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Yegor Bugayenko
3 April 2018

Fully Transparent Donations via Zerocracy

Open source is free, as in beer: you write code, nobody pays you. Of course, there are many ways to monetize your efforts, but there will be no direct cash payments from your users, usually. There are ways to collect money, which include an obvious “tip jar” button on your GitHub project page. The chances anyone will pay are low though. In my opinion, this is mostly because nobody trusts you enough—they are not sure you will use the money to make the product better. Most likely you will just spend it and nothing will change. But they want the product, not to make you happier. At least that’s what I feel when I see a Patreon button.

Zerocracy is a platform that manages programmers remotely. Moreover, it’s absolutely free for open source projects. Take a look at Cactoos or Takes—they are both managed by Zerocrat. These projects are funded by myself. I add money to Zerocracy out of my pocket and Zerocracy pays programmers when they close their microtasks in GitHub.

A few days ago someone approached me by email and literally said: “There is a bug in your project, I’m happy to pay you for your time if you can come up with a solution.” He was ready to donate and wanted me (or us) to solve his specific issue. I could just take his money over PayPal and fix the issue, but I’m not really an active maintainer of the project he was interested in, and I’m busy at the moment.

I realized that the best way would be to take the money, break down the problem into pieces, and delegate them to a few programmers, just like it usually works in Zerocracy. In other words, I decided to suggest he fund the project and then let us use the funds for microtasking, keeping the focus on the issue he was interested in.

Moreover, this concept was earlier proposed by @skapral.

He gladly accepted the offer. We implemented the functionality in Zerocrat and he contributed $128 via Stripe.

Now anyone can give a few dollars to a project, if it’s managed by Zerocracy. The contributor will see how those funds are being spent, down to each and every dollar! Try, for example, one of these buttons and you will see detailed financial reports of each project and will be able to add your funds:

The advantage of this approach, compared to, for example, BountySource, is that the money will be distributed in micro-payments and will be fully traceable. I believe that this makes a difference for donators—they are interested to see how their money is being used.