Open source contributor funding

Outlining what an open source contributor funding process entails and how this approach could be beneficial to the contributors, voters and Web3 ecosystems

This page contains the same information that is covered in the above video

There is an opportunity for Web3 ecosystems to experiment with an open source contributors funding process. Contributors would be selected and compensated to work on open source initiatives. Founding entities currently often handle the core network & infrastructure development in most Web3 ecosystems. So, a great starting point for open source contributors could be to become a supporting structure that sits on top of the founding entities. This would mean that contributors would be responsible for helping with the development of protocols and software libraries. These contributors can help with improving the developer experience, the availability of protocols to integrate and the number of smart contract utility libraries as just a few examples. Ecosystems could also optionally encourage open source contributors to help with network & infrastructure development efforts or application development as well.

Main suggested experiment approaches

The following approaches are some of the most important to incorporate into this suggested contributor funding process experiment.

  • Time based incentives - Contributors would be paid for their time whilst contributing to the ecosystem.

  • Individual monthly contribution logs - Contributions made in a recent month would be documented and provided as evidence to demonstrate recent contribution efforts. Contributors would be required to submit these contribution logs to be eligible for payment in the next month.

  • Autonomous decision making - Contributors should have full autonomy to decide on which open source initiatives they are going to work on based on what they believe will be the most impactful for the ecosystem. Founding entities and community members can give their feedback and advice about what would be impactful to work on, however the actual responsibility of deciding where they spend their time should be left to the contributors.

Ecosystem specific experiment decisions

The following areas are important parts of making an open source contributor funding process. These areas could be executed in a number of different ways. The ecosystem would need to decide on how they want operate this funding process based on their own preferences and available tools and processes.

  • Contributor information - Open source contributors would share their personal and professional information along with any of their contribution history information to be considered as a contributor candidate. Ecosystems could collect, store and present this information in whatever approach makes sense in the short term.

  • Voting - Voters could either be a founding entity or the wider community depending on what voting tools the ecosystem has available.

  • Compensation - Contributors could request the amount of monthly compensation they are looking for. Voters would decide which candidates they want to accept. Salary range guidelines could also be added to help indicate what is sensible in terms of the minimum and maximum amount of requested compensation.

  • Contributor working arrangement - Contributors would be paid for their time spent working in the ecosystem. The working arrangement could be that contributors are paid for a set term length after they are selected. These term lengths could be 3, 6 or 12 months. 6 months could be a suitable starting point.

  • Contributor responsibilities - Contributors would be responsible for supporting the open source initiatives that are most likely to create high impact for the ecosystem. That could range from bug fixes, improvements to existing software or entirely new tools and libraries. Ecosystems may optionally want to provide guidance on the types of initiatives that have already been developed and the ones that have been most widely requested so far.

Supporting rationale & analysis

The advantages of this suggested process are covered below. However to read more about the analysis and background behind this proposal it is worth reviewing the disbursement analysis:

Advantages for contributors

Quick & simple participation

Contributors would submit their personal and professional information along with any contribution history to showcase their skill sets and any impact they have generated for the ecosystem. They then can be considered as a potential candidate to become a paid contributor. Contributors don’t have to suggest new ideas or make financial agreements with existing teams and instead can focus on helping with the executing any new or existing open source initiative.

Removed budgeting complexity

Contributors could work on one or many open source initiatives. The contributor doesn’t need to do budget planning ahead of time for the ideas that they work on which saves them time each time they work on a different idea. This removal of budget planning also helps to remove the risks of under or over compensation due to an idea taking longer or shorter than expected. Paying contributors based on the time they work means ideas can more easily change and evolve as required due to a changing environment or requirements. This lack of budgeting requirement is also great for ideas that only take a day or week to complete as now they can just quickly get these done as contributors are paid for their time and don’t need to constantly seek voter approval for every idea they work on.

Income stability

Contributors being paid for their time means they will receive an increased amount of stability in their income. They will also have full awareness of how long they will be compensated for as their duration of payment will be known ahead of time when they are selected as a contributor. This means contributors can spend their entire time fully focussed on executing impactful ideas rather than being concerned about how much they are being paid and the issues that emerge when an idea takes longer or shorter than expected.

Flexible contribution

Contributors could work on one or multiple ideas whilst they are being compensated to work on open source initiatives. This enables a contributor to align their efforts with the initiatives that can generate the most impact for the ecosystem. This autonomy gives the contributor more responsibility and accountability to self identify the most impactful initiatives over time that they should work on. This can ultimately help to increase the chances that they get selected again in the future as a contributor. This ability to help with the most impactful initiatives can be more easily achieved due to the fact that incentives aren’t tied to a single idea.

