Want to make this software Open Source? Now’s your chance.

I’m going to cut right to the chase:

I would like to Open Source all of my software (including Illumination Software Creator and Linux Tycoon) — while still providing enough income to allow me to continue developing them full time via contributions from the community.

In the past, I’ve argued that this is simply not a viable way to fund development based on one simple fact: There aren’t a lot of success stories out there of indie developers earning a living off contributions.

But then I got to thinking [as I am wont to do every once in a while]… how do I know it won’t work unless I try?  If  I can manage to make this model work, that will provide proof for others, who would also like to move their software businesses to be open source, that it is doable.

So, here we go.  It’s time to remove any doubt and give this a try.

And, in the interest of helping others learn how to do something similar, I’m going to make the entire process completely transparent and detail as much as I can.

What’s Needed

In order to fund active, full time development we need to pull together $4,000 USD per month in subscriptions.  This will allow me just enough to get by and focus on creating Open Source software.  One time contributions can then cover operating costs (equipment, servers, etc.).

How This Will Work

Starting today, people can contribute (using the options below).

If, over the course of the next week, we can hit the $4,000 mark, I will release the following software as Open Source (licensed under the GPL) :

I will set up these projects on a public source control service (such as GitHub) and set up project tracking tools for each (to allow for bug and feature tracking).

From that point onward I will continue to work on these full time, working with the community.

In addition, I have a few patent applications in the works [relating to Illumination Software Creator and the Lunduke SDK].  These will go into a public patent pool for Open Source projects.

And there will be much rejoicing.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

Which all sounds awesome.  But what if we can’t reach the goal in time?

If, come next week, we haven’t come close to the goal — then I hit the refund button.  Everybody who contributed gets a full refund and nothing changes (so there is no risk).  I continue to develop this software in a closed source way and get a little bummed out [I’d prefer to not get bummed out].

How To Contribute.

You can contribute one of two ways.  Below is a form that allows you to set up a recurring contribution.  Or you can make a one-time contribution in any amount you wish.

Monthly Contributions

What Do You Get For Contributing?

There are a two things that contributing gets you:

  1. The satisfaction of helping make some cool Open Source software.
  2. Your name (optional) on a donors page and in the about box of the software.

What Now?

As the week progresses I will be posting statistics on how much has been contributed thus far and how far we have to go.  This is going to be 100% transparent and documented publicly.

Any help in spreading the word, over the course of the week, will be greeted with high fives.


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56 Responses to “Want to make this software Open Source? Now’s your chance.”

  1. Demonslayer says:

    This is great for the community and I hope that it will still be able to support you and your family and thus perhaps proving that this is a viable model for development. Count me in as soon as I can make it to a secured network.

  2. Isak Andersson says:

    This is great! I don’t really have an income so I’ll only give the minimum a month for now.. But maybe raise it later. Just because I love you Bryan.

    Also, are you sure about GPL? If this goes south in a few months, you can’t really close the code again.


  3. Floogle says:


    This looks like a good direction to go. Good on ya.

  4. Adam says:

    In reply to Isak’s concern over using the GPL preventing Bryan from close sourcing it again, that is not true. Bryan could license his future updates as proprietary if he wanted to. As the copyright holder Bryan can also re-release his previous versions too and then include his updates with them. This results in the copies released as GPL being free forever, but not future copies if he so wishes.

    I’m not actually sure of any free software license that would prevent such a situation. I don’t think anyone would actually switch back after this unless they were really struggling to earn a living. The damage to goodwill and possible forks that could result will make this a very heavy commitment.

  5. Tofi says:

    Is there a way to later change monthly contribution?

  6. Joseph says:

    >how do I know it won’t work unless I try?

    Observation? Your vast intelligence? Common sense? Some of us take lots of flak defending you from the Nathangnus and RMSes of the world, and then you make it sound like our position isn’t founded on anything. :-(

    Maybe you should appease your base by raising some more money to buy some open source code and closed-sourcing it for balance. ;-)

  7. Bryan says:

    Tofi : Yes. If you do a recurring contribution you can cancel it at any time (and choose a different amount).

    Joseph : Ha! Really, it’s all about practicality. If this model is doable, there are many distinct advantages (for the users and for me).

  8. ElectricPrism says:

    Someone should start a non-profit where people pay a monthly subscription to one foundation that then allocates the funds to projects like this.

    Something simple at $5 – $25 / person / month adds up with subscribers.

    In return for their generosity a person could receive some kind of online recognition for their contribution or a tax deduction for their donation.

    I hope it works out for you like Ardour, I think a lot of devs in OSS are growing up and a model like this could work as the technical generation grows in age.

  9. Mathias says:

    I’m specific interested in those patents. Can you give more information about them? Every patent that goes to the Open-Source patent pool, is a good patent.


