We are here for the long run: growing a sustainable Hoodie community

posted by Gregor

When we started working on Hoodie back in 2012, we understood its potential. The technology was promising, and it still excites us to this day. Since the beginning we have been thinking a lot about how to grow Hoodie beyond ourselves, and we might have found the right tool to help us get there, together.

OpenCollective allows the Hoodie community to collect money from backers and sponsors in a transparent way, without the need to create a legal entity. This is huge, because we can focus on finding backers and sponsors, instead of using our resources for legal matters.

Join us on our mission to empower everyone to express themselves with technology, become a backer (starting at just $1 per month!) or an official sponsor (starting at $100 per month).

We have a lot more to say about this topic, please read on :)

Experience

Alex, Jan and myself worked on other successful Open Source projects before starting Hoodie in 2012. We have seen projects thrive, and we have seen them fade away. We have seen people spending a lot of time moving a project forward, and we’ve seen people harassed and friends burned out.

Based on our experience, we run things differently with Hoodie. We know that technology is not the biggest challenge. Maintaining it, creating an inclusive community around it, and growing and sustaining it, while keeping it independent, are the biggest challenges.

We think that a high adoption rate should not be Hoodie’s primary goal. If an independent Open Source project becomes too successful too fast, the balance between users, contributors, and maintainers becomes unhealthy; it’s a recipe for individual burnout and project failure.

Growing

Our plan is to grow Hoodie in three stages:

  1. The “Camp Release”: focus on growing the team of maintainers and contributors (our current stage)
  2. The “Village Release”: focus on growing the ecosystem of plugins, tutorials, and supporting organisations
  3. The Public Release: focus on growing Hoodie’s user base

So far the plan worked out great; we have a growing community of people with different talents and backgrounds. It took a lot of effort and we were only able to manage it because we were able to dedicate enough of our time to build a welcoming community. Now the question is: how can we scale our efforts?

We think the answer is to put the right people in charge of it. The long-term goal is to have enough funds to pay people to work full-time on managing the Hoodie community. Our first milestone is a part-time position, working one day per week for Hoodie, 50 weeks per year.

Money in Open Source: Boon and Bane

Introducing money to a volunteering environment is tricky.

  • Once there is money available, it is tempting to pay people to work on things like code, or tests, or documentation. And I believe that it helps to increase contributions by paying for it, but in the long term paying contributors can become the bane of a project. Two examples:

  • Contributors who get paid for their contribution once are less likely to contribute again. People will ask why one person gets paid while others don’t, for the same kind of work.

I’m not concerned about traditional open source contributions. I think the real challenge is to scale the work we currently put into making Hoodie the most welcoming community possible.

This kind of work is about serving the community. Less like volunteers, more like employees for a non profit organisation. The work is labour intensive, it has to be done constantly and it is happening in the background, often times invisible to the rest of the community. Sometimes it’s just to be available, in case moderation is needed in a discussion, or to enforce our code of conduct in a timely manner. And we have to hold people accountable for community work, which is much more practicable when paying for it.

Value

Why would people or organisations give money to an Open Source project in the first place? What value does a project like Hoodie bring?

First, Hoodie is an infrastructure project. Organisations building upon it have an interest for it to be in a healthy state.

Second, Hoodie has a good standing in the industry and our presence has positive side effects by our ability to sharing our learnings with the wider community, for example on what is working for us to become more diverse and inclusive. Supporting projects like Hoodie not only benefits the industry, it can also have positive reputational spillover effects on our sponsors.

And third, Hoodie has wide outreach. We have thousands of people visiting our website, following our blog, subscribing to our newsletter, or following us on twitter. We promote our sponsors through these channels, and publically appreciate their support just like we appreciate any kind of contribution at Hoodie.

Obstacles

Hoodie, like most Open Source projects, has no legal entity with a bank account, so what ends up happening is the people behind the project receive the money personally, or companies involved in the project write invoices. Legal obstacles were the main reason why we could not collect money for Hoodie in the past.

But even if Hoodie had a bank account, how would we make the cash flow transparent to the community? Because in the end, it’s the community that creates the value the money is received for, and it should be clear to them what is happening with it.

Meet OpenCollective

OpenCollective addresses both these obstacles. It allows communities to collect money from personal backers and sponsors in a transparent way, and without requiring a legal entity. They also take care of all bookkeeping and taxes.

How awesome is that? Thanks to OpenCollective, you can now support Hoodie financially, in a legal way, with full transparency.

This is huge!

The way it works is that OpenCollective serves as a proxy. All the money collected goes to their account. All the donations and expenses are listed transparently on Hoodie’s OpenCollective page. For all that, OpenCollective keeps a fee of 10% (which is fair given that we wouldn’t be able to do any of it without them).

We are ready! Help us to grow Hoodie

Starting today, you can

Become a Hoodie Backer, starting at $1/month or Become an official Hoodie sponsor, starting at $100/month.

This will help us grow Hoodie in a sustainable way. As our way of saying thanks, we will list all backers and sponsors on Hoodie’s GitHub page and all sponsors will appear on hood.ie/sponsoring with shoutouts on Twitter and our blog.

These are exciting times for Hoodie and Open Source, in general. And we are just getting started. Big shout out to our friends at OpenCollective, for all your hard work so far, and all the hard work to come. We are in this together <3


Thanks to Jan Lehnardt, Jana Gallus, Jenn Turner, Nadia Eghbal and Pia Mancini for their reviews.