Paying for FOSS apps

tl;dr: TrinkGeld is a proposal for a GNOME project (but should be usable in most free desktops out there) that uses monthly donations and distributes them to app developers based on how much their apps are used, together with a Humble Bundle style customization options.

There’s been an ongoing topic in the GNOME community about how developers can get some money for their apps. From a fixed price to pay-what-you-want or donations, getting people to pay for software as end users is not easy. This is true even if you’re selling software through a mainstream platform like Google Play or the Apple Appstore, let alone if you’re a Free Software developer and you are relying on donations from your users.

Even if you’re willing to donate a couple of euros for supporting an app you’re about to install, you’ll have to go through the trouble of finding out how to make the donation. This may involve: 1) going to the app developer’s website; 2) finding out whether they accept donations; 3) hope they receive donations through a service you already use (PayPal, bank transfer, Bitcoin, etc.) and perform the donation.
During GUADEC, Richard Hughes organized a discussion around the problems of getting donations through GNOME Software. And now the GNOME app center has a “donate” button for apps that declare a donation link.
So that donation button solves most of the steps I enumerated above, however it still requires that users pursue that option, which will simply take them to the app’s donations page. If a user eagerly installs an app and uses it for a while, they will have to remember to make a donation later on if they want to support the app monetarily.

Spot the donation button at the bottom of an app's details page in GNOME Software.

Spot the donation button at the bottom of an app’s details page in GNOME Software.

There are of course other approaches for getting people to pay for apps, like the one that Elementary uses: showing a price for an app but allowing the user to modify that price including offering 0 (meaning you get it for free). While this seems like a good way to allow people to pay what they will, the downside is that many users find it deceptive when all indications are that you have to pay for an app; it’ll scare off users who think they have to pay for those apps; and it’s still a step to be done before getting the app (before you know whether you’ll even use it for more than 5 minutes…).

A (not so) new model

So, if having to pay before installing an app is not ideal (and not really a donation!), and post-installation donations are tend to be forgotten and thus minimal, what else can we do?

Subscription based services like Spotify and Netflix are extremely successful these days. Some people may think that’s simply because of their large catalog (access to “all” songs for only 9.99 EUR a month? a bargain!), but I dare argue that a lot of their success is due to people’s lazyness. Why are those platforms successful when there was/is so much “piracy” out there? Either a good percentage of the people who downloaded content illegally suddenly started caring about increasing Hollywood’s profits, or they just feel like they’re now being offered a very convenient service for a reasonable monthly price (besides being completely legal of course)! Set up the monthly payment and off you go!

I think that a subscription based donation model for apps in the Linux desktop is something that could work. I think that a good number of people are willing to give some money for the apps they use, but they’re too busy to remember to do it regularly. In this subscription model, users wouldn’t pay for installing apps, they would donate money for the apps they use instead.

TrinkGeld

I am very bad at naming stuff but it’s good to have a way to refer to this project easily, and I think I got a good one for it: TrinkGeld! “Trinkgeld” is a German word that means “tip money” but as you may have guessed it comes from the words that translate as drink+money. I think it sounds great! It’s easy to write and pronounce, and associates with the concept of paying a developer a drink, which I like.

Here is the base concept of Trinkgeld: it is a desktop application where you sign up and choose a monthly amount you think the software you use is worth (and that you can afford, of course). Trinkgeld then tracks the applications you use on your system (which ones were installed and, more importantly, how much they were used), and at the end of the month your donation amount is divided according to how much each app has been used, and finally the divided amount is sent to its respective app’s developer. Think of it as Flattr + Spotify (+ Humble Indie Bundle… just keep reading).

I think this concept has many advantages: users won’t have to pay upfront for an app they don’t know they’ll use or not. Nor will they have to remember to go to an app’s page in the app center in order to donate some money. It’s affordable for users because they set up how much they can give out. It’s fair for app developers because they will keep getting paid as long as users keep using their apps.

An oversimplified diagram of how TrinkGeld operates is something like the following:

TrinkGeld diagram

Money flow

There are two approaches towards distributing the money: 1) send it directly to the app developers using some service’s API; or 2) use a “middle-actor”.
While #1 is tempting, it has some downsides: it’s technically much more challenging to schedule a bunch of payments to different accounts and systems; we’d have to offer ways for users to correct the donations if there’s a mistake/bug when sending out the money; usually smaller individual payments end up paying a higher percentage as a service fee; and maybe users can get in trouble with the law if they end up giving out money to some person or organization that they shouldn’t (I can think of sanctioned countries, dubious organizations, etc.).

I actually prefer approach #2 where the money would be donated as the pre-selected monthly sum to some entity that would be in charge of distributing it according to the report sent from TrinkGeld.
I can imagine this middle-actor being e.g. the GNOME Foundation, or distros. Let’s take the GNOME Foundation for this example. We’d select say 20 EUR monthly for TrinkGeld, the money would be sent out to the GNOME Foundation (say using PayPal for example), and the Foundation would also get the monthly reports from TrinkGeld. Then, it would distribute the money among the apps’ authors (that had registered as part of the GNOME Foundation’s TrinkGeld partners). The money could be sent out from the Foundation only when it reached a certain amount (common in other app distribution platforms) in order to minimize fees.
The GNOME Foundation would rightfully take a percentage of the monthly amount for covering the work Trinkgeld involves but also because of its role (in the example of using GNOME as your desktop, then surely supporting the GNOME Foundation is a good thing).
This means we could have more options of payment services between the middle-actor and the app developers since we’d not have to tie it to the users directly anymore. And users would also be safe as they only have to make sure they are eligible to donate to the middle-actor (GNOME Foundation/Fedora/Ubuntu/etc.).

