The majority of the code I write is given away for free for the benefit of others. This is unsustainable so I often think about how such voluntary work could be supported. One solution is related to my CodeGrades idea. But this is a slow burn project that has involved, and continues to demand, a huge amount of time, effort and money before I'll have anything to show for it.
Another solution is simply to ask folks for money.
Having been a musician, I'm used to this feeling. I used to busk with some buddies as a way of trying to make ends meet. However, as my grandmother once pointed out, it's a form of begging. In one sense, this is a tragedy: begging is a last resort because nothing else you do is of value. You're forced to rely on the compassion and generosity of others. Yet in another sense it's like the activity of a mendicant asking for alms for their service or contributions to society. In any case, no matter how you "spin" it, it's a precarious situation to find oneself in ~ be you a musician or free software developer (and I'm both!).
While there are some kind hearted individuals and (even rarer) companies or organisations who are happy to help support such work, most think, "meh, I'll just use the software" (without so much as a thank you). Even worse (and I have personal experience of this) some folks will pass off such voluntary work as their own and reap the rewards for such a lie. This is why I actually earn money-to-live by writing software as a freelance developer (it gives me the flexibility I need to work on my own coding projects).
Therefore, it was with some interest that I noticed GitHub had created what they describe as account sponsorship. "Sponsorship" is an interesting word to use because it makes the begging / mendicant aspect of the situation more palatable. It also cheerfully suggests that the free/open-source software world is full of generous hearted folks or organisations just waiting to give back to the selfless volunteers who make all this code available via their GitHub account.
This is, of course, a fiction. It's also normalising begging as a solution to funding free software volunteers.
But I'm open minded and willing to give anything a go, especially if it means it'll cover my costs. So I've signed up and now you can give me money for my efforts. As of the time of writing, and after tweeting about this to my 3,000+ followers, this is what my account looks like:
I can't help but think that in six months time, it'll still look the same. But at least I can say I gave it a go. Despite my misgivings, I feel it important to give ideas a chance to flower and I'm trying very hard (yet failing) to view this as a mendicant rather than beggar.
So, if you've ever found my work or activities useful, beneficial or supportive, please consider helping me sustain my efforts. You can do so by visiting my "sponsorship" page to find out more about what I do and how to give "alms". The summary is that I focus on education: I develop software that helps folks learn the skills and knowledge they need to imagine, develop and program the stuff they want. If you believe this is important work, sponsor me with a monthly contribution.
Alternatively, and many thanks to the small number of you who have already done this, you can send me a virtual hug-as-a-book by buying me something from my Amazon wish list (none of the items are particularly expensive). Small gestures, such as gifting books or music with a supportive message, can actually mean a lot.
I'll report back in a few months to let you know how I get on. I have to admit, I don't hold out much hope. Best knuckle down on CodeGrades.
Well... what are you waiting for..? Go on... get your wallets out. :-)
(Honestly, I quite understand if you don't. I have the same misgivings you're probably having after reading the sentence above. Such a feeling is the nub of what I want to demonstrate in this blog post.)