Talking tech since 2003

What if I told you could work on open source projects full-time and make a living from that?  You would get to do what you love and make money for it.  That’s what Chad Whitacre is looking to accomplish with Gittip.  The site, which uses the tag line: inspiring generosity, is doing just that.  With over 1,110 active community members on Gittip in under a year, they are currently exchanging over $3,000 every week. While it’s not necessarily at the point where you would be able to quit your job and work on open source projects full-time, the site has been continually growing.

“Gittip was sort of born out of this frustration with having chased the startup dream,” said Mr. Whitacre.  He went on to say, “I mean it’s risky, right? How many people get to build Instgram and get to sell it for a billion dollars… like six of us.”  And he’s right.  But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be able to work on what they are passionate about — now with Gittip they can and possibly even get paid for doing it.

Users of Gittip can elect to send and receive money from each other, people who send money can send anywhere from $0.25 cents to $24 every week.  The idea behind the cap of $24 is to spread the load, “I want people to be able to rely on Gittip to pay their bills,” said Mr. Whitacre, so with the cap, if someone for whatever reason decided to stop giving, it wouldn’t be too hard of a hit on the individual receiving money on Gittip.

John Resig, the creator of the jQuery library is on Gittip and currently receives around $60 per week from people who feel his work is worth compensating him for.  That’s pretty cool.

With more people being able to work on open source projects full-time, it could also have some very interesting affects on the open source community at large.  “I want to see open products, not just developer tools out in the open,” said Mr. Whitacre.  By having people develop open products, it could lead to more collaboration and potentially even more innovation, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Gittip also recently launched something called Communities, to help other communities partake in Gittip.  The idea being that any community that can self-organize can get their own home page on Gittip.  The top communities on Gittip as of writing this article are for Javascript, Python, Korea, Node.js, and Ruby.  All of them with over 200 members.  But there are other communities on the site as well, I even saw one for NYC, which is awesome. “The hope is that Communities can give people the sense that they’re participating in something,” said Mr. Whitacre, who went on to say, “I hope this will help us branch beyond just programming, open source, and tech. I would love for Gittip to work for non-programmers and non-techies.”

In terms of fees, Gittip looks to charge as little fees as possible.  The full details on the fees and how they work can be found here.  But perhaps the most important thing is that gifts (which are sent out every Thursday), are received at the full face value of the gifted amount.  So if someone is supposed to receive $3, they get $3 in their Gittip account — there are no fees taken out of that.

One of the key fundamentals behind Gittip is that it’s an open company, which means three things to Mr. Whitacre:

1. Share as much as possible (which is why we did an open interview), but you don’t share everything (e.g. server passwords).

2. Charge as little as possible for the service (which doesn’t necessarily mean charge nothing — price to cost, but don’t price to value).

3. Don’t compensate employees.

That’s his own interpretation of an open company, but he’s excited to see how other companies have been embracing the idea in their own ways.

So you might be wondering how Chad plans to earn a living if his company doesn’t compensate employees?  The answer is via Gittip, of course!


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