Subject: Re: Bug Bounties. Making $ from bugzilla.
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 25 Nov 2001 13:20:04 -0800

"Karsten M. Self" <> writes:

> The issue isn't so much finding a large mass of developers, as getting
> the small amounts of skill in touch with one another.  The advantage
> free software has over proprietary development is this:  while in some
> cases some large firms can hire a bulk of talent in a proprietary field,
> the typical firm may have only one or two such developers, and may be
> lucky to settle for second or third tier expertise.  In the free
> software model, most of the top talent is in close contact, and isn't
> overly encumbered in communicating with other developers by corporate
> confidentiality and liability restrictions.  This is the "free software
> development as virtual think tank" concept.

Another aspect to this is that in the free software world, top tier
developers can learn the software on their own nickel, and can
announce their presence to hiring companies by contributing high
quality patches.  At Cygnus there were several occasions where we
started getting high quality submissions, and we then hired the

> Cygnus probably employed a lion's share of top GNU development at the
> time it existed independently (Ian can speak to this better than I), but
> not all of it.  The five outsiders were essentially virtual on-tap
> consultants for the company.

Yes.  Cygnus did hire most, though not of course all, of the top
gcc/gdb/binutils developers while I was there.

I wouldn't describe the outside contributors as on-tap consultants,
because they worked on what they chose.  They generally did not work
on what was most important to Cygnus.

> The interesting question then becomes:  why did these five contribute to
> Cygnus's effort?  I've got my own thoughts, they're largely theoretical,
> might be interesting for Ian (or some of the five if they're reading) to
> tell his side of the story. 

There were a few people who worked for companies which developed
microprocessors or some sort of complete embedded system.  They were
(I assume) happy in their job, usually working for a company much
larger than Cygnus.  They focused on the toolchain specific to the
microprocessor which their company produced or used, and contributed
high quality improvements which were specific to that microprocessor,
or at any rate were particularly beneficial for that microprocessor.

There were a couple of people who worked for a large Cygnus customer
(large both in the sense of company size and Cygnus contract size) who
were responsible for internal development tool support at that
company.  They would take internal bug reports and turn them into
Cygnus bug reports, and, often, patches.

And there were a couple of people who worked for other free software
support organizations, who contributed in order to get their patches
into the mainline sources (since Cygnus was the primary maintainer of
gdb and the binutils).

(So maybe there were more than five after all, although there were
never many at any one time.)

I can't recall any regular good contributors with no economic
incentive, although of course there was the occasional good patch.  I
suppose that when there were good contributors with no economic
incentive, Cygnus simply hired them.