Reduced governance risks

Funding would come from the treasury and go directly to the selected contributors. This helps to remove governance risks around having any intermediaries that might have held these assets temporarily. A small number of actors could have misused or stole those funds that were supposed to pay for contribution efforts. Instead by paying contributors directly the incentive risks are localised to each individual contributor and the risk for each contributor is a single month's worth of compensation.

Increased depth of experience

Contributors that are working on open source initiatives across an ecosystem can help with creating an environment where these contributors could become very well informed about the different approaches that can be used to build applications and protocols. This exposure to many open source initiatives can also help with improving their awareness and understanding of what the biggest problems and opportunities are for improving the developer experience in the ecosystem that they can then even try to resolve with their own contribution efforts or through collaboration with other contributors and the founding entities.

Inherits many of the best parts of working for tech companies

Many of the best parts of working in large tech company environment for employees can be achieved with an open source contributor funding process. The first advantage is that the simplicity of time based incentives can help increase contribution flexibility and create a more collaborative environment as the incentives are attached to the efforts of a contributor and not a single idea. One advantage of an open source funding process over existing working arrangements in tech companies is that a contributor funding model can push beyond the advantages of working in tech companies by giving contributors even more autonomy over how they decide to generate impact for the ecosystem. The contributor would ultimately be their own boss and have full ownership and responsibility to generate impact and build their own reputation. Contributors would be able to work wherever and whenever they want as long as they generate impact for the ecosystem. Contributor funding could help give people higher levels of flexibility, reputation ownership and autonomy.

Helps reduce or resolve the common issues of why people leave large tech companies

  • Better work-life balance & burnout - IIncentives can help with encouraging and rewarding contributors that work harder than others in an ecosystem. However the actual choice of how much time a contributor is willing to use from their daily lives is fully up to them. Contributors won’t have any top down leadership that is pressuring them to work more than they want to, a problem that can happen in corporate environments.

  • Relocation - A contributor working for an online Web3 ecosystem can work anywhere in the world they want providing they have internet, so relocation should never be an issue!

  • Lack of career advancement & changing work interests - A contributor would self determine what they work on based on what ideas could generate the most impact for the ecosystem but then also based on their own interests and what areas of work have the most meaning to them. Contributors would have more autonomy to ensure they are spending time on areas of interest or professional development that they value.

  • Meaningful work, personal values misalignment & entrepreneurial aspirations - The outcomes that are generated in this suggested funding process would be open source and publicly available. A contributors work could be used by an entire ecosystem and could even make impact across the globe. Open source initiatives can help to provide ample opportunity for finding meaningful work that aligns with someone's values due to the wide scope and scale of the problems they could work on. So hopefully these issues should be reduced a moderate amount.

  • Management & leadership issues - No fixed management or leadership roles need to exist in Web3 ecosystems when using a contributor funding approach. No one would be pushing contributors to work overtime and beyond their means. If a contributor didn’t enjoy working with another contributor they would be able to move to other initiatives when they believed it made sense to do so.

Advantages for voters

Faster and simpler decision making

Voting for contributors is faster and simpler than idea selection decisions. Voters wouldn’t need to compare and vote on a number of open source ideas that they might not understand or have enough context for. Instead they can focus on reviewing the competencies and experience of a number of contributors that could help with the execution of any open source initiative. This selection approach helps to reduce the complexity and time required for voters to participate in the funding process. Decreasing the time required and complexity for voters can help with increasing the amount of voter participation and scalability of this suggested funding process.

Easier future decisions

Voting decisions become easier over time with a contributor funding process. Priorities and ideas will naturally change and evolve over time meaning the complexity of selecting priorities or ideas is a persistent ongoing complexity. However quality contributors are far more consistent over a longer time period which means that contributor selection becomes easier over time as voters become aware of the most competent and effective contributors who they can repeatedly select to receive funding. More tools and processes that help to highlight the performance and impact that someone has generated can further improve this ease of future decision making. Easier funding decisions will help with improving the scalability of this funding process.

Idea feedback is still captured

it's important that the community is able to give feedback to the ideas that contributors are working on. Selecting contributors instead of ideas doesn’t mean the voters wouldn’t have their voices heard when ideas are being created and selected for execution. Any process for creating and selecting ideas can be fully public and invite the entire community to offer their preferences and opinions. The key difference with the open source contributor funding process is it would be the contributors who have the responsibility to select the most promising ideas and respond to any community engagement and feedback. Contributors are paid for their contribution time meaning they can work on any idea during that time period that looks like it could be the most impactful for the ecosystem. The contributor is incentivised to respond to community feedback and work on impactful ideas as if they don’t they might not get selected again in future funding decisions.