  10. ole says:

    if anybody else contributes to the source with gpl licenced then the source basically belongs to the community and he will no longer be able to close source the software unless of course he removes the contributed code.
    that is the reason why even the fsf requires you to relinguish you ownership of contributed code.

    never the less while all this is a cute experiment i doubt it is ever going to work!
    ldk should read the cathedral and the bazaar, and figure out what the benefit of going oss is for his software.
    if he just wants to move away from proprietary software he could just release the software source code without open sourcing it i.e. publish the source while keeping the copyright, that way the consumers will still be able to get some of the benefits of open source as long as ldk acts as the benevolent dictator

  11. Crasspants says:

    Either way, thanks for making your software DRM free. Keep up the good work!

  12. Mack says:

    No to free Software

    Learn from others close to you it does not work

    Awesome Software though i paid for it and i wil be buying more soon.

    I like free stuff hell i love free stuff but i like to know you can make more so charge $2-4 per product its not much and you will have you income

  13. cuppsy says:

    Long-time Linux user here, who generally uses open-source software when available… and I’m a tiny bit confused by this. Maybe I’m just a dunce, but I wonder if Bryan (or someone else here), could clarify some things for me:

    I think open-source software is awesome. The ability to learn from someone else’s code (disclosure: I’m a web developer and sysadmin, not a software guy) and/or make modifications is awesome. I’m all for it.

    I also get that being an indie developer, without other sources of income or support or such to fall back on, open-sourcing your software is risky, and could result in a much more difficult time providing adequate income.

    My confusion resides in the following: if Bryan get’s $4000/month in donations, will his software become free as in beer, as well? Or will it still cost the same? If it’s the later, does that mean I’m pledging a subscription solely to have access to his code as it changes over time?

    If it’s open-sourced and he continues to charge the same money for his software, are there that many people that will just build it from source and not pay for it? Or is the concern that someone will copy it and release it for free (a la something like CentOS) and without a fall back, Bryan will be SOL?

    My apologies for stupid questions… especially from a Linux guy. I do think, in the right hands, the source to Linux Tycoon or ISC could result in some killer modifications and ideas that can make this software even better over time. That said, I obviously think Bryan should be compensated (bought BLABA/RCD this weekend to complete the rotation, haha) for his work.

    Anyways, I’m rambling at this point. Thank you anyone who takes time to read through this. I guess I don’t know why one couldn’t release some (or all) of their source code, yet somehow still protect themselves from getting hosed with the right license or something. There should be a gray area between everything being locked down and private, and the creator being stripped of all rights to their property.

  14. Bryan says:

    cuppsy: If we can reach the goal, all of my software here will be released publicly under the GPL license and will be free (as in beer) for all to use. This means that any Linux distro could also include my software (both in binary and source form) in their releases without paying me a penny.

  15. dakira says:

    Hey.. it would be great if you could include Flattr as a way to contribute. It is pretty popular in Europe and it makes it very easy for people give small amounts of money on a regular basis. Also they don’t steal your money (like paypal).

  16. cuppsy says:


    Ahhhhhhh, okay. Thank you. That gives me a better frame of reference, since I plan to add in a subscription.

    And I suppose I should summon my Google-fu, but is there a glaring reason you couldn’t release some or all of the code while still asking people to purchase the software (I’m assuming the risk of a free copy of your software being released and undermining you)?

  17. FenixKane says:

    Paid support is still an option. Also, if you reach the goal and do open source it, could you add a donate button to the applications (like, under the help menu)?

  18. raymii says:

    In what language do you create the software Bryan? Is it realbasic? Btw I’ve submitted this on lxer.com..

  19. Bryan says:

    raymii: I use a whole slew of different languages and sdk’s for my stuff here. More and more things tend to be built using C and Lunduke SDK (which can compile to C, Python, etc.). There is a small amount of Realstudio still in use here and there (mostly for providing a cross platform shell of an app), but most of that should be fully phased out over the next few weeks. So, in a nutshell, assume all code will either be C, Python or Lunduke SDK. Which means it’s all open source, end-to-end.

    FenixKane: I certainly could add a donate button to the applications. Right now, though, I’m thinking I’ll keep the donation information primarily on the website here.

  20. Tofi says:

    I was thinking about raising from 5 to 10, not to cancel. 5$ per month I wouldn’t even notice, and 10$ is a bit too much I could give for charity.

  21. Jochen Breuer says:

    +1 for flattr. It’s perfect for such things and absolutely popular here in Germany for example.

  22. Jason John Wells says:

    Godspeed, John Glenn.

  23. Lord Drachenblut says:

    I am curious if the source will be fully available to the world, or just to people who donate and then they can distribute as they choose

  24. Tofi says:

    @Lord Drachenblut
    Open means open like baa means baa. Bryan wrote about opening source code not about partial opening.

