Posts Tagged ‘Open Source’

Codeathon Bounties

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

A compelling case study: At Bay Area Drupal last year, I met Sean Larkin  of ThinkShout who reported his work for a Drupal Distribution, Watershed Now, ( which he made for a group of nonprofits. To develop the program, $16,000 was needed. Whereas nonprofits are often cash-strapped, especially in the current economy, by pooling resources, they were able to develop software that none of them could afford individually, and each nonprofit received a $20,000 Drupal product for a fraction. In addition to the cost savings to a larger group of users, Sean noted that by coordinating necessary specs between the  users  he ended up with a much more complete product description than working with a single customer.  As a result, the end product was more widely useful to a larger group of nonprofits than it would have been if it were built solely on the wishlist of a single user. This particular case  is a win for the Free Open Source Software movement because it provides a generalized model for cost-effective collaboration for nonprofit organizations.

I want to explore this scenario further to illustrate how it could work in a codeathon. Representatives of the nonprofits can proactively form a consortium which will create specs RFP-style and release them as a project with a bounty. At the codeathon event itself, programmers will write the code and test the software. At the end of the process, the representatives of the NPOs will review the demos and act as a jury who award the bounty. It is preferable if the programmers coordinate their efforts–we don’t want multiple versions of the same basic code–but in some cases, the same tool can be created in different programming languages or for alternative platforms. The jury will reward the tool which best suits their needs. Despite the judging, the codeathon is not about competition, rather its purpose is to create the best and most utilitarian Free Open Source Software. The codeathon is at heart a collaborative process which encourages organizations to pool resources effectively and to develop more widely applicable specs and products.

The panel could include more than representatives of the NPOs—for instance, design experts. What are your thoughts about a jury panel for a codeathon? How can the bounty process be made more collaborative?  Please share them below in the comments.