As for the exact way the money is to be divided, it’s something that needs to be discussed as there are many ways we can do that: should we just simply divide the money according to how much an app is used? Should we always have a minimum for an newly installed app, even if it’s been used just for 10 minutes in the whole month? etc.
How the money is divided is not the main discussion to be held at this point.

Having a middle-actor also means that TrinkGeld should have a server part where it gets the information from users and organizes it for the distributor. This increases the complexity of the project but as I think it’s still less complex than what the approach #1 above implies.

Tracking Apps

I know some of you will have already frowned when you read about “tracking” apps. Yes, the apps you use and how much you use them is your own private information, but we can make Trinkgeld do its job and still respect everyone’s privacy. The obvious solution for that is to anonymize the data by doing the tracking and calculation in the client, and only send out the amount per app. It’s one thing to send out info like “Tor usage avg: 80 hours”, it’s another thing to send out, “Donation for Tor: 5 EUR”. How much information one could actually deduct from the amount given will depend on the way it’s divided + the customization options we give to users (see next section), but it shouldn’t be that easy.
It will also be important to understand who gets to see this information (do you trust Fedora to see this information?), and of course users should be able to tell Trinkgeld not to consider a certain app…

Besides, users should trust the money distribution partner, or middle-actor mentioned in the section above: i.e. if you are using a distro and you don’t trust the organization behind it, then maybe find another Trinkgeld provider (and/or switch to a new distro!), or maybe this service is not for you.

As for the technical solution for tracking the apps, I don’t know of any cross-desktop library capable of offering this functionality out of the box, but at least in GNOME Shell there’s already code in place that we can extend to implement whatever functionality TrinkGeld needs. I am sure other desktops could do something like this too.

Humble Indie Bundle style tweaks

The Humble (Indie) Bundle is a genius idea! I usually buy bundles that have games for Linux, and it’s awesome to be able to choose how much money each game gets (so I can make sure I pay more for the games I will play then for others), as well as giving something for charity.
A good complement to the TrinkGeld system would be to offer some choices of how the money is distributed. I imagine that the TrinGeld desktop app could pop up once per month showing the calculated division of the donation and options to tweak it. Say you realize that you’re always giving most of your money to one single app (I expect this to happen for web browsers for example), then you could tweak how much that app gets, and choose other apps to donate to because you find it to be more fair that way. Or you could choose organizations related to the software you use, much in the way that Humble allows you to donate to charity: e.g. if TrinkGeld is being run by Fedora, it could still offer the GNOME Foundation as one of these organizations, considering its role in the technology that powers the user’s desktop + apps. Here’s a mockup of what I imagine it would look like (we’ll need real designer work if TrinkGeld goes from idea to code, but for now you’re stuck with this):

TrinkGeld mockup

As you see, there are lots of possibilities here, but this post is getting large so let’s leave it for a later discussion.

Opinions?

Usually I blog more about stuff I’ve done than ideas that may never happen but TrinkGeld has been in my mind for a while, so I really wanted to share it and ask what Linux desktop users out there think of it. I know it’s a challenging project to set up, and that a lawyer may have to look into it, but it could may be worth the try.
I’m really curious to know what Linux desktop users think about this. Do you think it could help getting more people to donate? Would you use it? (comments in this blog are moderated so you may want to use the social network where you found this post mentioned in order to comment on it if you don’t want to wait until I approve the comments, thank you for understanding)

44 thoughts on “Paying for FOSS apps

  1. Great project. I hope it will materialize soon.

    I like the monthly donation model, but I think one time donation should also be made available.

    The idea of app tracking is also great, especially coupled with the humble bundle tweak. The application selection should also allow to select arbitrary applications one would want to support, even if not used. Think about young project with a promising application not really usable yet.

    I regret the focus on application only, as a successful application is based on great libraries. It would be nice to also find a way to donate to library projects. It could be hard to figure out the right money split, but I guess one possibility would be to let this to the application developers, as additional data in application manifest, displayed in TrinkGeld.

    I must say I’m not fond of TrinkGeld name, which would translate in french as pourboire. Pourboire comes in addition to the regular pay, mostly as a mean to show donator generosity, or to show how you liked the worker behaviour, not really as a support of the work done. I dont have a proposal for the name, but something that would convey the meaning of support, acknowledgment, incentive would be better.

    Thanks a lot for your work, and good luck.

  2. You are right about the laziness. I think most people would be OK to just send 1 payment every year to 1 app. But if I want to send money every month to 10 different apps, that’s too much trouble.

    However I’m not sure that tracking usage is really necessary.

    I would be more comfortable giving money monthly to the GNOME foundation and telling them how much they have to give to each app, regardless of how I use them.

  3. Hey Orel, I think you can of course do that already if you want to support official GNOME apps. If you send a one time donation to the GNOME Foundation and tell it that the money is for a few apps, they may apply the money to its best use (hackfests, merchandising, sponsorship for app devs, etc…). TrinkGeld is more intended to individual app devs who don’t usually get much of the attention of big projects and thus get less donations.
    If you are okay with an automatic assignation of the money, then you could configure it not to ask you every month about it and just proceed with whatever TrinkGeld calculated.

  4. I like this idea too and I would use it. I don’t like the “tracking applications” feature, but as long as there is a way to manually distribute money, it’s fine with me.

    Some stuff to note (I guess that is on your radar anyway):
    * This is about money, so it should be reasonably secure.
    * You might run into some country-specific tax related challenges. E.g. if you give money to some non-profit organizations in Germany and you are paying income taxes in Germany, you have to pay less taxes if you can proof it with a bill/invoice/whatever the exact translation is.

  5. Hey Chris, I agree. Ensuring the security of the data being sent is crucial (security of payments will be on the service’s side, this is not a new money transfer service like PayPal).
    As for the tax deduction, that’s true in most countries, but it’s up to the person who files the taxes to mention those donations to the authorities. So in this case it’s no different, with the transfers data, those organizations should be able to give donors their invoices the same way they do now.

