Support Open Source through non-profit bundling

A week after Heartbleed wreaks havoc on the internet, I read this article that says unless Open SSL is properly funded, it could happen again.

Open source software is probably the greatest use of the internet; a utopian idea many were shooting for in the first years of it’s existence: the ability to bring bright minds together for the advancement of society.  Their contributions have benefited most everyone–as the wide swath of people affected by heartbleed will attest to–and yet none of these people have ever contributed a dime.  If they had, heartbleed might never have been an issue.

Utopian ideas are well and good, but the fact of the matter is we live staunchly entrenched in a capitalist society.  I’m not saying that it’s a better solution, I’m saying that is reality.  If you give something away for free, you cannot expect people to do the right thing.  People will use your product and be ever so grateful it existed; then feel a little bad when they don’t contribute anything toward your product, but still have many excuses, or just avoid you altogether, when asked to put a little money in the pot.  *cough*wikipedia*cough*

I am one of those people.  My excuse?  I’m poor.  All my friends will attest to that.  In fact, if there’s one thing in my life that has been consistent, it is my dismal financial situation.  I write a blog no one reads for heaven’s sake.  But, in reality, I could probably spare $20 a year.  The problem is, after living hand-to-mouth for so long, thinking about that $20 as a lump sum always makes me nervous.

What I propose is a way to tack on non-profit donations to my internet bill.  I don’t want to think about donating any lump sum, much less to more than one organization.  But if my internet bill were five dollars more a month, I probably wouldn’t notice.  That extra five dollars could be divided up between Open SSL, Wikipedia or whatever else I chose to support!  And since it’s bundled with the internet I already pay for, it doesn’t feel like another burden on my meager income.

You could take this concept and run with it, and make a whole business out of bundling non-profit donations.  That way instead of having twenty bucks here and thirty-five dollars there taken out piecemeal, you could enroll in a program that will auto-deduct a certain amount every month.  Then you can support your NPR, PBS, ASPCA and whatever else feel you need to.  You won’t be surprised when your membership comes due at random times during the year, it will just automatically renew if you’re enrolled.  And you’ll be able to plan for it every month, since it will be a regularly recurring transaction, like other bills.  You can feel good about yourself and forget about it!

On Demand Dinners

The “Everything On Demand” culture that’s currently en vogue is rubbing me the wrong way a bit.  If you can afford it, there is an app that will send someone grocery shopping for you; there’s an app that will send someone to pick up and drop off your dry cleaning for you; someone who will clean your house for you, someone who will cook and deliver it for you, someone who will deliver you for you…  It’s all a bit too much.  I know it’s supposed to make our lives convenient, but I can’t help but think it just makes us lazy.  Let’s be honest with ourselves, are you really spending ALL that time working?

I don’t think I could use some of these services out of principle.  20 years ago delivery people were usually high school or college students making a little cash on the side.  Today, they’re more likely to be heads of families doing whatever they can to make ends meet.  It’s hard for me to use a service that employs modern day servitude.  But this wasn’t meant to be a lecture.

I’m sure the problem is also my perspective.  Having worked as a delivery person for Caviar I know what it means to hustle for tips, and then freak out the second you’re not insanely busy.  It’s a lot of mental wear and tear for the deliverer all because someone was too lazy to put on a pair of pants and venture forth into the world.

In this case, I’m only going to pick on the meals-on-demand companies that cook a balanced healthy meal for you that day, usually only two options: veggie or meaty; then deliver them to you within minutes of your ordering via a delivery person who has a hot box in their car stocked full, trolling the neighborhood, waiting for someone to bite.

Some people are legitimately busy; and I understand that home cooked meals are sometimes a luxury.  You’ve worked a ten hour day, get home, and are too starving or exhausted to spend another 30 minutes or so trying to whip up a meal of the meager contents in your pantry.  It’s too late to actually go out and eat, or you’re too tired.  Instead, you call SpoonRocket or Sprig or one of the other home-cooked meals-on-demand services that will whisk a piping hot healthy meal to your doorstep in 10 minutes or less.  Pretty amazing, right?

The problem with this model is on the business side.  In order for you to get your piping hot healthy meal to you in no time at all, requires a fleet of folks just driving around in their cars, waiting for a call to come through.  This seems like a lot of wasted time and energy to me.  The company will spin it as something you can do in your off-time to make a little cash on the side, and who doesn’t like more cash?  But you know what?  I think I like my off-time as actual down time better.  My idea of spending my free time is not in a car driving around in circles and speeding to my destination once an order comes through.

On demand does not necessarily have to mean delivery.  In fact, I think there’s a better way to handle this problem.  What if the meal were waiting conveniently for you somewhere on your way home?  Say, in a large cooler in the metro station?  You could pick up dinner, hop on the train, pop it in the oven and by they time you’ve changed into your comfy clothes and poured a glass of wine, you’re dinner would be ready!  Meals would be even more inexpensive because the cost of delivery would be so much less.  You get a healthy, home-cooked meal, and no one’s time or gas is wasted.  If there are meals left over at the end of the day, they could be donated to homeless shelters!  Everybody wins!