Change Open Source

Open Source of real life

I love Open Source. As a developer, you write a lot of stuff over and over again every day. To solve that problem many years ago some developers shared their code with everyone else and created an Open Source community. I mean how many times do you have to write “create a user” functionality. Now you just pick any Open Source library and some of the tasks are done for you.

There’s a lot of advantages of Open Source starting with the contribution of many people towards one functionality, through the quality check of your coding by other people up to my favourite – the community. All those people around the world working on Open Source projects have to communicate with each other in order to create something useful and good. That created bigger and smaller communities of Open Source makers and users around the world, people who often share similar problems and they talk to each other.

I’ve been running WordPress (Open Source Content Management System) Meetups for nearly 3 years. I got involved in the community by my friend Tarei and we had a lot of fun organising Meetups and even conferences. One thing that I’ve learned organising WordPress conference is that everything has to be “Open” and that included the budget. Organising WordPress conference is a volunteer role, you don’t get paid, however, the cost of the conference is real. It’s in tens of thousands of dollars and you have to get the money. In order to do that you combine sponsor payments and attendees through (really) cheap tickets and it’s all pulled together by volunteer organisers. And at the end of the conference, we’re always proud to show a breakdown of our budget with every dollar spent and earned displayed.

Now let me argue this – if that’s possible for tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for the conference – why is it no possible in everyday life in many cases. You see one of my biggest issues with donating to charities is that I have no idea where the money is going to. Have you ever seen a financial statement of any charity? I’ve seen one recently made by KPMG and it might as well be Chinese to me, full of economic jargon and accounting abbreviations. And there’s no detailed breakdown, just generic “$xx spent on clothing, $xx spent on research” well that’s good but what is that research, who did you give clothes to.

Here’s a charity that I would donate money too at any time – a charity that displays cash balance from their bank account live on their website. Something like this:

  • -$12.50 for a coffee and food for a poor person
  • $5 donation
  • -$230 shopping for poor family…

Every expense, every income clearly displayed. And I don’t mind people working for charities and earning money, don’t get me wrong. If you want a talented person to lead a great charity – they need to be paid equally to the commercial counterpart. Otherwise, what’s going to be their motivation to stay in charity and lead it when the private sector pays 5 times more. A lot of people recently complained about Qantas CEO getting his bonus in tens of millions of dollars. But he improved airlines profit to billions of dollars so why not? If he’s so efficient why not award him so he keeps going? Similarly with charity, if someone is good at helping people and organising money, why not pay him well so he keeps helping. So “-$3000 weekly salary payment to CEO” wouldn’t scare me – I would still donate, probably even more. I would have this confidence that the transparency, open-source of income and spending, earns my trust that the money is spent where I want to help.

Let’s take a step forward, what if that would be the government’s requirement – imagine Utopia, Open Source government. Every dollar spent and earned by each agency goes to website feed. You see exactly where the money is going to. Maybe divided into groups since that would be obviously a much bigger feed, but why not. Recently we’ve got a petrol tax introduced in Auckland – something that our Mayor said was required for road and transport upgrades. However, over a year in and no one really sees any new road works or updates. So where’s the money going to? They spent millions they said, but where? And how is it different from the pre-tax spending? And who exactly is getting the money. You see the lack of transparency creates suspicions and I don’t really care whether the money went to the road funding or someone’s pocket – as long as we’re super clear about it and listing it publically, you can do anything you want with the money – the worst case you won’t get voted in next time. Open Source of real life – that would be a dream.

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