  6. Nice general ideas, but here is my thought. First of all many projects don’t know how to handle money, especially the small ones, they’ll most likely just literally buy a beer and be off with a donation. Thus I would never donate to random projects unless I know what the money is being used for (e.g. implementing X due Y) or they are reliable enough (e.g. Blender foundation, which doesn’t waste the money only on “meetings” and hires real developers).

    Besides that most free software companies are US based, with really weird and harsh foreign policy and sanction laws, which has gotten much worse with the new president, and so is your proposed middle-actor, GNOME. A foundation which didn’t even bother changing its meeting location after the immigration ban mess. So it’s pretty safe to assume at some point it won’t be able to pay some minorities based on where they live and what not (it’s funny that Outreachy is also supposed to reach under-presented groups but refuses to support most under-presented nationalities). Of course people don’t and don’t need to care really. But please don’t dare using the words “freedom” and “underrepresented” so easily.

  7. Hey “Anony”,

    The goal of TrinkGeld is to get donations to the app developers who find it difficult to get them otherwise. If you’re not okay with people doing whatever with the money you’re giving them in support for their work, then of course you have to do a different choice of who to donate to. But at least for me, when I give a person money to support their work on a certain project I don’t usually care if they will drink it or smoke it, as long as it helps them keep up the good work (when I give it to an organization then I do care about that as there’s a difference in the nature of what that money means).

    As for the GNOME Foundation as a middle-actor, I used the Foundation as an example but like I explained, I think that most strong distros (Fedora, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu) or software associations out there (GNOME Foundation, KDE e.V.) would be other examples of potential middle-actors.

    It seems to me that you have some opinions or suggestions about what the GNOME Foundation does, and that’s of course fine but I think that’s a different discussion (and I am sure you can find out to reach out to the GNOME Foundation if you want to be constructive). I can tell you however that the GNOME Foundation surely condemns the policies you mentioned from the US government, and has even taken some heat because of a statement it shared on Twitter not long ago: https://twitter.com/gnome/status/880601488346632194

  8. I don’t care either, that was a half-joke. It’s just that the point is getting more money, better apps and happy developers right? And that’s just my personal opinion on what I (and thus probably some others) would invest upon (also advertising better project management, which would lead to better apps right?). But I don’t really have a working milestone based donation proposals to offer, so it’s just a something you might want to consider, or not as you wish.

    And about that, don’t get me wrong, I’m a GNOME user and advocate, but that doesn’t mean GNOME is by any means perfect. And what I said was a real world scenario to back my claim that something like that can actually happen, and it’s not only GNOME thus me saying most free software companies/foundations. So when the time comes, the cost of dealing and bypassing those laws might actually be more than what the donations will get you, thus even more chance upon ignoring those minorities (just another thing to consider before you want to implement anything, no political wars here).

  9. Perhaps https://snowdrift.coop would be a good functional “middle actor”? (If you like their approach to distribution and want to off-load most of your business logic)

    As far as I know they are almost ready to go, but would appreciate some Haskell volunteers. Teaming up would provide a great incentive to get projects onto Snowdrift.coop.

    My motivation for suggesting Snowdrift.coop is that they allow the user more control over their money (you deposit a lump sum, your donations come from there until it runs out, then you top up — less “lazy” but more sustainable 🙂 ).

    For financial middle-actors, the Software Freedom Conservancy provides a lot of infrastructure afaik. (This is in case you need to look at options other than the GNOME Foundation.) Other projects that they support include https://sfconservancy.org/projects/current/

    A great idea!

  10. I would use this. I like the idea that someone else takes care of distributing my donations, because then I don’t need to think about it. I think annual payment would suit me better, but I would accept having monthly payment, if I can adjust the amount. For example last Christmas I gave The Document Foundation, Mozilla and Gnome each 10€ (if I remember correctly) and I could keep donating that 30€ every year, if it was this easy and the money would find the right projects. (For now, I’m a student, but sure I can think about increasing the amount, if it goes to good use.)

    I don’t know how those projects used this money or if any smaller projects got anything when I donated last time. I feel that here it would be great, if the user interface could show me how much of my money it gives to each project based on my computer use. I believe that this would also encourage to donate more. It could be that this is not so easy to implement after all, but it’d be a nice feature to have.

    What if one uses this on multiple computers? I have several and some of the software is different and some of it is the same so they will all contribute differently. There probably needs to be some user account system that allows to collect the information from all the computers.

    I’m not worried that paying money is the issue, I think it might be receiving it. While some lone developers making small projects would probably not mind having some small income, they would also need to think about the taxes that they may have to pay for it and other legal issues with receiving “free money”. In some countries you need to have a permission to even collect money. Maybe it is easier if a foundation pays you, I don’t know, but probably not all applications or their developers will take part in this system, so actually you have to count just those apps that have participated.

    What if the user could put a multiplier to the software they like? For example, if they think that some software is important, but they don’t use it that much while they think it deserves more, they could set 2x multiplier and it would contribute to the user’s statistics with twice the usual rate so that its share would be greater and it would get a little more money, but it would still be based on how much it was used.

    Anyway, this is a very interesting idea.

  11. The question is who’s gonna be the payment processor. That’s not an easy job and AFAIK the GNOME Foundation is not interested in that. That is why Richard ended up just liking project donate web pages.

  12. With enough users, more privacy with regards to the amounts for the individual app-donations for one user can be gained using differential privacy. Basically, the user’s TrinkGeld instance would _lie_ about the per-app amounts the user wants to donate with a given probability, and add other noise to the data it sends. This means, that from the perspective of the user, the donations are not exactly as intended. But, using middle-actor-side statistics for post-processing of all received donation intentions, overall, the per-app total sums of donations can be restored very precisely with high probability. See Erlingsson, Pihur, and Korolova’s (2014) “Rappor: Randomized aggregatable privacy-preserving ordinal response”, which describes the method Chrome and Chromium use to gather user metrics with lesser privacy impact.

