Donations for project maintainers

Integrate some kind of donation framework into Drupal.org to allow people to donate to maintainers of projects to help show their appreciation.


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Related *.drupal.org issue/discussion: http://groups.drupal.org/node/142779

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  1. The idea was posted


  1. Comment

    Simplify module development with (economic) support and donations :)

  2. Comment

    Call me a spoilsport, but I don't like this idea. Ok, it would be nice if you got something back for your effort of making and maintaining a project, but there area already plenty of projects with a kind of "chip in" thing on their page. Those "Chip in" meters are always depressingly empty. If every project has a donations thing that's never used, we can better spend our time on improvements that will get used, and that won't demotivate people (cause twist or turn it how you want, having a possibility to get donations and never getting any will be demotivating)

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      That's a fair point actually. I didn't think of that.

  3. Comment

    Having something built right into d.o for donations would be nicer than putting in a link to go elsewhere to do so. I voted that I agree for that reason. But I know that donations are generally sparse and this isn't going to do more than give people a bit of fun money and so I wouldn't give this a very high priority.

  4. Comment
    Tory Trone

    An alternative could be to have "Sponsored" Modules that are funded by the Drupal Association or other Drupal businesses. Developers could seek sponsorship for the development or maintenance of module. Some module developers would like to work on a project, but don't have the time. If they could get funded they could take time away from their day jobs.

    Or, they could use a service like Kick Starter.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      I do not like this idea, because it suggests that modules go through some form of a "corporate" gate. This would entice people to either a) submit a crapload of ideas to an "I want this sponsored queue", or worse, b) slow new module/development because people will think they should get sponsorship for their work.

  5. Comment

    Really good points above:). I am totally for this though. I am just a site builder and not a developer. I have only learned Drupal and continue to because of Drupal developers and project maintainers and their help and help from the community. I am only able to build a site because the modules are free. So many people don't realize all the work it takes for a developer and that they indeed have full time jobs and families and a life, yet they still open up their work and their passion to all. I feel more focus should be put on this in general on Drupal.org as well as donation functionality. And maybe not just a donate button, but a message from the maintainer(s) just being real and expressing everything they have on their plate or even personal bios so people can see that they are real people with real lives outside of doing stuff for free on drupal.org. I would think this would promote more of a much deserved appreciation to developers.

  6. Comment

    The trick could be to make the Donation links not big and intrusive. Make it say "We appreciate you donating, but do not try to force it upon you".

    The tone is very important, I think.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      I don't think there's any trick to that. We don't need big flashing "Donate now!" banners. Just a simple link on the side of the page. If someone wants to donate, they'll find it. The idea is to make it easy for people who want to donate so the "too much effort" factor doesn't keep them from doing it.

  7. Comment

    This needs more details. Where would the donations be going -- as income to the maintainers or what?

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      I would say so. The maintainer would just need to put in a paypal email address. The trickiest part would be projects with multiple maintainers. Have to decide where it goes or maybe have checkboxes by the maintainer names and those checked get equal shares of anything that comes in.

  8. Comment
    Sean Bannister

    This could have really negative side effects.

    Many of the projects on drupal.org have co-maintainers who contribute just as much and in some cases contribute more than the project owner. So who gets these funds? This will cause more people to fork code with an intention of making money and therefore damage the helpful ecosystem we've developed.

    In Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational he covers a few interesting concepts with people and money. While most in the Drupal community are happy to give code away and in a sense get paid in other peoples time when they contribute patches. They're not so happy when they only receive a few dollars for a project that took them a few days/weeks to write, this can really demotivate people and possibly make them less likely to help out in the future.

    While I'd love Merlinofchaos to become a millionaire from this, because he deserves it. I think most projects won't do so well and don't want people to become focused on the money rather than the community and code.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      I think we need to go into this with the clear sense of this isn't about getting paid a real wage for your work. It's like a "tip jar". A little bonus money. If someone forks a project for the purpose of getting all the donations, they will be quickly disappointed. The amounts of money most projects would get are so small that it's more like "buy me a beer" than "buy me a car" LOL!

    2. Comment
      Sean Bannister

      While I agree that "we need to go into this with the clear sense of this isn't about getting paid a real wage for your work. It's like a tip jar" unfortunately that's not how the psychology of the human brain works. We can try to convince ourselves of anything but unfortunately that doesn't change how we react in a situation. My concern is around Dan Ariely's research where he asked a group of people to do a task as a "favor" and then he asked a group of people to do the same task but he'd give them a small bit of cash and the people doing the work as a "favor" out performed those getting money for the same task. While the dynamics are slightly different I think this concept could apply very closely. In fact I'd really like us to do research in this area before we implement this, just as we test for usability lets do Behavioural Science research due to the impact this could have.

      The problem with someone forking a project "for the money" isn't just "the money", its people questioning "why did they really fork the project, was it for the money or did they really think they could improve the project". People have a very strong emotional attachment to the concept of money no matter how big or small the amount is. This could dramatically change the relationships between community members and potentially have a negative effect. Not to mention if someone does fork "for the money" we now have duplicate projects confusing the module selection process and splitting community involvement.