Advantages for Web3 ecosystems

Efficient usage of incentives

Contributor funding helps with improving the efficiency of how assets get distributed. This is because any assets that get disbursed would be actively used to generate contribution outcomes for the ecosystem as they would only be distributed to pay for recent contribution efforts. Contributors would also only be eligible for future payment upon the submission of a previous monthly contribution log that demonstrates their contributions. This reduces the potential risks of assets sitting idle that can occur with over funded ideas where assets might not be used immediately to support contribution efforts that can generate impact for the ecosystem.

Environment helps create skilled contributors

A contributor funding process can help with creating an environment where contributors become highly skilled over time. Contributors would be able to work across one or many open source initiatives that could generate impact for the ecosystem. This exposure to many problems and applications across the ecosystem can help with providing contributors a lot more context and deeper understanding on what's working and what needs improvement across the ecosystem. Another skill set you help to enable is the ability for contributors to self identify where they can generate the most impact. The contributors who can master this skill of prioritisation the most effectively should have a better chance of being re-selected in future funding decisions. They could also be paid increasing amounts of bonus incentives over time as the ecosystem grows which would align the incentives with the contributors that generate the most impact.

Improved developer experience

Open source contributors can be a great solution for improving the developer experience over time. Open source initiatives can help with speeding up existing and future teams in developing their own solutions due to new software libraries and useful reference source code. Any developer experience improvements could have a large impact on the development of applications across the ecosystem. The faster and cheaper it becomes to build applications the more it can encourage people to build solutions or it could encourage more investment into the ecosystem to experiment with new use cases and opportunities. Open source contributors could directly support these teams in understanding and applying the different libraries and tools that exist across the ecosystem and help them improve their own solutions. Open source software helps to create a flywheel of making it easier and easier to develop applications and protocols that are increasingly complex over time.

Increased collaboration

Collaboration is another area that open source contributors could help with. Open source contributors will help to develop new open source software but they can also help existing teams with building their own open source solutions. If contributors are available to help different projects there is an increased opportunity for collaboration to emerge across these projects when shared problems are identified. Solutions that can help with addressing these shared problems can be more easily identified by contributors who are supporting many projects. These intersecting software solutions could be extremely useful for speeding up the development of ecosystem projects. Contributors can be seen as a collaborative glue that helps to bring together the ecosystem to more easily identify the most important shared problems that these contributors could then address. Increasing the amount of collaboration can help with reducing the amount of duplicated efforts and outcomes that would have likely occurred if these contributors weren’t available to help with developing different open source solutions.

Incentivises open source solutions

Open source contributors could help better incentivising projects in an ecosystem to open source their software. Open source contributors should have a policy that they are only allowed to work on open source software. This simple policy helps to create a positive reinforcing incentive for projects in an ecosystem to open source their code. A project with only a few developers could have immediate access to the support of numerous open source contributors that can help with their projects development if they choose to open source. Projects that decide to not open source their code would need to compete with projects that do which could give them a serious disadvantage. This simple incentive could lead to a growing percentage of projects that open source their code from the start of their project rather than years down the line. The development speed of the entire ecosystem could be increased due to this compounding effect of having access to lots of open source code as a learning resource for other projects.

Reduces game theory risks

Open source contributors can help with reducing certain game theory risks. Contributors would state what their expected salary is when proposing as a candidate to become an open source contributor. There is a large amount of data available online that helps to show what the lower and upper ranges are for different roles and skill sets. This makes it more difficult for a contributor candidate to exaggerate the amount of funding they should expect based on the evidence they provide. This approach can help to prevent the issues that can exist with idea based proposals where the amount of time they say it will take is exaggerated. The exaggerated idea cost problem is far more difficult to disprove without reviewing each of those ideas separately in more depth.

Future opportunities & narratives

Faster adoption of self sovereign identity solutions

Self sovereign identity is an important growing technology that can help people with taking control over their identity and data. Open source contributors could be a fantastic approach for increasing the adoption of this technology. Credentials could initially just be used to provide proof that a contributor has been selected in the funding process to become a funded open source contributor. That simple credential could be used for a number of governance related decisions between contributors or for execution decisions. Credentials can then also be useful for recording contribution history, impact and performance, education & skills and any peer to peer attestations that help with building up a contributors reputation. Credentials could help with providing more evidence about the contributions and impact that each contributor has helped to generate for the ecosystem. Potential contributors could also start building up their reputation at any time which would then help them with getting selected in future contributor funding decisions. If these types of credentials help to increase the chance that someone becomes a funded contributor in the future then there is an increasing reason for contributors to adopt and utilise this technology. Funding open source contributors could help with creating a bottoms up approach for adopting self sovereign identity solutions that can scale to handle a growing amount of contributors over time.