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  14. Funding applications is nice, but it would be better to fund also libraries, the desktop environment, daemons/services, the kernel, etc. If only apps are funded, application developers will not want to share their code in libraries, there will be competition between similar apps, etc. This is contrary to what should happen for app development: writing more libraries, creating higher-level APIs, to share the code between similar apps.

  15. I also think that library developers should be funded but I think we all agree that for getting donations to occur in a good scale and, while everybody understands what an app is, not every user understands the importance of glib or libsoup…
    So I believe that the funding for libraries needs to be something less direct: either by using one of the “extra” options we’d have in TrinkGeld for organizations, or by believing that users of those libraries will themselves support the people behind those libraries.
    In many cases Open Source libs are used by companies who have an interest in keeping those in good health. And yes I know the problems that some important projects have to get funding (GPG comes to mind) but the solution to that is IMO less related to something like TrinkGeld, and more with campaigns that e.g. establish a compromise from a group of companies to donate a percentage of their revenue to the projects/libraries that allow them to be in business.

  16. If i am the evil app developer who knows this system, i would “optimize” my app to always stay on top of the TrinkGeld donation list. I would built something like an “background” mode which polari uses – so you cant simply exit my app therefore i can harvest hours for the highscore in TrinkGeld.

    Maybe there is another idea to split up the money. Remind the user that he have to setup the donation amount before the money gets sent. And if he doesn’t adjust the amount, split even.

  17. I know someone will try to abuse the system, however I think we can control that, and resorting to an even split defeats the purpose of the project.
    It all comes down to how we implement the tracking. TrinkGeld is mainly intended for graphical apps, so part of the “use” of an app can rely on whether the app is focused and not idle for a while. This will be unfair to apps like music players that will be in the background most of the time but I am sure we can work around that (use of sound, etc.)!
    And of course, if we find out that a certain app is deliberately abusing the system, we can always block it in the TrinkGeld client, or middle-actors can also consider that and, in which case, they would split the money of that app among the remaining apps. This way, even if the system is tricked for a while, that user risks that all their apps will be blocked…

  18. «If i am the evil app developer who knows this system, i would “optimize” my app to always stay on top of the TrinkGeld »

    If it’s something obvious, no distro maintainer will include such app, or it will remove this “feature”

  19. I really like the idea of monthly Flattr-like donations. I’d gladly contribute some money to make it happen.

  20. Didnt read all the comments but liked the idea of also getting to support underlying technology and libraries (go for the full stack?). Maybe a curated or recommended option of splitting the money could be useful. Paying for the infrastructure and such (Humble tip for the platform) might be nice. Definitely need multiple payment options (including Bitcoin). I might like a lot of control over which apps/systems get how much money. Tracking should be ofc optional, but i would like it. I think whatever about the name. If theres nothing else with exactly the same name, then it’s a great name. All in all great idea and cant wait to spend some money on it. Been wanting this without knowing about it.

  21. Something like a monthly subscription donation model seems indeed a good idea to address what is maybe the biggest matter for free software: how to produce software that respects user’s freedoms and keep them safe from GAFAM and other compagnies whose business models relies upon surveillance and control.

    I totally agree with Emanuel about the semantic: I would say the ultimate goal of such a proposal would be to allow developpers (and all indirect contributors as well) to be paid with a real (high, regular and secure) salary, not some randomly low earnings such as tips.

    I think gwutz spotted the weak point of your proposal: whatever the algorithm you use to mitigate abuses, this is the idea of relying too much upon metrics which is wrong. If money depends on metrics, then metrics tend to become a goal in itself, and all possible stupid things will be invented to produce good metrics even if they absolutely have nothing to do with reality. Think of VolksWagen for example[1].

    Relying exclusively upon user preferences is not good either: as Sébastien Wilmet pointed out, libraries would simply be ignored and only a few big actors would share the cake. So, I think we must admit there is no “fair” split possible, the question is, who decides to split?
    – the user, alone
    – trinkgeld developper, via the algorithm
    – the entity which receives money, via a collective decision

    Maybe each user paying a subscription could be given a right to deliberate and vote on what to focus onto? Or to elect representants in the entity that would holds this role? The difference with what you propose is instead of deciding separately how to split 10 €, users would collectively decide how to split thousands (then millions, then billions!) of €. They would be making investments to produce ambitious things, instead of giving tips barely enough to buy beers. I would be happy to read other people thoughts about that.

    [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_emissions_scandal

  22. Personally, I know that I would really dislike the feeling that leaving an app open or using one app versus another was directly moving funds in a zero-sum game. I don’t want to be worried about that parameter when choosing how to use my applications locally.

    I like much of the thinking otherwise, but like all traditional donation approaches, this doesn’t address the freerider dilemmas in any way. See https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/snowdrift-dilemma

    Note: I’m a co-founder of Snowdrift.coop; also if this is ever actually made, we’ll add it to https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/market-research/other-crowdfunding along with our comments about what’s good and not-so-good about this approach. In the end, any increase in funding (rather than just moving between middle-men) for FLO software is a good thing.

  23. Hey Matthieu,

    What you are talking about is a different proposal and something like that already exists IIUC, like Bountysource.
    Raising money towards a common goal is not much different from any fund raising campaign out there, maybe an innovation could be to let users vote on how to assign the money in an organization more directly, but usually you are supposed to trust the people in an organization to do the best for the projects they support, right?
    Everybody can do this right now, and I am sure every major organization’s app (Wikipedia, EFF, etc.) may already remind users a few times a year to donate, so no need for another app that just asks you for money.