  25. JaspEr says:

    I can manage 10$ per month (for open sourced software), but I’m not sure if it’s good idea to open source everything now.
    I mean, why do You (Bryan) want to open source your software? If You just want to be positive in the freedom dimension then as I said before don’t. For me, and I think for many others, You already are.
    What if people do get to 4k$ per month now and after You upload it to github (or whatever) they will cancel the offers?
    I could make up for some monthly donations of 5$ now (10$ next year) just keep You up and for some photos of your family with goats like once in a while (month/quarter?)sent to me )maybe with some nice meme?
    That said, I don’t declare anything right now and wait for the weekend to make a decision.

  26. Advisor says:

    I’m not sure if it’s wise to put all eggs into one basket. I may like to contribute, but not necessarily to the whole package. If I’m only interested in one project, why should I sponsor those I don’t care about?

    Also, if you want to sell yourself (as a programmer), which seems to be a very interesting idea, maybe you should allow your sponsors to have a say in what exactly you do (polls, etc.?).

  27. DylanC says:

    I don’t want to rain on your parade Bryan, I do think that this is a great idea… however I hope you have examined the consequences that could result from this.

    Consider this failure case, although it may be unlikely I wouldn’t say that it would be impossible.

    1. Subscriptions for Bryan reach 4k per month.

    2. Bryan open-sources his software.

    3. Somebody creates a fork of ISC.. Bryan is cool with this and thinks its awesome!

    4. People start dropping out of their subscriptions (for their own reason(s)).

    5. Bryan is lacking money and decides to go back to being commercial. He deletes his public git repo.

    6. Nobody buys Bryans software because there is already a fork being developed and its free.

    7. Bryan is sad…

  28. Leo says:

    Do my previous purchases count as a donation? I have bought Linux Tycoon and Illumination, Thanks!

  29. Lunduke.com says:

    […] been 48 hours since I launched my grand campaign to Open Source (under the GPL) all of my software (including Linux Tycoon and Illumination Software Creator), and […]

  30. Alex says:

    Hmm, gpl is one thing… would you accept patches? I could *really* go for some of these things running under Haiku :D

  31. Bryan says:

    Alex: Of course I would accept patches! These would all become completely open projects with me as a full time developer and organizer. And, you know me, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to porting to more platforms (especially Haiku!). :)

  32. J says:

    Sounds good, to me I have very little time not being a professional developer but I would be willing to start monthly contributions, I however agree with Advice and in a way RMS in that making monthly cpntributions it would be nice to have a vote in direction for imporvements to certain software. I relize taht this could be a little anti privite company that you would then be directed in development by donating comunity members but it would be a nice way to work that out ie see a plan for the GLL governanvce i.e. how will yoou divide your time what feature will you be adding will there be vote method where share are allocated by money/code contributions. basically making you a coder for hirer on projects of your choice but the requested features bugs and improvements are yours to sugest adn design but the comunity can have a goodwill say in the same and time division. Once I see this plan I am all in a recurring subscription.

  33. Bryan says:

    J :
    As for providing the community/contributors a chance to influence direction… I have been pondering on this a bit today. Here are my thoughts (and I’d love to hear what you and others think of this):

    My initial idea was to provide a polling system for potential new features that any contributor could vote on. That way, those that contribute have much greater control over the features I work on directly.

    But then I thought — I don’t want to leave out those that simply cannot afford to contribute. Those individuals will likely have excellent ideas about the future of the software as well.

    Either way, one of my big goals is to provide everyone with more control and ownership over these projects.

  34. J says:

    I like the fact you are considering it and to that degree remarkably positive steps in the preedom direction. I would rank influance on direction by contribution amount, Money, code, bug reports, representation,documnetation , porting, or shear awesomness of idea. not easy to scale or rate, I would say top rankings go to funders as they are paying you to code followed by the coders helping in spare time (plus they largely hav ethe power to implement what they want ) , then the rest is rough as they are all in a tighter race, I would just come up esentially with your own curency on it and Lunduke pionts are eared byt dollars, bug reports code contrabutions, and positive comunity support, like how people earn was this helpful ratings.

  35. Bryan says:

    J: The idea of “Lunduke Points” makes me smile. Honestly, some system will need to be put into place in order for people to have an effective voice in the direction of the software. Whatever mechanism is used, I’ll be looking to you guys [the community, the contributors] for feedback and advice.

  36. Dash says:

    I already paid $50 for this software because I think it’s worth that money and I like Bryan’s Linux Action Show and that he still uses a real Linux phone, the Nokia N900, unlike all the fake Linux gurus using Android Java VM.

    I’m not going to give more money but I hope Bryan reaches his goal.

    Maybe Kickstarter would have been a good place to raise the money?….

