A startup has had the bright idea of monetary exchange between those who want bug fixes and additional features in open source projects and has called the fledgling website bribe.io.
Bribe.io announces itself as:
A super easy way to bribe developers to fix bugs and add features in the software you're using.
Recognizing the fact that a lot of open source projects are maintained by developers working alone and in their spare time, the idea is to encourage other developers to by specifying a monetary value to a bug report or feature enhancement. Once an initial "Bribe" has been posted others can "chip in" and add to the financial incentive.
Of course, open source means that you are always free to modify the program and even pay a programmer to fix a bug or add a new feature. This is the big point of open source. In this case, however, the idea is to use cash as a sort of voting system for what users really want done and to implement the changes as part of the public codebase.
For example if 100 users want a feature and they are all willing to pay $10 for it then the programmer or programming team might decide that to raise its priority and add $1000 to the project's funds. When the change is made the entire user community benefits.
If you have an opinion on this idea the Bribe.io survey is looking for feedback about how much people would be prepared to pay to get a bug fixed and how much they would want to be paid to fix a bug.
The concept behind bribe.io is so appealing, it's surprising that no one has come up with it before. But it's taking the step between a simple idea and its implementation that's the difficult part and this project and it has a head start in that its the subject of a StartUp Weekend, an initiative that claims to be "the worlds starting point for entrepreneurship" in which groups of at least 50 people attend an event that typically costs between $75 and $150 and form teams and launch startups in 54 hours. Which seems like another good idea.
So can this idea of bribing programmers work?
On the face of it it seems really attractive. So many really useful open source projects could really do with bug fixes and extensions so there demand for a marketplace that brings together "buyers" - those with requirements - and "sellers" - those with expertise.
Obviously there are problems to overcome - will it lead to devs introducing bugs at the same time as new features just to get paid to fix them? It's a risk but like many other developer communities you can build (and lose) trust and reputation through your work.
Also how does this fit with the underlying ethos of open source software? That's more difficult and by incentivizing people who want to make a bit of extra cash will Bribe.io disincentivize those whose vision and hard work originated the open source projects we rely on? Some developers might welcome other people improving their creations, others might resent it.