    IMO TrinkGeld’s “innovation” would be precisely the metrics system + the monthly money revision. I know metrics may lead to abuse (e.g. sites abusing keywords for SEO). It’s up to us to try to work around possible abuses, and I think that the perspective of getting banned from TrinkGeld providers may help prevent this.

    As for the libraries that support the apps, as I said, we need to focus a bit the incidence of TrinkGeld. Yes, we should of course support lib developers but that must be more indirectly, e.g. through the suggested organizations in TrinkGeld. E.g. game devs could add some special TrinkGeld metadata to apps to indicate that they have used Blender, and TrinkGeld would read this and tell the user to split some money for the Blender Foundation.
    Honestly, if we go into that kind of minutia, then we’ll end up making TrinkGeld overly complex and not very effective for everybody. In any app you would end up with tenths of projects to donate money to, and while this is maybe fair, it’s counter productive IMO.

  24. Hey Aaron,

    Thanks for your message. I am not sure if I completely understand the idea behind Snowdrift (need to look deeper into it I guess) but like you say, any idea that moves users towards supporting the projects they use is great!

    About your concern that leaving an app open will lead to an unfair split, I totally understand but that’s a technical problem for TrinkGeld, not for the user. E.g. if the app is not focused for a minute (and it’s not a background app that plays music or something like that) then we shouldn’t count that time, this way, if you opened the PDF reader and just forgot about it in the background, it won’t matter.
    If you leave your computer on and you go away for 5 minutes to make a tea and your screen doesn’t go idle, then yes, that is arguably unfair, but it can happen to any app so there’s an element of shared unfairness if you will which should make it negligible.

    Also, if it hasn’t been clear, I wouldn’t expect to make TrinkGeld perfect from the very beginning (it’s software after all…). Since money is involved we have to be extra careful for sure (maybe enforcing a confirmation by the user in the beginning, i.e. no auto mode) but I am sure that we could develop a fair way to calculate app usage.

  25. Hi Joaquim,

    To fully understand Snowdrift.coop, visit https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about but here’s the short summary: The issue with donations really goes beyond what each individual does unilaterally. The concern is how to get critical mass of donors to work *together*. Proprietary software has so much power today is partly because the *supply side* (developers) are coordinated into powerful entities like corporations while the *demand side* is segregated into independent individuals in many cases. Specifically, the places where the demand side is well-organized (i.e. enterprise customers) is also where FLO software is strongest (e.g. customers of RedHat, hardware makers who use Linux, developers who use FLO frameworks…). Snowdrift.coop is about coordinating the end-users. And the mechanism is *crowdmatching*: I make my donation to a project I like not based on how much I use it (although that may decide whether I pledge or not) but based on how many other donors give WITH ME. If I give $10 as one of 10 donors, it’s nearly useless. If I give $10 as one of 10,000 donors, the project will succeed massively. With Snowdrift.coop, I pledge to give $1 each month for every 1,000 patrons who donate *with me*; i.e. I agree to do more *if and only if* others give *with me*. It’s about using matching to encourage more total donors and actually *discouraging* giving all you can if others aren’t helping too.

    Anyway, you misunderstood my point about TrinkGeld. It has nothing to do with how good the system is at identifying legitimate use. Here’s an analogy: ASCAP is the main company that distributes performance royalties for music. They survey radio stations and pubs and then distribute their revenue proportionally. Because the Beatles remain popular and get played on the radio often, the rights-holders of those songs get a chunk. Taylor Swift is very popular, she gets a chunk. A local musician who plays their own songs in a pub one night actually has that night’s fees from the pub’s ASCAP payments go to Taylor Swift. Even if the system was more perfect instead of the rough surveys, there’s absolutely zero economic need for more money to go to famous, rich songwriters, and there’s tons of need to fund struggling new songwriters. This type of per-use approach has no connection to putting resources where they are most needed. In software, it could just funnel tons of resources into making game developers wealthy while failing to fund software that is far more important but gets used for far fewer hours.

    My point was that I don’t want to think “oh, shit, if I play this fun game more, it will give more money to the game developers who I don’t actually care to fund” or even “I *do* want to help fund this ebook reader software, but maybe if I read this book too slowly, it will take funding away from the task-management software that I really care about and needs the money more”. I don’t want to add to the decision to use a program the thought that using it right now or not will change who gets funded. I might end up actually spending more time on software I want funded, like fuss with my task-manager more even when I really don’t need to. I don’t want a situation where I think, “damnit, that stupid game other people play so much is capturing all the funding (from the community overall), because this system connects attention to funding directly.”

  26. Having read the newer comments, i would agree with Mathieu Jourdan (and gwutz?) that this would be excellent for abuse. It would be an endless game of cat and mouse, trying to patch new avenues of abuse and new ones being thought of all the time. All in all it could cause a lot of inconvenience and overhead to be fighting against the cheaters.

    When i said i cant wait to join in with my wallet, i envisioned this platform that i would be using based on either my own choices or third party (some organization we’ve already come to trust) curated choice (granted, this would put a lot of pressure on the third party, potentially with even bribes and blackmail and such).

    I personally would like a piece of convenient software, where i can automatically give some amount of money to be split between all of those making my OS. I personally would focus more on libraries and lower level stuff than userspace apps (maybe with a few optional apps). And then someone else doing all the currency and form of payment management and the actual transfer and curating and such.

  27. If I give $10 as one of 10 donors, it’s nearly useless. If I give $10 as one of 10,000 donors, the project will succeed massively. With Snowdrift.coop, I pledge to give $1 each month for every 1,000 patrons who donate *with me*;

    I can see how the group mentality can help there and get more people to donate, but isn’t this almost as crowd funding on a Kickstarter all-or-nothing fashion?