      Anyway, I feel like I'm sounding to negative on this but I'm really just concerned about the unknown outcomes.

    3. Comment

      Lots of projects already have links on them for donations. This is just making things easier. If a maintainer doesn't want donations because they prefer to do it for free, they don't need to put their info in or can maybe put the info of a charity they like instead.

      I understand what you're saying about working for small amounts being worse than working for free. You're talking to someone who works for free 99% of the time. :) If someone offered to pay me $10 and hour to work on my modules I would be insulted. But someone using my modules that I give for free putting $10 in my "tip jar" I appreciate very much. It's a difference in perspective. One is entering into a compensated arrangement with unfavorable terms and one is getting a bonus when you weren't expecting anything.

    4. Comment
      Sean Bannister

      Yes there's certainly something nice about getting a donation, I have an app with 100,000 users and I've made about $300 out of it, I'm certainly not booking a cruise but its better than nothing and I get a warm feeling when I get a donation. However due to the other negative impacts I've mentioned I'm not sure this is something we should be making "easier", maybe the manual way module owners are currently doing it is best for the community. I'm just saying we should really evaluate all potential down sides before this is implemented. Especially around co-maintainers and multiple people equally contributing to a project.

  9. Comment

    The title says "Donations for project maintainers", but why would it just be project maintainers?

    There are people who contribute to Drupal in all sorts of ways besides maintaining a project. If we are going to allow direct donations to individuals, I think this would have to be something like a widget that can appear on any user's profile page, no? Even then, it seems a bit iffy to me, but maybe it could work.

  10. Comment

    Wow, I initially voted for this with the same feeling as Sean Banister stated about Merlinofchaos; but there are so many very good points against it and serious considerations about how it would be implemented if it was indeed implemented. Drupal shouldn't become motivated by money, I think it goes against the heart of what the community was created for and should continue to be. I just wish there was a way to support financially those who really deserve it and include all those who contribute not just maintainers.

  11. Comment

    A while ago there was a discussion about adding flattr support to Drupal.org, that would allow for donations, but gets rid of the issue with project owners vs. co-maintainers and would work for more than modules as well.

    Comments on this comment

  12. Comment

    There are a few aspects of this productive conversation that I want to add to:

    (1) Because such a relatively small percentage of projects have a "donation" link, they can appear skeezy (I don't view them this way, but I can conceive that they would). Hence, adding in an unobtrusive link to each module would remove that possible interpretation.

    (2) It could always be that the default is for the module maintainer to allow donations, but there could be another two options: (a) forgo any donations (removing the link from the page quietly) or (b) allow the maintainers to send the money to a larger pot that could be sent to the Drupal association or somehow support the other project maintainers.

    (3) There is a hard part about how multiple maintainers are paid. There are a few options. If a company sponsors the project and has its employees work on it, then the company could receive all the donations (seems fair, perhaps). Otherwise, an alogrithm could created so as to divide the donations based on not just the number of commits but also the recent commits (maybe half is divided across the board, and then the other half is on a scale of "recent" commits -- however those are defined -- based on percentage. It's still a sticky situation.

    (4) Forking a project? No real idea past a sort of "fork of" relation or flag in which half(?) of the donations are sent back to the parent project, perhaps with an algorithm similar to the one outlined in (3).

    Bringing economics into it does make the situation political, in a certain sense, but it also does give the maintainers who could use the beer or two to support the project a nice thank you gift. Meters of any sort should be avoided as they always do look depressingly empty.

    Just my thoughts.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      I would not try to automate who gets paid what amount. Let the project owner put a check by the names of people who get any donations and divvy it up equally between them. If they would prefer a different distribution then the project owner can be the only one checked and take the money from there to hand it out.

    2. Comment

      Basing the distribution purely on nr. of (recent) commits will send a wrong message as well. It's the same principle as paying developers per line of code. There'd have to be a quality check on each commit for it to work -- which would mean more redundant work.

  13. Comment
    Jorrit Schippers

    Perhaps a link to a wish list is a good alternative to just money. I like receiving a gift better than money, especially because it will never be a sum of money comparable to normal paid work, and a gift is something where the giver has the opportunity to show appreciation in by picking a specific gift instead of just a certain amount of money. Also, with money donations there may be tax concerns, perhaps.

  14. Comment

    I can just see contributors arguing over who gets paid what portion of the donation revenue. Why complicate a process that's already working?

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      Working? In what sense? Donations to maintainers are fairly rare and while I'm sure a big part of that is people who don't want to donate, there's also a big part that is ease of donation. Currently, donating to a maintainer is not a simple process which brings in the "too much work; forget it" factor. I don't consider that to be "working".

  15. Comment

    I have mixed feelings on this issue. There likely will never be a ton of donations in any of these tip jars, but people also may be more comfortable donating on a Drupal sanctioned solution for this than an external tip jar which could be from a number of providers. However I think our time might be better spent on other more meaningful upgrades.

