Open Source Software Developers Find A Home At Gitcoin

Blockchain, FinTech, Group, Innovation | November 28, 2017 By:

Open source software is often the ugly stepchild of technology development. Because developers are largely donating their time and efforts, progress lags on building better versions of apps, blockchains and other software. That stifles progress, and leaves advancement in the hands of for-profit ventures, many of them without the public’s best interests at heart.

Offering a solution is the Gitcoin project, which started in September and claims to be the first blockchain-based network for funding contributions to open-source software. By using blockchain technology, Gitcoin can allow anyone to place bounties of ether or ethereum-based tokens on development issues, creating an incentive for developers to take action.

Gitcoin is currently running pilot projects iwth Metamask, Truffle and the ConsenSys Security Best Practices, all of them part of the ConsenSys venture production studio and software development consultancy that is focused on blockchain.

Kevin Owocki, the Gitcoin founder, talked with Block Tribune about the venture’s plans and dreams.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Let’s start with the basics. Why is this new division important?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  Gitcoin is exciting because open Source powers a large portion of our 21st Century information economy, and up until now corporate sponsorship has been required in order to really sustain open source software. Gitcoin is a product that unbundles the business model of larger open source repositories and makes it possible for small and medium size repos to push their repositories forward by monetizing contributions to open source software. What Uber did for ride sharing is what Gitcoin is aiming to do for knowledge work and for open source software contributions. Open source software is like man up from the heavens. It powers a large portion of our economy, and it’s a path for middle class life for millions of young software developers. I think it’s an important place to start at.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Because it’s important, doesn’t necessarily mean that it can attract people, right? Because it seems to be that most of the developers that would work on this are using it as kind of like a hobby that they’re trying to do, mainly because there is no monetary incentive. Is that an accurate perception?

KEVIN OWOCKI: I think we’re in an interesting place where open source creates billions of dollars in economic value every year, and the people who have to contribute to it can charge $100 or $200 in an hourly rate, but the expected value of open source is $0 because people learn to expect it for free. The truth of the market dynamics, if you introduce a block chain network in there, is somewhere in between those vastly different numbers, and that’s what we’re designed to test out.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  What is the difference in the incentives between what you guys will probably offer the developers and what private industry can? In other words, are people going to have to have that sense of mission because they’re going to have to take less money than they could possibly get elsewhere? I know developers are kind of a rare breed right now.

KEVIN OWOCKI:  Yeah. I mean the market dynamics are such that if you’re a software developer, it’s three to one job postings that are available versus developers that are available in the market. The market … It’s a buyers market when it comes to talent, or sorry, a sellers market. Yeah, so Gitcoin as a platform is agnostic to the pricing of individual bounties. You as the repo maintainer can place a bounty that’s either generous or stringent depending on what your budgetary and marketing requirements are. Now I’ll say, that with the initial pilot programs that I’m doing with Consentus, we’re airing on the side of generosity, because we want to grow the industry, and we have a long term view towards building the Ethereum ecosystem.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: How are you reaching out to this community? What methods are you doing to make them aware of this?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  I think that open source developers get their information primarily through word of mouth, so the idea is to see the project with a corset of early adopters that are passionate about working in open source software and getting paid for it, giving them a really great user experience, and then hoping that they tell their friends. I will say that at the moment, I am super focused on quality of user experience and not ongoing big, because I think that you have to nail the former before you can nail the later.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: How will this work? You’re going to be working with the Bounties Network, so people will go to their site, and there will be listings there of available things that need to be done?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  Yeah, that’s right.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Simple enough.

KEVIN OWOCKI:   Yeah, easy answer. Yeah.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Is there a fee that the Bounties Network charges, or takes from these projects?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  No, not at the moment. We’re super focused on providing value, and there’s no rent seeking or token behavior at this time associated with the project.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Now, the silos indicated in the press release indicated that there’s going to be a bug feature in securities silos.

KEVIN OWOCKI:  Yeah, right now we’re looking at features, bugs, security bounties. An emerging category for us is documentation, which is one that we haven’t even really considered. It seems like there’s a lot of developers who are willing to pay for someone to look through their code and create documentation for them. That’s a fourth category that we’re looking at. Yeah, that’s sort of where we’re at now.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  Where do you see the developer shortage heading? Will this be sort of solved in two years, three years, or is this going to be something that might take a decade or more to catch up on?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  Oh man, you know? I am not an economist, but my arm chair economist reaction is that I think that it’s incumbent on us who have been in the industry for several years to provide on ramps, to people who are training to become a developer, training to become a developer to get middle class lifestyle. I think that Gitcoin and the Bounties Network are an opportunity to do that, because you can sort of hedge your bets and learn about the Ethereum and block chain ecosystem, learn about software development without quitting your job when you take work through the Bounties Network and Gitcoin. It’s possible if you have a day job, working in some field that’s not technology, to pull a nights and weekends gig working on Open Source software, by working on a Gitcoin task, and therefore test the waters of going into technology, test your swim legs being a developer. I think that that’s the on ramp that Gitcoin is looking to provide to the 21st Century economy for millions of middle class Americans.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  You have three pilot projects that are on their way. What status are they at, and what’s the ETA on getting them done?

KEVIN OWOCKI: So the pilot projects that we’ve got right now are MetaMask, Truffle and Consentus Security Best Practices. I’m really excited to be working with those folks, because their banner brands in web three and in Ethereum. The status with each of those is that we’ve posted between three to five funded issues for each repository and are working on delivering value back to the repo maintainers in getting those funded issues turned around, and at the same time providing value to the developer community by allowing them to work with some of the best brands in Open Source software. The status right now is that 35% of the issues that were posted late last week are either in progress or have been turned around, and we expect by the middle of December that 80% of those issues will be turned around. By providing the monetization incentives to the developers, we’re able to push those repositories forward, and I think that’s a win for both sides of the market.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What does MetaMask do and what does Truffle do?

KEVIN OWOCKI:  So MetaMask is a wallet for Google Chrome, or Brave, or Firefox browsers. Basically it takes your traditional web browser and it makes it into an Ethereum enabled browser, so that you can send Ethereum and Ethereum-based tokens. That’s MetaMask. Truffle is … Think of Truffle as [inaudible 00:08:57] beyond rails, but for the Ethereum ecosystem, so it gives you a way of deploying your contracts and managing state, and managing tests for Ethereum code repository, and it’s the emerging standard upon which all of … Well, let’s say 80% of the solidity ecosystem is built upon.