A couple weeks ago, I signed a contract with O’Reilly to publish a book inspired by my extremely popular Creating An Application In Kivy blog series. On Monday, I start work at Facebook, a full-time salaried position that includes a substantial raise over my last position.
Signing these two contracts, two very traditional ways of obtaining money in exchange for services, is in stark contrast to the excitement I have held for the Gittip project. I marketed (some might say ‘begged’) for Gittip contributions in return for the service I performed in writing the Kivy articles. Gittip provided; I really didn’t expect to make more than a couple dollars per week, but my current income from Gittip is over $11 per week. I’m touched and grateful for these donations, and I don’t feel I deserve them at all, considering that I’ll be spending most of my time on my new book and job for the next few months.
It would be easy to argue that Gittip has failed. If I had somehow made more money off Gittip, I might have chosen to publish a book under a creative commons license or through other platforms, rather than signing a traditional book contract. If I was making so much money off Gittip that I could have laughed off Facebook’s salary and stayed out of the horrifically over-priced silicon valley, the open source world (and Facebook’s competitors!) would certainly have benefited.
However, there is a better way to look at this. I have committed (to myself) to contribute a substantial portion of the royalties from my new book back to the Kivy team. I will naturally use Gittip to distribute these funds. I am also planning to increase my funding of other projects out of my Facebook salary, and I’ll be using Gittip to fund the Arch Linux development team (if they ever set one up on Gittip) out of the income I already make from Arch Linux Schwag.
I believe one of the biggest problems Gittip has to solve is not increasing it’s member base, but increasing the amount of money being injected into the system. If small tips are just moving from one open source developer to another and back again (I’ve gotten into the unfortunate habit of regifting everything I make plus a few dollars), the money really has no value. It is a small gesture, but it’s not something that can be turned into food on the table if everyone just turns around and gives it away. I would definitely like to live a life, someday, where my writing and coding activities are exciting enough to the world that my entire salary comes from Gittip. However, I think the best thing I can do for the tool right now is to put money in, rather than take it out.
So no, Gittip has not failed me. It is succeeding in a different way from what I originally anticipated. Nor am I selling out. I am excited and passionate about my current and future prospects. Gittip was designed to allow content creators to pursue their passions. I’m able to do that within the traditional framework. I’m very lucky to be able to express my gratitude for my current life in the form of microdonations to other developers.