    I am not sure if that idea is much better than having people donate money regularly for the apps they love/use. In both cases it will depend on how many people actually donate, but in your case developers don’t even get money unless a lot of people donate, right? (and I bet that having 100 EUR / month is better)

    Here’s an analogy: ASCAP is the main company that distributes performance royalties for music. […]

    I can understand the analogy but again we can do many things to make sure things are fair. E.g. always give a minimum amount to newly installed apps, even if they’ve only been used for 10 minutes.
    It’s unfair if the big fish always gets it, but it’s also unfair to have to gather mass support before getting donations, as that’s kind of the definition of “becoming famous” in the music analogy, and once you do that there’s no reason for the joint donations of Snowdrift.coop IMO (i.e. you only get the money if you get enough public support… that’s worth than getting a little money and try to improve from there by convincing more users…). In such case you’ll also maybe be dodging donations from projects that are effectively used but don’t have very good PR, to give more to projects that may have better PR (cool videos, active Twitter accounts, etc.).

    My point was that I don’t want to think “oh, shit, if I play this fun game more, it will give more money to the game developers who I don’t actually care to fund” […] I don’t want a situation where I think, “damnit, that stupid game other people play so much is capturing all the funding (from the community overall), because this system connects attention to funding directly.”

    This is a weird thing to have in mind honestly… If you’re playing a game and the authors have been able to set up a donations account with a TrinkGeld provider, then it’s fair that they get their share if you keep playing the game, right? But in any case I cannot stress more that *there’s the revision step* where you can choose to give zero to any app that’s been tracked, and possibly we could add a preference option to keep a fixed amount for a certain app no matter the use, even if the amount is 0 $currency.

  28. When i said i cant wait to join in with my wallet, i envisioned this platform that i would be using based on either my own choices or third party (some organization we’ve already come to trust) curated choice (granted, this would put a lot of pressure on the third party, potentially with even bribes and blackmail and such).

    Come on… That’s like saying that you can bribe Spotify for getting you more money… In this case it’d be even more difficult as being Open Source you’ll see how the algorithm works. So yes, in theory you can bribe people. Just like in theory you can try to break any civil law out there. Shouldn’t prevent us from creating innovative ways of fixing stuff, donations and others.

    I personally would like a piece of convenient software, where i can automatically give some amount of money to be split between all of those making my OS. I personally would focus more on libraries and lower level stuff than userspace apps (maybe with a few optional apps). And then someone else doing all the currency and form of payment management and the actual transfer and curating and such.

    I am not sure about the lower level stuff, as people who are well aware of those and don’t want automatic tracker can already just go to those libs’ authors and donate.

  29. Well, here’s your spotify analogy: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jul/25/vulpeck-the-band-who-made-20000-from-their-silent-spotify-album

    My personal one: I was on the original MP3.com back in 2000. I had some followers. I got curious about other people’s music. Then, I realized that me listening to other local artists actually gave them an edge in the rankings! Similar to how watching a YouTube video today gives it an extra view in its numbers. Most people don’t think this way anymore, but I actually hate this metric-focused situation. I’d rather be able to watch a video without it chalking up an extra “view” for the video. I want my own support for the creator to be based on deciding that I care and understand the need rather than on metrics. I may watch a dishonest propaganda video to understand it but I have no interest in it getting pushed up or extra funding out of my viewing.

    I know that this is edge case stuff in some ways and isn’t what most people do or necessarily relevant to TrinkGeld, depending on design. But we should never pretend that it’s even possible to get a metric-focused system that doesn’t have some awkward biases and exploitations.

  30. Well, here’s your spotify analogy: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jul/25/vulpeck-the-band-who-made-20000-from-their-silent-spotify-album

    That doesn’t really invalidate anything TBH…

    I’d rather be able to watch a video without it chalking up an extra “view” for the video. I want my own support for the creator to be based on deciding that I care and understand the need rather than on metrics.

    Well, individual support for developing apps is clearly not working for most FOSS devs out there. That’s why in this age we need to come up with ways to get users’ support and fund those who create value.

    I may watch a dishonest propaganda video to understand it but I have no interest in it getting pushed up or extra funding out of my viewing.

    Sure… But this is not a recent thing, just easier to objectively see who’s getting attention. Before the internet there were already TV ratings that would tell us what people preferred. So even if it was more difficult to pinpoint who was actually watching it, by doing it you were contributing to whatever shows were on. Same for radio. Same for newspapers (have a polemic cover article -> increase sales).

    I know that this is edge case stuff in some ways and isn’t what most people do or necessarily relevant to TrinkGeld, depending on design. But we should never pretend that it’s even possible to get a metric-focused system that doesn’t have some awkward biases and exploitations.

    I agree. It’s very easy to screw up something but we should be positive and expect to start small and grow from there. If it got to the point where we had people attempting exploits every day and requiring us to get more ways to avoid that, that would likely mean that it’s a super successful project 😀

  31. > I can see how the group mentality can help there and get more people to donate, but isn’t this almost as crowd funding on a Kickstarter all-or-nothing fashion?

    EXACTLY. The all-or-nothing critical-mass approach of Kickstarter is a BIG part of its success. Any system that has no such mutual assurance isn’t addressing the fundamental freerider dilemmas that public goods have. More on Kickstarter etc: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/threshold-systems

    > in your case developers don’t even get money unless a lot of people donate, right? (and I bet that having 100 EUR / month is better)

    Right. And yet we’re NOT all-or-nothing like Kickstarter, so Snowdrift.coop *can* give a small amount like $100 / month. That would happen with our default starting pledge approach when a project gets to 316 patrons. If there’s like 5 people who together want to donate $100/mo to a project regardless of crowdmatching, they can easily do that today with no new funding system. And all the rest of us looking at the struggling project can treat that $100/mo as a given that will be there or not regardless of whether we help.

    Anyway, the rest of my points don’t completely invalidate TrinkGeld, it’s just a perspective to consider. I’m not one of those people who blindly assert that everyone else thinks like me.

