The Web 2.0 dream is to be able to give something away while still making a living on it. That may work for Cory Doctorow, but for most of us, it’s untenable. The only mechanism I’ve seen for paying open source peeps for consumer-grade projects is donations. Paypal and Amazon both provide an ability to donate to a project, as does Pledgie, but I haven’t seen anything that makes donating easy.
Then I found Flattr. It allows donors to give micropayment-style donations to anyone with a web page (and a Flattr account). It makes life easier for donors because they choose how much they will give a month, and that amount is divided amongst their donees.
It isn’t perfect. The Flattr community is pretty sparse, and there’s no way to set a recurring Flattr, but they’re 90% of the way there. It’d be great if Canonical, vim, Parcellite, Google Chrome, kdenlive, and Guake accepted Flattrs.
If you’re looking for an invitation, hit me up with the contact form and I’ll hook you up.
It’s a bad sign that I’m getting my local news from the blogotubes, but I couldn’t resist posting a link to a bit of investigative journalism done by the folks at Miss Vicky’s Offhand Remarks.
In a nutshell: the city (at Larry O’Brien’s bidding) paid a consultant $80,000 to help develop the city budget. Part of that budget mentioned outsourcing parking meter management as a cost-saving measure, pointing to the success of Hamilton’s parking meter outsourcing. Miss Vicky and the Webgeek did some Googling, and discovered that:
Hamilton handles its own parking meters, thank you very much
Dundas, which recently amalgamated with Hamilton, did contract out their parking meter management, but now wants to reincorporate the service back into their city. The goal is to increase profit being seen in the old municipality of Dundas.
The comments contain an interesting back-and-forth between Blake Batson and the purveyors of Miss Vicky’s on whether outsourcing of a profitable really service is a good idea. Reasons to outsource: a private company has a stronger profit motive than government, so it should be able to be more efficient (ie, a greater return without charging the public more). Reasons not to oursource: the tender process is expensive, and the city will eventually realize that it can be as profitable as the private company and it will reintegrate the service anyway.
Of course, when you factor in that we’re dealing with a finite amount of profit, the silent costs of outsourcing add up: paying off employees who are let go, legal fees for tender and reacquisition, costs of studies to ensure that the private organization is doing a decent job, cost of interacting with the outsourcing firm, et cetera. The devil is in the details.
This text was originally posted on Saturday, November 17, 2007 by Erigami Scholey-Fuller.