Perks for Contributors – Pre-built Downloads and more

One important part of how I am going about funding the Open Source and Free development of my software is that… I need to be willing to admit when I make mistakes — and to implement changes here and there to the process.

A very central goal of everything I am doing, right now, is to show a concrete [and highly documented] way that other developers can fund their own FOSS work.  With that in mind…

One major mistake I made, right off the bat, was that I provided very little direct benefit to people who donate (no “perks”).  So all of you that have contributed, up to this point, have done so because you are awesome people who simply want to see this project succeed.  [And my hat goes off to each and every one of you.]

Today, after spending some time talking with a lot of people about some good ways to reward those that contribute [on a regular basis], I am making the following three items perks available to contributors.

1) Download Links for Pre-Built Binaries

This one is likely to cause the most ruckus, but hear me out.

Starting today, you will find no download links on this website.  Everyone on the planet will still have full access to the GPL’d source code [and supporting files] for every app and game here — but no pre-built binaries.

Those that contribute will receive an auto-magical email with download links to pre-built binaries, packages and installers for the latest revisions every bit of software here.

The idea is this: I build and maintain the “official” installers and packages and provide them, to those that contribute.  The contributions help cover my time and bandwidth for this.

Now.  You’ll note that all of this software is GPL’d.  Which means any Tom, Dick or Harry (or any other awesome name) can build their own binaries and distribute it on their website or repository.  And I have absolutely no problem with that.  None whatsoever.

2) Inclusion in the Monthly Contributors Post

At the end of each month I will be making a post, right here, that lists the contributors from that month.

Information can include : Website name and URL and social media links.  [aka “awesome advertising”.]  All, of course, entirely optional.

In that very same auto-magical email that contributors receive with the download links… you will also find instructions for being added to this monthly post.

3) Vote on What Bryan Does

A chance to vote on what work I do during the 2nd week of each month.

This was already in place, but I am formally making it part of the perks for contributors.  The first major round of items to vote out will be sent out this next week.

These changes have already gone into effect (just moments ago).  Those that have already contributed should be receiving emails over the next few hours with all of the details.  Those that contribute from now forward should receive automatic emails within a few minutes of contributing.

And, as always, I am open to ideas and thoughts on all of this.  If you have any ideas of other great ways to reward those that contribute, be sure to speak up!  The goal is to build a solid, practical system for funding FOSS app and game development — and I think this brings us one step closer.

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54 Responses to “Perks for Contributors – Pre-built Downloads and more”

  1. Graham says:

    I believe these all to be excellent ideas! Perhaps another perk could be a community site exclusive to the contributors (forums, irc channels etc…). This might allow the contributors to feel more invested in the project, whilst giving the project a community hug.

    By the way, where has the donation meter gone on your site? It seems to have disappeared.

  2. Javafant says:

    What’s with the people who bought the apps/games before they were gpl’ed? Do they also get pre-built binarys at least for the apps they payed for? I think they should get the binaries.

  3. Bryan says:

    Javafant: Excellent question! My initial thought was simply to email everyone who purchased previously with new links… but many have changed email addresses. So I’m working on another solution for those individuals.

  4. Sean says:

    Will you get the binaries for a one-time contribution?
    I really like you’re work with ISC.

  5. odysseystudio says:

    It really great that you have these perks now cause it makes me feel special for contributing to the software and gives me a framework to work with when I want to developed software. Now just as a side how can we contact you if you are a contributor but don’t get the email for the builds polls and recognition page form? I know it only been an hour,but I haven’t have anything in my inbox.

  6. Bryan says:

    odysseystudio: You can simply email me. I’ll take care of ya. But wait just a bit. Emails are still going out to past contributors. :)

  7. Bryan says:

    Sean: Yes, one time contributions will still receive the same benefits for that month. Recurring contributions simply ensures that you get the same benefits every month.

  8. earl cameron says:

    bryan why dont you just continue to sell built binaries and continue to support og purchasers but give gpl source (unless gpl issue), that way you can still make sales and contribute to the community. As for donations have a secret/exclusive forum where the latest beta/testing is available and they can do special requests and such…exclusivity sells!

  9. earl cameron says:

    edit last post, you could stagger releases, old source/binary gpl, current source/binary sales and beta/testing donaters.

  10. Enigma says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the GPL only require that you give the source code to people who receive the binary files?

    So, technically you don’t have to give the source code to the world either, just the people who pay for it/the binaries.

  11. Daniel Clem says:

    Enigma: I believe your correct. But Bryan has a bit of a reputation doing his absolute best to not be a jerk. lol Its not a bad point to be made though.

    But I really like this idea, I think I made a comment suggesting this exact thing (his current plan of action for binaries) about 6 months ago or so. Perhaps it played a part in his decision, or a case of great minds thinking alike. :-P

    May God continue to Bless ya with wisdom here Bryan. You’re doing some really great work and laying the trail for others to follow. :-)

  12. Enigma says:

    Daniel, I didn’t expect Bryan to suddenly say “Oh, wait I’m not going to give you anything unless you donate now that donations are dropping” but technically he would be in compliance of the GPL if he chose to only release it to those that did.

