Open-Source Firms Reward Developers with Xboxes

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-10-24 Print this article Print

An increasing number of open-source companies are willing to compensate developers for their time with electronic devices, especially for working on specific features.

What does it take to get an open-source developer to write a piece of software code or perhaps find and fix bugs in a companys existing code? A Microsoft Xbox, it appears. Just ask Stormy Peters, an original founder of Hewlett-Packards Open Source Program Office and currently the director of project management at OpenLogic, which supplies software and services that allow enterprises to create and manage their own integrated, commercial-grade open-source environments.
While Peters believes that almost all open-source developers are still motivated to work on those projects that they believe in and are useful to them, many are also being hired full-time by companies such as IBM and HP, which have an interest in those projects, she told eWEEK.
"As a result, an increasing number of open-source companies, like OpenLogic, are becoming willing to compensate developers for their time, especially if they ask for specific features," Peters said. Read more here about OpenLogics decision to pay open-source developers for support services. "The original plan was to pay these people in cash. But when I went out and talked to community members, they did not want to be paid. So we came up with a points-based system, where the points awarded could be exchanged for electronics, devices, cash or donated," she said. Peters was surprised by the large number of requests from these community members for Microsoft Xboxes. "A lot of them told me they really wanted an Xbox. So we decided that the first 75 people who solved an issue for us would get both an Xbox and points, but they were far more excited about the Xbox than they were about the points," she said. Click here to read excerpts from the book "Xbox 360 Uncloaked." After the plan was announced, the company got some pushback from the community for giving away a Microsoft product, but "I just told them that this was what the developers had asked for," Peter said, noting that while more than 75 people have signed up for the Expert Community, not all of them have solved an issue yet. OpenLogic only signs up developers who are committed to a project—people who are engaged and active, on the mailing list, and have contributed source code, she said. When a customer has an issue with the software from one of these projects, Peters asks her pool of experts for that project to work on the issue. If they agree to do so, they are actively monitored so that the customer gets the solution within the guaranteed timeframe. The company plans to follow this reward-based approach in other areas going forward, and has already started doing so in the area of documentation. "Good documentation is one of the things that has been notoriously lacking from open source. We went through all the projects for which we are offering services and support, and a lot of them didnt even have a basic description of what the project is that an outsider could understand," Peters said. "So we have offered those developers points to write this documentation, as they know the project well and are the most appropriate people to do it." IBM has patented a developer payment method. Click here to read more. OpenLogic assumes that the average task will take between 3 and 4 hours, and thus allocates a standard number of points per task. But this is open to appeal if it takes longer, she said. Next Page: Incentives work for Funambol.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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