Gifting-back on your birthday

For a while, I have been thinking of economically viable business/funding models for open technology; I believe this is the most important problem facing open technology today. See some of my previous post here: the why? the how?

Fortunately, there are many efforts in this direction. But alas, it will take time before we converge on a long-term solution with no strings attached.

I propose an interim solution.

Assuming we are all most generous on our birthdays, the general idea is simple:

  1. On  your birthday allocate a small sum of money to donate proportionally to the open projects you use the most.
  2. Then, you can also share the list of projects with your friends so that they can gift-you by supporting the projects you care about.

And here is a (potential) practical plan for open software (open source, libre) projects.

On your birthday:

  1. Generate a list of programs with usage statistics and order by percent of usage.
    • Shell/Python script?
    • Output to a Spreadsheet/CSV file.
  2. Determine the amount of money you will donate this year to support the projects you use.
    • A small fraction of your disposable income? remember some of these programs allow you to get your work done.
  3. Multiply the sum of money by the fraction of usage for every project.
  4. Donate proportionally to every project.
    • The more you use a program, the larger the fraction of money devoted to support that project.
  5.  Share your program’s usage stats spreadsheet with all of your close friends.
    • Through e-mail or social media.
    • You can use dropbox, google docs …etc.
  6. Encourage your friends to donate to your listed projects as a gift on your birthday.
    • Perhaps to projects you both use.
    • When they donate you both receive the thank you e-mail.
  7. Update the shared spreadsheet with your friends’ names and send them a personal thank you note.

Steps 1-4 are personal donations (you can do these on your own). Steps (5-7) are gifts from your friends.

Note: Steps 1-4 could be automated in the future.

Thanks for reading, all comments are welcome.


5 thoughts on “Gifting-back on your birthday

  1. I like it. It reminds me of a “wedding registry” where you go to… (Target is the only store which comes to mind) …walk over to a kiosk, create your wedding profile and then enter in the items that you hope people will buy for you. In theory, you’d then hand out tastefully-written suggestions of where to find that registry.

    Presumably this could be a website registry where you-as-geek go visit, create a profile using your email address, blog name or similar as the lookup and then identify the repository owners with which you’d like to share the love.

    For what it’s worth, for two years running I convinced everyone to do a pay-it-forward version for me for both Christmas and my birthday: just donate the money to charity instead of giving me a gift. Since my favorite charity was this netted: a heifer, a water buffalo, a flock of geese, a beehive and a goat. Additionally, it also netted locally fifty Thanksgiving and fifty Christmas dinners for the needy. Not bad, huh? People actually want to dis-engage from the Christmas-fest shopping thing.


    • @1st paragraph: That is exactly right, the concept is very similar, I have seen many newly wed couples do it and it seems to work out pretty well. Though I haven’t seen it done too often for the support of causes or charities.

      @2nd paragraph: That is way better than anything I had envisioned, unfortunately web design is my Achilles heel, so I though I would just use a Google spreadsheet with the list of projects (and donation links) and share it with friends in Facebook, or something simple around those lines and progressively think of ways to improve the system (i know this is far from ideal) I will probably give it a shot this year. Also there are a couple of good sites that could be used as an alternative where people can contribute in a more interactive manner from one centralized location. (bountysource, snowdrift …etc)

      @3rd paragraph: That is pretty awesome, both for you as well as for your friends/family that donated for good causes, I imagine your friends/family were happy to do it? why did you stop?


      • Hm, well… I stopped because my wife divorced me, stole my life savings and married some guy she’d known from twenty years before that. Lost the house and everything and had to move out of there. It’s still a good idea, though. I can’t fault the generosity as much as it was the original decision to marry her. : shrugs :


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