    Personally, I think only releasing binaries to people who donate is a good idea, and I have seen it done before. I think it is very likely that a large portion of the people who do take source code will end up contributing back to the project.

  13. ShaneQful says:

    Wouldn’t mind but ISC 4 doesn’t compile and I’m broke. I assume I still have access since I bought Illumination before you GPL’ed it

  14. Bryan says:

    Daniel: Your suggestion actually went on one of my lists of “ways to pull this off?” as I was planning this all out. When you guys speak, I listen (even if I don’t always act like it). :)

    Enigma: I look at it this way. I am not going to stop anyone from downloading elsewhere. Won’t even discourage others from hosting their own builds elsewhere. I think that would be * awesome* in fact (and is already happening in various places). I just won’t be providing the “download pre-made installers and packages from this site” service… except to those who donate. :)

  15. manny says:

    the perks look good.

    I also like how the open source “fairware” model works, which might come in handy, specially for newcomers.

  16. Craig says:

    “Excuse me while I offend as many people here as possible with my 4th post today.” [Synopsis by Bryan]

  17. WindPower says:

    Congrats on getting on /.

  18. Craig says:

    “I love how anonymity on the internet allows me to act like a turd and put everyone down.” [Synopsis by Bryan]

  19. trupax says:

    I’d be careful with this model. If the software’s really attractive then people might get it from inofficial sources which might contain more than just your software – it happened to me (and I ship binaries btw). Actually quite the oppsite, you want to have the offically built and sealed software running out there, and if it’s just for the sake of repoducible bugs.

  20. Robin Millette says:

    About 6-7 years ago… “Sveasoft is a small company which makes its living by selling supported versions of Linux-based firmware for a number of wireless routers. Paying subscribers can download current versions of the firmware, which adds a number of features not normally found on those routers. They can grab updated versions as they become available, and participate in support forums as well.
    Sveasoft’s products are based on free software – Linux in particular. The company’s approach to GPL compliance has raised eyebrows for a couple of years now. One tactic employed by the company has been to terminate support accounts for any subscriber who further redistributes the Sveasoft binaries or source. The GPL says that customers are entitled to that code (for the GPL-licensed portions of Sveasoft’s products, at least), and that they have the right to pass it on to others. Sveasoft has responded that, when this redistribution happens, it is no longer obligated to provide future versions of the software. The company has employed various schemes for determining which subscriber has redistributed any particular version, and has been quite aggressive at shutting down accounts.”, quoted from

  21. Daniel Feenberg says:

    Offer to send an invoice for 1 year of support. Very few employees can request their employer make a donation, but I expect many can request software purchase. Support can mean whatever you like – binaries perhaps. Just make it clear. Furthermore, at my company and at many others many employees can more easily respond to an invoice than could get a reimbursement for a Paypal transfer. You can label the invoice “Pro Forma” if you like. That would mean you aren’t demanding payment. There is no reason not to send an invoice just because payment is voluntary for the software source.

  22. Obsidian_golem says:

    Isn’t the “pay for builds” model how one linux distro works? I forget the name of it though.

  23. Thomas says:

    It’s a great idea, and I totally support it. My advice: Just do it, and stop worrying. “‘It’s better to be safe than sorry’ is such crap. You know what’s better than being safe? Being AWESOME.” -codinghorror. BTW, Are you actually doing it? Because from what I can tell, there are a lot of repos on github with either no source and a readme, or a bunch of JPEGs and an XML file. If I were you, I’d get something going while the slashdot buzz can give you inertia.

  24. Christer says:

    This is nice but I really want another way to donate to you. I would really like a Flattr button on your donation page :)

  25. earl cameron says:

    I still believe in staggered releases for your software by updates, free get last update eg. V4.x open source, current version for pay and beta/testing for donators. then just keep staggering it, so if a user wants the latest features the either buy into it or donate and get into beta/testing.

  26. nope says:

    “My technical inability, and general insecurity about software development, causes me to use language that should not be used in front of ladies.” [Synopsis by Bryan]

  27. ObligatoryResponse says:

    Redhat. But SuSE makes you pay for access to the zypper repos which provide the security updates and bug fixes, so realistically, both employ this model, just SuSE provides a demo of sorts. You wouldn’t want a production system with SLES or SLED and no repository access…

  28. foo says:

    Would it be acceptable to you if your software ended up in Linux distributions like Fedora/Gentoo/Debian/Ubuntu?

  29. Unixisc says:

    I think this is a good approach. Essentially, the main obtacle to making money in FOSS is the ‘Help your neighbor’ redistribution clause in the GNU, and it’s good that you figured out to put a compelling reason for users to think twice before redistributing.

