Shlomi Fish (shlomif) wrote,
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Patronage and Self-Patronage

I hope you did not feel too bad about my previous post to this journal, which was of somewhat political nature. So here's a more technical-philosophical post which is in essence an essay.

Continuing with the thread in Perl-IL that I started, about the shortage of P-Languages (and FOSS in general) programmers in Israel, and the fact that employers have become more picky in hiring them, and my "Thoughts about Whether to Become Independent" threads in Perl-IL and in Hackers-IL, I'd like to go one step further. (Read the entire threads - they contain many important insights).

During the Renaissance (and possibly previously in the middle ages or before) it was customary for nobles and royals to become patrons of artists and scholars - sponsor their food and housing and in exchange become better known for the creations of these creative people. Now here I propose that now, well into the information age, such a paradigm may resurface, or already resurfaced in a way.

What I'm talking about is giving patronage to open source hackers: programmers, essayists/article writers/bloggers, artists, translators, QA people - all falling under the umbrella of people who hack. This patronage can be given by "rich people": companies, wealthy entrepreneurs, a collective donation of sponsorship, or other sources like that. In turn, the developer can do what he normally does, while possibly crediting his benefactors. (Depending on the terms of benefactors).

Now let's take me as an example. Being a 21st-century Homo sapiens, I require some basic things such as food, housing, clothing, electricity and good hardware, software and Internet resources. Without these things I won't be able to produce anything of value. Now, what I like to do the most, and what I feel like I'm the best at is hacking on various digital creations on my free time. You can find the stuff I wrote on my homesite. The license for most of it is very liberal, usually even Public Domain, BSD-style or CC-Attribution (CC-by).

Now, before I continue let me just say that I'm very happy with my workplace. The conditions there are excellent, the people are very nice, and I'd recommend every Israeli tech-worker who's looking for a job to consider working for them. However, lately I've been feeling that doing my day job's work is a waste of time, as strange as it sounds. I feel that I'm much more productive, helpful and as a result satisfied hacking on voluntary stuff.

Obviously, I still have to eat and stuff. Which is where Patronage kicks in. Why can't I get someone or some people to support me so I can continue to do what I like most of the time?

Having a patronage does not mean I'm going to stop trying to earn some money on my own. On my home site I have a page with several ways I can make money. Before I got a job, I made a substantial amount of money off gigs, like writing articles for online publications, proof-reading documents and books, or writing code. Now I also have several ideas for several projects that are both open source but also have a commercial potential, which I cannot work on.

If I get a patronage, I can still do these things, and possibly have a share of the money I receive for such things be payed back to my patron (or donated to a charity approved by him). This brings me to Self-Patronage where such gigs make me entirely self-supportive.

I'm not going to quit my job just yet, albeit I've certainly been happier without a job, and with a full time dedicated to hacktivity. I wonder who will want to hire me to do the random stuff I normally do. I tend to have the attention span of a child, and also work on several articles and essays simultaneously. I have many projects that I started and are in a usable state, and which I multiplex between them, and do bits of each every time.

I've already set up a donation page, but I'm not sure PayPal donations can be directly translated into Israeli currency. Most of what I have in my account now is for commissions, but it's a start. I also placed some Google ads on my site, but I have yet to reach the 100 dollars mark.

I do not claim to be the inventor of Patronage and Self-Patronage. It is well known that some developers collected donations to sponsor them for a year or even more. And increasingly we've seen many professional bloggers or self-employed open source developers. But it is something that any creative person should consider.

Tags: computers, hacking, patronage, philosophy
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