Open source bounties are not a new concept, but I had not heard much about bounties lately, so I wanted to bring it up on this blog. Bounties are designed as a way to encourage development of a particular feature within an open source project. In most open source projects, developers contribute to those areas that are of greatest interest; Eric S. Raymond refers to this as “scratching a developer’s personal itch.” To encourage development of a particular feature, organizations and other individuals can offer a bounty usually in the form of a specified amount of money for the addition of a feature meeting certain criteria. As just one example, Novell offered a series of bounties for GNOME a few years ago and others have initiated similar bounties with other projects with mixed success. There are even companies like Bounty Source that provide tools to help facilitate this process. Lately, I have been hearing more about companies funding developers directly. For example, many large software companies, IBM, Intel, and many others, have people on their payroll who are responsible for contributing to open source projects like the Linux kernel.
I suspect that having people on staff to do open source development as a full time job is probably a slightly better solution for most companies. For smaller companies or companies that only want a few features, bounties might be a better option. Please feel free to add a comment to this blog if you have experience using either of these options and want to share the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.