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Buying FOSS Development Labor Online

Written By: josh chalifour
Published On: October 29 2007

I received an e-mail notice today about Cofundos, a "community innovation & funding" site, which launched last week. Cofundos looks like one possible solution to an often murky area in the open source software space: how to continue fueling development.

Suppose you find some open source software useful but it doesn't have commercial backing devoting regular developers (for example, Red Hat or Compiere) to its well-being, and suppose you don't want to employ developers internally to improve, fix, or modify it, then no matter its utility, a lot of people or companies might be wary about relying on it in any larger-scale sense--who can they go to if they have a problem?

Sites like Cofundos could provide the means to ensure an open source project meets the needs of its users. The Cofundos site lets people post an idea for some sort of open source project they'd like to see realized. Then other interested parties, participate in refining the idea and fronting money for it, which selected specialists actually complete. I imagine because of the pooled resources and if the need is great enough, this could potentially lower the cost for individual organizations acquiring certain types of software or of solving key issues that dog a particular application for a particular user base.

Though it may have its own particular methodology, Cofundos isn't the first to approach this. SourceForge, for example, implemented a system not too long ago, which allows people to offer services around the development projects hosted on its site. The SF model comes at the problem from a different direction. With SF it seems the project exists, then people pay, whereas Cofundos asks people to come up with the project, then someone (some people) get paid for doing it. Bounty Source comes at it similarly to SourceForge because it provide a bunch of online tools that could be used by a distributed team to develop a software project and it enables others to bid on elements of the project, apparently integrating those requests into the project roadmap.

There is also the Open Source Experts site, which provides job listings and seems to formalize some of the requester/requestee interactions based on the funding scope. In other words, Open Source Experts identify projects as funded by a bid, call for tender, or grant. The identification depends on whether there is a minor feature, a full project, or if there is already a fund to promote something in particular.
 
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