Financing Voluntary Free Software Projects

In my dealing with Debian, SPI and more recently with Ubuntu and Canonical, I’ve spent some time in the last few years thinking about the best way to go about funding voluntary free software projects without losing all of the benefits that volunteerism brings. As with many things, it always seemed easier to identify the way to screw things up than the right ways to act. Some people who read grants for large foundations and who have funded free software projects in the past (with mixed results) were nice enough to listen to me rant a few times and encouraged me to write up my ideas. Since then, I’ve been talking to folks off and on, reading, and noting relevant experiences. Last June, I gave a talk on the subject at FISL 5.0.

Over the last year, I’ve continued thinking about this and finally went ahead and wrote it up for the conference proceedings of the upcoming Linuxtag 2005 where I will be presenting this work and a paper on problems and strategies in regards to Ubuntu, Debian, and the tricky process of deriving a distribution.

I’m interested in expanding this document with the help, experience, and suggestions of others. If I get enough good feedback, I’d like to wrap this up as a sort of funding HOWTO for the Linux Documentation Project. Please get back to me with comments or suggestions — or, better yet, patches. It’s also in GNU Arch for those that swing that way and want to hack on it.

Without further ado, the essay is called, Problems and Strategies in Financing Voluntary Free Software Projects. You can read it in HTML or get in a number of other formats (including the DocBook XML source) or out of Arch over here.

Update: I’ve gone and posted this essay as an article on Advogato because I’d never done that before, I’ve always wanted to, and it seemed relevant. It might be nice to post any comments over there.