    > it’s fair that they get their share if you keep playing the game, right?

    Not at all. That’s a useless way to think of “fair”. Maybe the game took 1 day to make and never needs a single update ever, it’s just clever and fun. There’s no fairness in funding something that needs no funding. I know that’s not quite what you meant.

    But at Snowdrift.coop, our focus is on requiring projects to describe their needs and goals. Even though the crowdmatching system could be used to just make a project rich because it is popular, we’re designing the cooperative system so that it makes it clear that you should NOT fund something even if you love it UNLESS funding it will actually be an important contribution to the commons. All funding should go toward continued work and improvements. TrinkGeld could have a similar approach, of course.

  32. EXACTLY. The all-or-nothing critical-mass approach of Kickstarter is a BIG part of its success. Any system that has no such mutual assurance isn’t addressing the fundamental freerider dilemmas that public goods have. More on Kickstarter etc: https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/threshold-systems

    Right, but that’s a different case. I am trying to go from an “app store” like base where your approach is more of an organized public support for something. I think TrinkGeld, like an app store, would allow creators to be more independent in the way that: as long as your app is used by people, you should get money for it.

    Anyway, the rest of my points don’t completely invalidate TrinkGeld, it’s just a perspective to consider. I’m not one of those people who blindly assert that everyone else thinks like me.

    Sure! And of course I am defending my idea because I think it is good, but I really appreciate everyone’s comments so far. I am very happy that 99% have been constructive!

    Not at all. That’s a useless way to think of “fair”. Maybe the game took 1 day to make and never needs a single update ever, it’s just clever and fun. There’s no fairness in funding something that needs no funding. I know that’s not quite what you meant.

    Right. But you can also not tell automatically whether it’s a game that’s taken 5 years to develop. And again the user must make this discernment: if you think you’ve donated too much for an app already, then lower or nullify the amount and block the app in TrinkGeld! (This was even covered in my post)

    […] we’re designing the cooperative system so that it makes it clear that you should NOT fund something even if you love it UNLESS funding it will actually be an important contribution to the commons. All funding should go toward continued work and improvements. TrinkGeld could have a similar approach, of course.

    In theory. In practice you could be enabling people to fund the creation of a DB of cat pics (not that it not for the common good but you know what I mean).

    I think we have to just agree that these are two different approaches: yours funds a project for future work, mine rewards projects the user actually uses (or cares for with voluntary donation + organizations).
    They don’t have to be incompatible, and they don’t have to invalidate each other for sure. I have used Kickstarter and donated to a number of orgs directly, and I also use Spotify (both have their pros and cons, and both are awesome!).

  33. If it comes to exist, then I’ll give TrinkGeld at least an overall positive review as long as it’s completely clear that only FLO software will be (and only FLO deserves to be) funded.

    I do think that any reference to rewarding developers for past work should be framed as some combination of potential investment in future work and as incentive for new work (I make a successful program with the anticipation that I’ll get rewarded later). There’s no basis for the idea that past work somehow automatically deserves infinite reward based on popularity. There’s no sense in which it’s “fair” to continually reward Richard Stallman for creating emacs, but it’s quite sensible to fund him to continue his software-freedom advocacy and to fund the emacs project to pay developers to keep improving the software.

  34. I do think that any reference to rewarding developers for past work should be framed as some combination of potential investment in future work and as incentive for new work (I make a successful program with the anticipation that I’ll get rewarded later). There’s no basis for the idea that past work somehow automatically deserves infinite reward based on popularity.

    Very debatable but I think I agree for most cases. Some software like games can enter a more art-like project, and thus that reasoning is that you should not pay for songs, paintings, etc. once they’re done. It’s a valid opinion, but maybe unfair in many cases. Many ideas don’t seem very good until they’re out there and people use them.

    There’s no sense in which it’s “fair” to continually reward Richard Stallman for creating emacs, but it’s quite sensible to fund him to continue his software-freedom advocacy and to fund the emacs project to pay developers to keep improving the software.

    Of course, but TrinkGeld is about paying the developers of a project so when you donate to someone you’re rewarding them for the work they’ve done. Since we are talking about FOSS projects, even if the next day that dev stops working on the project, but it is successful, then another developer will likely take over or fork it, and users can start sending this new leader their TrinkGeld money.

    I think these problems will be solved “organically” and that ultimately it’ll be the users who will tell what they find fair by directing their money one way or the other.

  35. Firstly, sorry im overwhelmed by the comments, so i only read your reply (and maybe 1-2 more).

    > I am not sure about the lower level stuff, as people who are well aware of those and don’t want automatic tracker can already just go to those libs’ authors and donate.

    They *can* go, but id like to suggest an analogy:

    I heard the claim that when NPM (package manager for Javascript) did not exist yet, the incentive was to create larger and larger libraries, since users (who also happened to be devs, but not devs of these libraries, (web)devs using these) didnt want to manage numerous individual packages – keep track of updates and news and perform the upgrades etc. These large libraries would be swiss knives that do everything (jQuery was mentioned in that claim).

    So i would argue that similarly to my analogy, convenience really affects likelihood of some behavior happening. And i personally feel to be an example of this. I described earlier the economic effect i would like to have on the FLO community, but there are basically the following things which need energy and time and when none of them are out-sourced become a show-stopper in my case:

    * I need to figure out which parties need/deserve my money.
    * I need to figure out how much money i can afford to give.
    * I need to figure out how to split the money.
    * I need to find methods transfer money to each of them.
    * I need to set up and top up these transfer methods.
    * I need to individually send the money to each of them.

  36. Thanks Joaquim for your reply.

    My suggestion was quite different from BountySource, which if I understand correctly allows individuals and companies to vote with their money, so the richer you are, the more you have power decision. Developpers have no regular wage, they are paid by taks, only when they success. There is no collective decision about what to invest in and why, only an aggregation of individual votes and private interests on very specific issues. For those reasons, it seems to me BountySource have the the downsides of TrinkGeld, without the upsides.