  37. Techbeast.net - Radical Breeze to Open Source Its Software says:

    […] Linux advocate, his software is closed source (see, it is possible to combine the two!). Obviously he’d like to open source them, but that would potentially disrupt his income stream unless he can attract donations from the […]

  38. qubodup says:

    What would be the license of the graphics?

  39. qubodup says:

    (and music and sound… all art assets for that matter)

  40. qubodup says:

    (I would suggest http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ for all the works which you own copyright to. Stuff like “sounds taken from the web” should be clearly marked as such to make it easier for other developers)

  41. Ali Razeen » Donation Request: Bryan and Free Software says:

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  42. Lunduke.com says:

    […] are now approaching the 4 day mark since I announced my plans to Open Source (GPL) my software (Linux Tycoon, Illumination Software Creator and the rest).  This is the […]

  43. Sell your time not your software? « Look out world! says:

    […] http://lunduke.com/?p=3372 Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreEmailRedditDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  44. Fedora Makes a Deal | The Linux Action Show! | Jupiter Broadcasting says:

    […] Make Bryan’s Software Go Open Source. […]

  45. Lunduke.com says:

    […] less than 36 hours to go in the effort to Open Source my software (Linux Tycoon, Illumination Software Creator, etc.) this is where we […]

  46. Sarah Sharp says:

    Why not kickstart this instead of asking for monthly donations?

  47. Lunduke.com says:

    […] One week ago today, I said that I wanted to Open Source (under the GPL) all of my software.  And, that if I hit $4,000 in contributions by midnight on Monday, the 4th (today), it would happen. […]

  48. qubodup says:


    Also, how about some flattr? They allow for monthly subscriptions.

    In the long-term I also recommend getting a bitcoin wallet.

  49. Indie Linux Developer Tries New Open Source Fundraising Model | Linux-Support.com says:

    […] Monday Lunduke announced he would open source five of his programs, including Illumination Software Creator, Radical Comic […]

  50. Lunduke.com says:

    […] Just 8 days ago I stated that, if I could pull together just $4,000 in contributions, I would Open Source (under the GPL) all of the applications and games you see on this site. […]

  51. S05E08 – Queen of the Flaming Diamond – MP3 | Ubuntu Podcast says:

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  52. shirish says:

    Hi all,
    For those who are thinking some developer would come, fork the project and do the development for free they are not thinking straight. While it is true that projects have forked and will continue to fork in FOSS there has to be substantial motivation.

    While I’m not a developer as a user though I have seen many game projects for e.g. fall through the cracks. The more complete the game, the more incomplete it becomes as ambition for that one extra feature is always there. While I could name quite a few projects where forking and then again merged into the parent has happened as well so you cannot say for sure it would be like that.

    If FOSS games were such a bad idea then an initiative such as lpc.opengameart.org would not have happened. People are creating art and art assets as well as would be doing fresh game code and the prizes aren’t cheap.

    The art phase of the contest has the following three prizes:

    $1500 USD: grand prize (team or individual)
    $500 USD: secondary prize, individual only
    $500 USD: secondary prize, individual only

    The code phase has the following four prizes:

    $1500 USD: grand prize (team or individual)
    $500 USD: secondary prize, team only
    $500 USD: secondary prize, individual only
    $1500 USD: HTML5 game prize


    What bryan could do is use either github or sourceforge.net and do tracking and let some people donate for partcular features.

    If the code is free, it is possible for coders who might not be wanting to do a full game but just learn some part or do some component of the game as well.

    All in all I have seen many a different ways in which things can pan out. It’s not so black and white as some people seem to think.

  53. Charlie says:


    Love your show and .. your idea. It’s a kind of patronage, as in the arts domain. Why not, software are kind of creative arts!
    My programs are also open-source programs (simple ones without any comparison with ardours or yours). So if you wanted to gather some more stats on the donation other open-source projects receive, you could count on mine… although my oldest project is ~ 1 month old ;-)

    Lots of success in your project and long live LAS :-)

  54. FreeLikeGNU says:

    I think this is great and GPL is the way to go! By freeing your software, you enable others to contribute and make your software better and at the same time reach a broader audience. Like others have mentioned, with this license, your software can be part of an Ubuntu or Debian repo among other distribution methods which gives you great exposure. You can sell services related to the games you release as well as art packs, story packs and other expansions and your increased popularity will make it easier to get funding for more projects in the future! It also show that you respect the freedom of those who use your software and ensures that freedom into the future!

  55. Luis Da Costa says:

    Hello Brian !

    I just want to say good work for all you did :D

    I just have one question, if it is not too much…. Could you please tell me (us) what is the programming language used to create Linux Tycoon for example ?

    Thank you in Advance and once again great job :D

  56. Lunduke.com says:

    […] I set out to convert all my software over to be Open Source — and fully fund development with contributions from the community — I knew there was a […]

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