Can you crowd fund open source software?

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The open source movement is quite something – people spending their own precious spare time to make the world a better place. Software that is everywhere and quite literally runs the web has it’s source code freely available to be examined, modified and learned from (even duplicated or repackaged!).

In an environment where it’s people’s spare time alone, building a team to cover usability, design and testing becomes a lot harder. It’s typical that a project in the OSS ecosystem starts as an engineer scratching an itch – building what’s interesting to them – so how does that transition to a published application of top quality and polish?

With funding – that seems how. But with typical models of funding that hand controlling rights to the donor then the software can take a different turn. What if the developers and end users were able to agree on a feature set / direction and chip in to make it happen?

Enter crowd funding. A growing phenomenon where young groups or companies can pitch their product or idea to raise money from their future customers, who in return get perks such as early access or stylish accessories. But compare tangible product creation to software where the goal is to release both the finished product as well as the source code it is built with. Will people really part with money for a product that they will be able to obtain for free at some future date?

Let me know what you think in the comments. If there is enough interest then I have an experiment in mind 😉

Shouldn’t contractors have to take risks?

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Last week I wanted to create an exciting new website. The designers I work with were all busy and, as an engineer at heart, I don’t have much of a design following in my network. So based on recommendations I went to 99designs. I set up the contest with what details I had and was delighted at the mock ups that were sent in. Those that took part were helpful, understanding and managed to realise a creative vision I could not even articulate.

So it was with great surprise that I was contacted on Twitter by an individual advising against all speculative work and urging me to spread the word of the NO!SPEC movement. I didn’t know this individual so can only assume they monitor 99dedigns competitions to contact those paying for them.

I read their about page and many of the quotes and I’m still not sure about it. Essentially the argument is that designers should be paid for all time spent pursuing work and that a portfolio should be more than enough to determine if you wish to hire them. I can understand the argument but it simply is not how the business word works. Job interviews have tests, public companies use competitive tendering and private agencies need to compete for work, we all have to demonstrate understanding and fit for the task being offered. 99designs competitions may not be perfect but surely they are not unethical?

Apologies if this seemed a little like a rant but what is really going on here? Are designers that different to other professions or are they truly changing the way work is won for all of us?

Voted onto a board!

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Fantastic news – I’ve been voted onto the board of ScotlandIS!

I’m very excited about being involved in shaping the future of Scotland’s technology scene but I’m also honoured that such a group is interested in what I have to say or contribute 🙂

Hopefully over the next few years we can promote software and technology not only as a great career choice but also as an exciting prospect for those still in school and unsure where to go in life…