    As a developper (more of a ux designer wannabe than a coder), I am interested in knowing what are the most successful apps, both in term of downloads, and in terms of usage on the long term. I want to know if the latest update of my app had an impact on the usage rate, is it still actually used, etc. I am also interested in the possibility to have a regular income (not for myself, I do fine with my salary) so the project can grow. As a benevolent sysadmin in a non-profit hosting provider which values privacy and freedom, I would be interested as well if services platform were covered. For example, if Trinkgeld detects that in GNOME Online Accounts a user has a NextCloud account hosted by Framasoft, it would be great to give her the possibility to split with both NextCloud and Framasoft. As a free software user and activist, I desperately need a simple way to monetary support all the projects I love. Simple here means “high level”, I don’t want to bother with bugs/feature requests or low-level libraries or dependencies or whatever. I don’t want to maintain an exhaustive list of the software I like or not either, and it’s definetely a requirement to keep things simple. As I understood your proposal, TrinkGeld could do all that.

    But there are some downsides. First, even if I do want metrics to help me to decide where to go, I do not want them to have a direct impact on my earnings. I do not want to switch day-to-day from a comfortable situation to poverty just because my successful app has been supplanted by some challenger: I shall have a chance to adapt and improve, and if I don’t succeed and my app becomes useless, I should be able to try something else. Otherwise, what will happen is simple: ultimately the distros have the power to include/exclude software from their default installation, that’s a huge bias. AFAIK, Ubuntu is the most widely used distro for desktop, and belongs to a corporation whose stakeholders will actually have the power to decide what will receive funds or not, because that’s what a distro do: make choices for users.

    Do every software project can pretend to receive money from TrinkGeld? Is it relevant for TrinkGeld to send money to Google for Android and Chromium? to Oracle for MySQL and Java? To Microsoft for whatever open source work their 3000 developpers are paid for? Do we want TrinkGeld to blindly “reward” actors with the biggest market shares, or do we want it to be efficient to support independant developpers in making our common software better? Do we hope TrinkGeld to be a (imaginarily) neutral and unsubvertible system or do we aim to use it to make free software so good (both in terms of UX and in terms of economics) that proprietary software (and its world) would turn obsolete? Personnaly I would opt for the second answer to the 2 last questions, that’s why I was talking about collective discussions and investment.

    So my suggestion was more to build upon the good things in your proposal, and introduce some democracy in this system. This would end-up in something like a cooperative. For example, TrinkGeld could be one giant cashbox, where each participant would have 1 voice no matter the amount of her subscription. Participants would elect representants (independents or trustees from projects like GNOME, Debian, FSF, EFF…) which would decide together of strategic investments for free software: towards smartphones (think hardware…), desktop, services, sensibilization (think non-profit), etc… And would keep the money safe from the GAFAM and other private interests like that.

    Sorry if I was long :/

  37. As a free software user and activist, I desperately need a simple way to monetary support all the projects I love. Simple here means “high level”, I don’t want to bother with bugs/feature requests or low-level libraries or dependencies or whatever. I don’t want to maintain an exhaustive list of the software I like or not either, and it’s definetely a requirement to keep things simple. As I understood your proposal, TrinkGeld could do all that.

    It’s very likely much more tricky to track the use of these apps but you’re right that they should be considered (even if “extra” projects that are suggested, like the non-profits).

    Otherwise, what will happen is simple: ultimately the distros have the power to include/exclude software from their default installation, that’s a huge bias. AFAIK, Ubuntu is the most widely used distro for desktop, and belongs to a corporation whose stakeholders will actually have the power to decide what will receive funds or not, because that’s what a distro do: make choices for users.

    Also true. But ultimately I think that if it comes to a situation of abuse, users will get aware and they can make their own decisions in that regard (complain to the distro, install alternative repos, switch distros, etc.). More importantly, I think that the ideal case for TrinkGeld is that apps are more organically discovered by users instead of having the distro as a channel, and this is nowadays possible with Flatpak. Flatpak will change this control that you said the distros have and open new possibilities for app developers to distribute their apps, and this goes hand in hand with TrinkGeld IMO.

    Do every software project can pretend to receive money from TrinkGeld? Is it relevant for TrinkGeld to send money to Google for Android and Chromium? to Oracle for MySQL and Java?

    Nope. Don’t forget that there’s a middle-actor distributing the money, which means that only apps that are somehow validated by that actor should be considered. This has of course pros and cons but I think it’s necessary to prevent possible situations of abuse, by large corporations (very unlikely if you ask me…), or individuals distributing software that they didn’t write. Also, I think that at least initially this would be for FOSS apps only (though I feel like indie game devs could have an interest in using this model too… maybe it’s an incentive to make them release their code as FOSS, but we’d have to see).

    So my suggestion was more to build upon the good things in your proposal, and introduce some democracy in this system. This would end-up in something like a cooperative. For example, TrinkGeld could be one giant cashbox, where each participant would have 1 voice no matter the amount of her subscription. Participants would elect representants (independents or trustees from projects like GNOME, Debian, FSF, EFF…) which would decide together of strategic investments for free software: towards smartphones (think hardware…), desktop, services, sensibilization (think non-profit), etc… And would keep the money safe from the GAFAM and other private interests like that.

    This is interesting but I don’t think this has to be tied to TrinkGeld. I would EFF, GNOME Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, etc. to be some of the suggested NGOs in TrinkGeld, and users can already (and should) tell those orgs what you expect from them.

  38. Here is the important question: can we use TrinkGeld to donate to TrinkGeld?
    Joke aside, it’s a very nice idea and I nice work on it! Thanks for doing this 🙂

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