Impact & performance incentives

Another exciting area worth ongoing thought is the measuring of impact that each contributor generates and their overall performance. Improving the ecosystems ability to better record and understand which contributors have been the most performant or that have helped to generate the most impact can help with making future funding decisions easier. The top performers could be paid bonus incentives for their contribution efforts which would help to better align the incentives by rewarding the best performers. If performance and impact can be more accurately measured there is an opportunity to explore the usage of algorithmic based solutions that help with suggesting what bonus or compensation each contributor could be paid based on the evidence of contribution history and the amount of impact they are generating.

Defining the future of work

Paying people for their time is not a novel concept. However an open source contributor funding process could become an evolution of the existing employment model that is adopted across most companies today. Open source contributors inherit many of the benefits that these previous working arrangements have but then go further by giving contributors more flexibility, autonomy and self ownership of their career trajectory and reputation. Contributors would be their own boss and would decide themselves who they work with and what they work on. A good contributor funding process could enable contributors to more freely move around ecosystems based on a provable reputation and be paid what they’re worth based on their contribution history, performance and impact. The tools and processes developed whilst experimenting and building out this funding process could ultimately change how people work in these emerging ecosystems.

Fixing open source funding

Trying to fix open source funding has been a growing problem for a number of years. Many open source libraries have become vital solutions and pieces of infrastructure for many large companies and widely used systems. Getting sufficient funding to pay for the contribution efforts that are needed to develop these software solutions has been an ongoing problem. Web3 ecosystems have an opportunity to fix open source funding. Funding contributors directly to work on open source initiatives is one way this problem could be solved. Contributor compensation could eventually achieve similar or higher levels of compensation than comparative roles in large tech companies as Web3 ecosystems grow and require highly skilled professionals.

Replacing founding entity structures

This suggested funding process has the opportunity to replace the founding entity structures. Founding entities are hopefully looking to give up the control and development of the network and give this stewardship and responsibility over to the community. The community should ideally have some way to influence who is paid to help improve and maintain the network. Achieving this will mean making the network more decentralised which would mean fulfilling the original intentions of the ecosystems, where these networks should be governed by the people that use them. The open source contributor funding process could help achieve this outcome as it provides a way for voters to fund contributors that can maintain and improve the network. This process could also help with reducing the potential issues of a single actor or small group of individuals from having excessive amounts of control and influence over the network. Once this funding process matures the employees inside the existing founding entities could start to migrate to working for the ecosystem through the open source contributor funding process.

Future funding opportunity

Open source contributors have the potential to help with many different responsibilities. Supporting protocol and software library development is a great place to start however as this funding process matures there is a opportunity to expand the responsibilities to also include network & infrastructure development, application development and ecosystem initiatives. If this contributor funding process proves effective it could even become one of the most adopted and effective funding processes for Web3 ecosystems. The analysis so far helps to suggest that it also could be far more effective than many of the idea funding approaches that we see today.


An open source contributor funding process represents a highly promising funding approach for Web3 ecosystems. This funding process has a massive amount of potential to improve how treasuries disburse assets to more consistently generate impact for ecosystems at scale.

For contributors, this suggestion provides a quick and simple approach for skilled contributors to participate and be considered as a contributor. It enables contributors to become autonomous actors in the ecosystem that have a simple mission to generate impact for the ecosystem. Contributors would benefit from increased income stability and simplicity due to their compensation being directly paid to them from the treasury. A contributor funding process could become evolution of the employment model where people are even more empowered by having more flexibility to generate impact for an ecosystem in a way that most suits their preferences and skill sets. Contributors would have more ownership and responsibility over their career trajectory and reputation that they build up whilst contributing to an ecosystem.

For voters, this suggested contributor funding process could offer a far simpler and easier decision making process, making it easier for a larger number of community members to participate in treasury funding decisions. Contributor funding could become a far more scalable approach for disbursing treasury assets due to this simplicity.

For Web3 ecosystems, treasuries could become more effective at generating impact if assets are more efficiently and actively used to pay contributors directly and are not sitting idle in over funded ideas. Contributor funding could provide a reliable long term approach for developing open source initiatives that help to improve an ecosystems network, infrastructure, protocols, software libraries and applications. As this funding process matures there is an opportunity for creating a safe and reliable way for founding entities to push the stewardship of the ecosystem over to the community using this suggested contributor funding process.

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