Alan Gibson

Alan Gibson

Chewing through the 'net

© 2019

No Free Features

This thread recently hit the top of Hacker news.

No More Free Work from Marak: Pay Me or Fork This

Respectfully, I am no longer going to support Fortune 500s ( and other smaller sized companies ) with my free work.

The gist is that Marak, who’s on the brink of homelessness after his apartment building caught fire, is no longer interested in doing unpaid work for businesses using his faker.js project. He seems to be getting a lot of support from the open source developer community.

Unpaid Interns

The foundational principle of open source is “fix your problem, then give the world a copy of the solution.” So let’s get one thing straight: open source developers are not volunteering to fix your problem. They are fixing their own problems, then letting you use the solution too because it costs them nothing. That near-zero cost of replicating software is why open source works.

Because of this, I don’t think developers claiming to do open source should expect compensation for features that they need for themselves. But developing a new feature that they don’t need is something different entirely. In IT we call that a Change Request, and CRs come with a fee to cover them. ‘Near-zero cost’ doesn’t apply anymore because now they’re taking on a lot of work they otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Not recognizing this difference has led to a situation where for-profit entities are using open-source devs as unpaid interns. Well it’s worse really: at least interns get resume filler.

No More Free Features

I look forward to a day when asking anyone to do unpaid labor is considered unethical by our industry. That goes for feature requests on open source projects, on unpaid internships, and on unpaid ‘take home’ interview assignments.

Requesting work in an economic context without offering compensation in some form is morally indefensible. It’s wrong because unpaid labor is wrong. It’s wrong because presuming on anyone’s helpful nature is wrong. We shouldn’t be using bounties to move our change requests to the head of the line because we shouldn’t even be making requests without a bounty attached.

(Official Hacker News discussion thread)