The only way to get someone to contribute to an open source project is to ask them.
At the beginning of the New Year, I set up the Webform module's Open Collective. I knew that in order to persuade organizations to back the Webform module or any Drupal-related Open Collective would require directly asking organizations to join the Webform module's Open Collective. Additionally, I also needed to listen to what an organization might want to get out of their financial contribution to an Open Collective
It is reasonable for organizations to ask why should they back an Open Collective and what should they expect in return.
At DrupalCampNJ, I paid a visit to the event's sponsors that I was friendly with and asked them to join the Webform module's Open Collective. I also decided to broaden my pitch to include asking people to consider backing any Drupal related Open Collective. The Simplytest.me and Drupal Recording Initiative collectives provide invaluable services that our community needs and everyone should help support them.
Everyone was familiar with the Webform module, and most people knew that I was maintaining the Drupal 8 version, but no one knew what an "Open Collective" is. Gradually, as I spoke to people, I managed to put together a concise explanation for the question, "What is Open Collective?"
Open Collective is a service which allows Open Source projects to transparently collect and distribute funds. Organizations who back an Open Collective will get a receipt for their financial contributions and be able to see exactly how the collected money is being spent.
The above explanation leads to the next relevant question which is "How is this money going to be spent?" My response is this: Spending the collected funds is going to be determined by what the backers want and the Webform module needs.
As the maintainer of the Webform module, I feel we need a logo. A logo will help distinguish the Webform module from the massive sea of online form builders. For some projects, the Webform module is a significant part of a proposal and a logo would help make the software feel more professional. In the near future, I am going to post an RFP for a Webform logo. Still, what I want is not nearly as important as what organizations need.
Discussing, Explaining, Listening and Delivering
I want to hear what people want or need from the Webform module's Open Collective. Since most people did not know what is an Open Collective, it was hard to expect them to know what they need from an Open Collective. As I spoke with people at DrupalCampNJ, I came up with two anecdotes that explored some potential use cases for an Open Collective.
My first anecdote happened when I finished setting up the Webform module's Open Collective, someone emailed me asking for help with debugging a broken image file upload, and they offered to pay me for my time. These small private transactions are complicated to coordinate, so I suggested that they make a donation to the Webform module's Open Collective and then create a ticket in the Webform's issue queue. I managed to resolve their problem quickly. Everyone felt that this was a successful transaction.
Another related anecdote: While brainstorming about getting people to help pay for open source development, a fellow software developer daydreamed that his company would happily pay to see a bug fixed or merely a patch committed. One of the most common frustrations in open source issue queues is seeing a patch sit there for months and sometimes years.
The above stories highlight the fact that besides using Open Collective to back an open source project, a collective could be used to execute transparent transactions using a common platform.
Would enterprise companies and organizations be more comfortable paying for open source work through an Open Collective instead of a private transaction with an individual developer?
At DrupalCampNJ, no one rejected the concept of backing a Drupal-related Open Collective. I was able to collect several email addresses which I am going to use to continue persuading and listening to potential backers. My next step is to write a short and persuasive email which hopefully will inspire organizations to back Drupal-related Open Collective.
In the spirit of full transparency, I will publish this email in my next blog post. For now, any feedback or thoughts are always appreciated. Hey, maybe my two anecdotes might have persuaded you to back the Webform module's Open Collective.
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