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.
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.
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!
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.