  16. Comment

    I would ask what the goal would be in a donation feature. Anything we undertake must be judged against its suitability to accomplishing our goal in light of its potential for unfavorable side effects. For example, are we trying to incentivize maintainership? Are we trying to enable more contribution? Do we just want a more structured way to show our appreciation for our hard working developers? And are there better (less risky) ways of doing whatever we're trying to do?

    I think the aforementioned goals are excellent, however I'm concerned about a donations system (at least as proposed) as a means of accomplishing them. Here are a few risks to consider:

    1) WHAT WILL IT DO TO MOTIVATION? I think the great module maintainers out there do it for their love of Drupal, not for hope of separate gain. It's well known (c.f. Sean Bannister's comments) that intrinsic motivation works better than extrinsic motivation in creative domains.

    2) WHAT WILL IT DO TO MORALE? Will people begin to judge the value of their contribution by their tips? What about people who don't get tipped? What about people who's tips are small? Risks include discouragement and insult.

    3) WHO GETS THE MONEY? This sticky issue has been addressed above. In short, how do you divide money between multiple contributors, and what about the unspoken implication that non-maintainers' contributions (e.g. patches, testing, etc.) aren't reward-worthy?

    4) WHAT ABOUT PERCEPTION OF ENTITLEMENT? Would donations tempt people to think that they deserve preferential treatment in the issue queues because they gave money? Do you want to answer the person who says they gave you $100 to implement their change request?

    5) WHAT ABOUT FORKING? People have already addressed this, too: Would donations foster an environment of competition instead of cooperation or motivate people to duplicate instead of combine? Put more broadly, would this affect our community values?

    6) WHAT ABOUT LEGAL IMPLICATIONS? Would donations have to be reported as income in some countries? Would they create any other kinds of legal obligations or entanglements? I don't know the answer, but it concerns me.

    I think this list could easily be expanded upon. I just wonder if there wouldn't be better ways to accomplish our goals.

  17. Comment

    As the owner of a Drupal shop in NYC, I've got a slightly different opinion on this matter. I believe it is the obligation of any company or individual that makes money with Drupal services to contribute back in whatever way possible. Call it tithing, call it 'the right thing to do', but it is a tacit but fundamental tenet we must all live by.

    It took me and my company years to figure out just what those contributions could be as well as how we could implement them, whether it be helping contribute patches, module upgrades, or even new modules. Honestly, we're a perfect case study of a company that still isn't hitting the home runs with contrib, but we're getting there. Almost all of it has to do with the way we organize ourselves around 'how to' contribute to the Drupal project.

    As an example of one recent contribution, about five of us have been working for months on a contrib module called "embridge" which connects Drupal to an open source digital asset management project called Entermedia. From that, we plan to actually abstract the notion of connection to DAM to other such open source solutions. We realize it is a departure from the way things are being done with Media, but we're making the commitment to it.

    As the owner of the company, I wouldn't want to take a penny for our work from the community, and people have got to understand that the people I work with at my company work on this module during the work day. So in a way, my company and I are funding this work. Sure, we stand to benefit, because we might get project work out of it from companies that need that kind of service. However, it isn't expected. Its the right thing to do.

    To me, thats how the shops should and can work. I know this is true at Treehouse since I have a lot of friends there, and they do great work and make modules that we're excited about. The folks at Palantir do the same. And so on.

    I'm not suggesting that this is the only source of funding/support of projects, since Merlin of Chaos is on his own and does remarkable work without being under the auspices of a larger organization. But, from my vantage point, the Drupal shops all have an obligation to support contrib, and many of them zealously do.

    With respect to the newer Drupal shops that haven't figured out how, or maybe don't understand that tacit obligation we all share, certainly we talk about it a lot in the local NYC community, and Ben Melançon and others are out there speaking about it to get those companies to do their fair share. However, one initiative i would TOTALLY get behind would be one to help make it easier for those noob shops to learn HOW to contribute. I know from my standpoint, it was really hard to get going, it was intimidating, a lot of the people I met at first seemed a bit condescending or unhelpful or closed-minded about new people. Now that I've developed relationships with many of the people in the community, I feel differently. However, the hazing/scutting period, or the onboarding contributors really has to be addressed. Not sure that is something we need to fund, or just address with some group of ops-focused volunteers.

    So in short, we just have to be careful about the incentives we create. I think rather than mess with donations for project maintainers, who many of which may not even be the prime drivers on their projects, I think we should find ways to streamline and optimize the process for onboarding people to make it easier for them to contribute high quality modules, themes, etc for the good of everyone using Drupal.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment

      If you are already getting paid for a creating something and don't want donations, opt out. I would hope any system we create would have that option. For people who don't have any sponsorship or client funding the work, some donations are better than nothing.

  18. Comment

    I don't know where my mind was while clicking "Agreed", but I'm totally against this - and there are already very good arguments here why.