Monetizing open-source

I created ScreamFreely, and MnActivist, to use open-source software in a way that provides a living for myself.

It would be pre-emptive to say the I have achieved this goal in totality; though upon receiving our organization’s first client check, it is reasonable to reflect on the path.

the Idea

Open-source is a vast network of bells, whistles, pulleys, levers and more.

And there are a great many ways to monetize the maintenance of these resources.

Some use donation, others provide licenses with additional support.

There are variations enough to write a few articles, I suspect; though many of these paths seemed inaccessible to me.

I was relatively poor, housing and food insecurity, without a supportive community.

To say that I couldn’t would be a misnomer, though the anxiety so often prevented peace long enough to follow through on the requisite study.

I needed to create something that was aligned with the lifestyle that had been foisted upon me.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I knew the best way for anyone to make change in their community was to participate in their community.

But social media sources were segregated and disparate, sufficient only in their individual lanes as an organizing resource; and subject to social segregation.

What if every morning I was able to wake up and quick review what my elected officials had on the slate for the day on an app?

No ads. No tracking; just the info?

First to market

We were not!

As a matter of fact there are others in the community creating similar products, albeit using a corporate methodology.

Open-source exists as a resource even proprietary organizations can use to build commercial products; the need to maintain packages for these clients is a fantastic revenue generator for the open-source community.

The gov-tech, civic-tech, space also has many legacy providers, along with new entrants bolstered by venture-capital.

How ever could we compete?

Whenever I would mention my work, I was directed to the principal corporate organization doing similar work.

Eventually through the industrial-diversity-complex, I interviewed with the primary proprietor of this aforementioned organization.

In time, I had the chance to do work for them; I was not seeing success, or traction in my own work, and an exploration of the corporate side would be a good experience.

And it was.

But there is a bit of a misalignment between corporate ventures in community organizing spaces.

While in any application, without on-the-ground experience all the community survey’s will never allow you to comprehend the user’s needs if they have never been your own.

a Community

The end-user is always the individual, you serve them by building bridges between them.

Then you optimize the bridges.

That’s basic product production in the digital era.

And the competitiveness in product creation will continue to escalate.

Perhaps similar to Moore’s law, though without tangible constraints ?

How else can we serve the community then?

Whatever we create as an application can be poached by VC – especially if we keep to our ethics of open-source to be completely transparent.

How can we generate an audience, and usership ?!?!

That’s the real question!

We’re already open-source … how can we leverage this, instead of seeing it as a barrier to monetization?

There is a ton of data to maintain!

And I am not professionally trained in this work, I have professionally trained myself to do this work!

Big difference when trying to engage others – my feet are in three worlds, organizing, programming and entrepreneurship.

I needed help!

What if I trained others to maintain the platform?

What if we used the entire process as a paid educational opportunity for people to learn how to code, and build their own portfolio?!?

Two birds with a single stone; I could enlist help to maintain the project, while generating a heck of a community to promote the project!

a Product

We recently registered as vendors for our nexus state so as to receive our first check from a public school district.

I have created a six-week course to introduce anyone to a full web-development stack.

We have been asked to augment this for a 12-week course to be implemented next fall.

Though these courses students create a GitHub account, and build a portfolio of work for themselves, complimented by open-source contributions to our application.

This is a tangible product, built on open-source, that we are able to sell for profit enough to support our work of maintaining the project, and employing others to help us in this.

We already have personal apps released as proofs-of-concept, and are working on an application specific to organizations. This app-variant allows organizations to connect with their community through our platform as well.

And in so doing, we have found a way to monetize open-source software.

New Project Release: Django Social Post

The goal is to have a headquarters for social media posts, and now I’ve laid the foundation.

Twitter, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram and more, are all managed by a central Django application, and a few bash scripts.

I read about growth hacking and I gave up my email address for a few PDFs :p

Underneath it all seems to be two principles:

Learn your audience.

Be consistent.

The first goal is hard enough, while the second too often becomes insurmountable.

Scripting can make this easier!

Django Social Posting

So what we do is create a TweetLink object, and provide varying copy to associate with the link!

Boom, write a bash and python script that can be run through cron every few hours –

The python script can randomize which link and piece of copy is chosen –

Social media is like digital highways paved in advertisements.

Consistency converts because of accessibility.

Your audience can’t engage something they don’t see!

Beyond Twitter

Twitter is one of the easier API’s to access, you only need to a phone number attached to your account.

For everything else I used IFTTT ~ which is a platform that allows your social media platforms to interact with each other!

When a picture or video is added to Instagram, it is automatically reposted to a Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter!

Push send once, and sink three buckets!


Then I use the python requests library, to send a packet of data to an IFTTT webhook… and this triggers an event!

Now, instead of just randomizing and automating tweets, we passing content along to Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit as well.

Public Release

After setting a few more parameters to mitigate over-posting to platforms like Reddit – it will be read for production.

In time, this will connect with our TweetCollector project, for a new DreamFreely product.

Along with Patreon, now Gumroad

[Update: I have since read more about other platforms, and will link to a post when it is written.]

Gumroad is an online platform that enables creators to sell products directly to consumers.

I made the switch to Gumroad, from Patreon, because the services it provides are much more aligned with what I am trying to accomplish.

The music, poetry and updates I want to share, I wish them to accessible to anyone that wants them!

Gumroad allows for this through their primary sign-up!

For those wishing and able, to provide financial support, that is entirely possible too!

Why the switch?

Patreon had some issues a year or so ago when they tried to change their fee structure.

This was the consequence of investor frustrations ~ it is happening again.

Patreon seems have payout delays rather frequently.

I know, I had like 6 patrons ~ they were awesome, but its not like I was missing out rent checks …

Though one day I do hope to serve a larger audience than half-a-dozen amazing friends.


Patreon automatically assumes that a paywall needs to exist for people to stay updated with your profile.

Gumroad allows people to just subscribe with their email address to get all of the goods.

This is more aligned with the level of accessibility I would like to maintain!


I have the first 16 weeks scheduled out for every new follower!

Which is amazing ~

This provide 16 weeks of content for every amazing individual who decides to follow my updates!

I have 16 weeks to get my act together to be posting regular up-dates; and considering what is being started, I think it is entirely possible to creating music monthly, along with poetry and conversations, to build a regular show.

Moreover, I can continue to do this!! With other various content …

(I just found a new tool: Pressbooks.)

With Patreon, I am not able to do this; in effect, content on Patreon is one-time use.

With Gumroad, every piece of content is new for every user!

Custom domain

When building a brand, it is a boon to have all of the primary assets closely networked.

Gumroad does this by allowing me to use my own url for my own store ~

The interface remains sleek with an easy payment system; my only qualm is that the story URL is not secured with HTTPS.

The payment pages are protected, and so this becomes more of an aesthetic ding in the presentation, than anything else.

Future Products

Gumroad brings together the benefits of MailChimp, with a point-of-sales interface.

The next product I plan to release will be documentation for the six-week coding class I am building for ScreamFreely.

Here again, scheduling Workflows with Gumroad, I will be able to schedule the entire course for every participant.

Instead of focusing my time on creating individual curriculum, I can focus on what else students will need to succeed and improving the curriculum I have!

There are other course ideas brewing.

Gumroad has been a bit of a revelation.

And so, away we go!