Geek / Technical Personal Development

Open Source Taxes

Flash game developers may remember Flixel, the open source game dev library created by Adam “Atomic” Saltsman.

HaxeFlixel is the Haxe-based port that eventually became its own full-featured, mature library that allows for deployment across not only Flash but many other platforms.

The five-year-old project is an open source project using the MIT License. That license, unlike the GPL, does not require code changes to be released to the public.

While the MIT License is appealing to developers who want to leverage freely available code for their own projects, there is nothing to encourage contributions to the source code of a project that is under that license.

The terms of the GPL requires any modifications to be released, so it solves the problem of people taking advantage of the code but not contributing back. But if a project’s developers don’t want to make that requirement, would prefer to have the MIT License applied instead, and still have people contribute to the project, whether in monetary terms or source code, what can be done?

How We Paid Our Open Source Taxes documents how the HaxeFlixel project was able to “collect its open source taxes with smiles on all sides.”

In this case, the core contributors realized that the project founder lives in an area where the cost of living is much, much less than it would be in, say, San Francisco. Just $6,000 would be enough.

So rather than having a vague fundraiser and hoping to make a bunch of money to meter out as needed, they were able to make a hyper-focused plea with their IndieGoGo campaign to get enough money to gain a full-time developer rather than require the project to continue to be supported by an all-volunteer base of contributors.

It’s kind of like when you talk to people about how much money they wish they had in life. Some people talk about “a million dollars” as if it is a lot of money that they’ll never see in reality, and other people realize that they can get penthouse apartments complete with maid service in some exotic countries for less than the cost of a New York apartment, such as what Tim Ferriss described in The 4-Hour Workweek.

The trick is learning what’s really possible.

HaxeFlixel’s story gives some insight into not only how an open source project operates but also teaches the lesson that if you know exactly what you need, it’s a lot easier to ask for it.