How to pay for open source

How can you financially support open source, especially in a new market? The Shared Learning Collaborative believes the best way is with seed money

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Rather than write software for that too, SLC has opted to hold "code camps" to explain its system to developers, then to offer a bounty for developers who will create the two applications it needs. Two awards of $75,000 will be made to teams of developers whose plans for the two applications are judged best by SLC. Payments will be staged so that the winning teams receive both up-front cash and payment at milestones.

I spoke with Danese Cooper, an experienced open source strategist retained by SLC. Cooper has a long track record in open source management, not least as my predecessor at Sun Microsystems, and is currently on the board of the Drupal Association. She explained that the goal of the bounty program is to create both a software commons for SLC and a community of developers who can maintain it. SLC's seed money will create open source software -- licensed under the liberal open source terms of the Apache License -- which states can then deploy to meet their new federal responsibilities.

The developers involved in creating it can expect to be in high demand by those states to customize the software for local requirements and to maintain that code in deployment. By adopting a collaborative approach around an open source code commons, states will be able to meet their statutory responsibilities at the lowest cost possible, yet software developers will still get paid. Indeed, as SLC's software matures, it's very likely that the market and demand for skills around the software will grow rapidly -- 45 states have now signed up to the Common Core Standards Initiative that SLC implements.

While it's easy to view the participants in the SLC's Code Camps as volunteers, there is every chance they comprise the early population of a new market for development skills, contractors, and deployment management that's being seeded. I asked Cooper how InfoWorld readers could get involved in this fast-moving new software market. She told me the best route is to read SLC's developer site and attend the free Boston Code Camp on Sept. 29 and 30. Then get your team -- or company -- to enter an application proposal for the Bounty Program by Oct. 2, 2012.

It's not often you get an invitation to bootstrap a new market, especially one without a corporate master to whom to pay your dues.

This article, "How to pay for open source," was originally published at Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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