Paid Contributions: The Kernel vs The Map

By Cj Malone on

OpenStreetMap and Linux are pretty similar in a lot of ways. The licences are both copyleft, require attribution, and allow modification and re distribution. Both projects have a foundation to look over them, but are relatively hands of on day to day operations. Both foundations have corporate sponsorship to fund them.

However when it comes to edits, the projects differ. Linux is now hugely dominated by paid developers, OSM is almost exclusively volunteers. One reason for this may be because most downstream users of OSM use it exclusively as a base map, they use there POI data on top and then almost laughably link to Google Maps for directions. They are only using a tiny portion of OSM. (And they are missing out!)

Lots of Linux contributors are paid employees of a business, usually tasked with fixing or implements a specific thing. As far as I know only Amazon does this in OSM, paying employees to fix routing issues. Sometimes this is closer to having a benefactor, where the business pays the employee to work on what ever they want and the benefactor trusts it's in the best interest over all. Mark Shuttleworth ran Ubuntu as a loss for a long time, they contributed to the whole ecosystem during that time. I guess Mapbox might have the finances to be able to be a benefactor, but other than them there doesn't seem to be a lot of money around.

Some developers are founded directly through other people on platforms like Patreon. I don't think this is a massive in the kernel space, although a few high profile developers for other projects do it. You would then get the freedom to spend your time how you wanted, working on projects that interest you. This is similar to having a benefactor although you have to spend a significant amount of time and effort marketing yourself, and being your own PR. I don't think OSM has a big enough crowd to support this.

Some developers work as contractors just implementing or fixing things for one off payments, bug bounties are a form of this. This is less popular in the kernel than other projects, possibly because of the amount of paid employees contributing, but it still exists. This maybe the a viable option for paid edits in OSM, if a company wants to ensure that all there stores are listed and of high quality in OSM they could hire someone from the community to do so. Somebody who already knows the tools, somebody who knows the community, somebody who knows the how to integrate there data into OSM.

It's no secret that I want to turn OSM editing into my job, employee, contractor or my own business. I just don't know where to start.