> "BB" == Brian Bartholomew <> writes:

   >> I would like discuss splitting the fsb list.
   BB> The list that I would like to be on would discuss the following:

   BB> 	How to write freely-redistributable, source-available
   BB> 	software, where all the programmers (other than the 10-line
   BB> 	bugfix ones) get paid normal commercial rates.

The only possibility I see is to build up a very profitable business off
something else so that the dollar stream from there can be used to subsidize
the free redistribution movement.  This is how companies like Xerox, Kodak
and IBM fund very advanced research that often is mixed in with academic work
and finds its way out into the world prior to productization within the company.

You don't have to think too hard on this stuff to see the economic realities.
Consider if GM gave away cars or Lexis-Nexis gave away all of their database
searches; if those were there only sources of revenue, their profits would
plummet and they could never support the level of payroll that they do now.

The other route is to treat the work as a charitable act and fund it on
a non-profit basis as the FSF does, where people can become comfortable
with contributing to the effort because they relate to the benefits that
derive from the work.  With proper marketing, many developers could earn
market rates.


Businesses are not generally built with missions that specify levels of
employee compensation.  They are built first and foremost to satisfy
market needs and to derive profitable revenue sources from doing so.
Who the money flows to is a matter for the management and investors
who then negotiate compensation levels to attract appropriate talent.

My advice to you would be to find somebody with a solid existing business who
can benefit directly from the sort of software you want to develop and give
away and get them to pay you a competitive salary to do so on the assumption
that they just want to use the stuff.

Just think supply and demand.  When you instead think, "I've got this
supply (of creative talent or software you want to build) that I've
got to get someone to buy at this price," and you ignore demand, you
seldom find any success.  So don't think so hard about what you want to
do, think harder about the kind of demand you can generate for your
services and the money will come.  (This advice assumes that money
is one of your primary objectives; if it isn't, then I would advise
putting more effort into doing just what satisfies you.)