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!