    One question here – if a user buys the software along w/ the support service, is it on a per seat basis, or is s/he free to install it on all the computers s/he has? I do think that redistribution should be discouraged, since it effectively makes a direct customer a direct competitor. However, if a customer has got the software along w/ a support, should it be relevant or irrelevant as to how many routers he’s using that on?

    Only quibble – instead of calling it a donation, why not just make it a clean sale? Determine whatever price you need that will amortize over whatever volume you expect, and then price the software along w/ the service accordingly. It would be more straightforward, and avoids the questions like whether donating $100 or $1.00 is what would support your work. Just determine a price you think the market will afford but which you are comfortable w/, and then just apply that here. FOSS doesn’t mean that you can’t sell it – it only compels you to provide everything needed for building the software from scratch.

  30. Ryan Sharp says:

    “I wrote a long-winded posts that seems, at first glance, to be intelligent and thoughtful. I hope nobody notices that it was mean, vindictive and poorly researched.” [Synopsis by Bryan]

  31. Kyle T. says:

    Staggered releases by updates seems like a great idea to me, but maybe it would have to wait to be implemented until the development process has been going along for a while?

  32. Ryan Sharp says:

    “I am cranky. Also research fills my heart with rage.” [Synopsis by Bryan]

  33. Tofi says:

    Contribution is not a shame, but what with right to privacy? Maybe it should be a list like a “First name – [email prefix]@…” for those that doesn’t confirm allowance to publish their data.
    Second thing is that I prefer link somewhere on your site then looking through email. Sending email with links would be good but maybe you think at second way for getting files like for example after logging on forum or logging on your site, after you will do one login for wiki and forum, and maybe Lunduke Digital Data Storage Center For Uncommon User Access (LDDSCFUA – damn! It still doesn’t sounds like Finland’s volcano name, but I’m think that I’m on right path.)

  34. Alex says:

    I don’t mind the official pre-built binaries for people donating.

    Eventually distro might start including your software (which is great), so everybody can easily get the software. Still. Getting it from your website would make sure you get the latest version though.

    I guess nightly build access would also be restricted to ppl donating, right. I imagine you want as many ppl as possible to test the new builds and report bug. So this is another aspect. I guess the people supporting you are the most likely to test and report issue though.

    Concerning payment, other option beside paypal would be a plus. I am not entirely sure, but I believe you need a debit or credit card to subscribe using paypal.

    I think that being able to pay for multiple month in advance would be a plus. And it might be easier (and cheaper) depending on the payment system used. I am sure there are ppl you would be happy or prefer to pay for a few month in advance.

    For example a person wanting to donate 5$ per month would do a 15$ donating for the following 3month. The most important here is that you need to be aware it is a donation for the next three months and keep track accordingly. So only take 5$ per month from this donation.

    This will also help you to have a buffer and more predictability in the amount of money you would get every month.

    The donor would receive a reminder after 3month. Obviously you might see a drop in donation if ppl don’t renew but that is the same for monthly subscription.

  35. securezone says:

    Bryan…. I think you are going beyond what GPL says.

    GPL perfectly allows you to sell your apps. But when you sell it to Bob/Dick/..etc you have to bundle the source code along with it.

    Why don’t you just do that? Sell your apps as you did, except that you provide the source code along the bundle (and allow them to fork it if they care).

    Most likely, you will get your old 7k USD/mo again, and yet it’s fully free as in beer.

  36. securezone says:

    In addition, you can create games with “story modules”. Same game engine, except that you periodically release story modules. This will cause some people to buy again and again.

    In summary to raise income:
    1) periodic story modules (no much on development).
    2) don’t provide anyone the full source code. Only provide it to those who purchase it. Perfectly GPL and respects the freedom of the owners.

    GPL doesn’t force people to provide download links to everyone. It merely states that those who purchase a binary should get its source code, and have the right to share it with their friends.

  37. cc11rocks says:

    I think a good idea would be to send and receive requests for the pre-built binaries through email (same concept of checking your banking account balances through SMS). If they send a request to a certain email through “” with the word “ISC” or whatever, it sends to the linked account… It would be sort-of complex, but you would have more control over it this way instead of giving a “secret” link out that people could share. So to recap : you have email addresses for people who donated. When an email comes from one of these email addresses with a request in the email to a certain account, they receive the requested binary package. Good luck and let me know what you think of this idea :D

  38. Gary Newell says:

    Hi there,

    I think it is good for developers to think how they could monetize their projects.

    My main issue is this… How do I know I want to contribute before I have tried the software?

    If to try the software I have to build it myself then I will already be able to build the binaries so would not need to contribute to download them from your website.

    This would then mean that contributing would again be optional.

    Do you plan on release lite versions of your software as binaries?

  39. odysseystudio says:

    Newell has a point. I think the majority of people who contribute to your software is that they already have an idea what the software really dose and had hands on experience with it. If you were to provide a demo version that would give people an idea about what they are getting themselves into.

  40. drnapster says:

    i purchased your software before it was free do i get pre-built Binaries also??? i have no idea how to compile yet still new to the linux world.

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