Open-Source Firms Reward Developers with Xboxes

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.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead 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.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick 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."

/zimages/2/28571.gifIBM 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.