Thoughts on Open Collective?

I’ve only looked at the site briefly, but it appears to be geared towards creating open, transparent projects, and funding them. It seems like that overlaps with Snowdrift significantly! Is anyone more familiar with Open Collective and its goals?

tldr: your intuitions are right, but it’s a good bit of productive non-overlap as well as overlap

I’ve interacted briefly with some of the folks there. At, Open Collective is the primary recommendation we have in the sustaining category while we aren’t operating.

Open Collective is FLO itself, so can be self-hosted. Charges 5% still to use their processing I think, another 5% if they host (10% total then).

The model is excellent in many ways. They serve as a legal entity to collect funds for projects that don’t have such an entity otherwise. They also offer some transparent accounting/reporting (managing who gets the money within the project). There’s no future in sight where we do much of that, even though it could be long-term potential.

As a funding model, it’s just plain old unilateral donations, no mutual assurance. For projects, they don’t actually have a real FLO-dedication but are aligned and have many FLO projects there.

They’re pretty good on most measures as a company themselves, but they are VC-funded with the inevitable focus on delivering some exit to those investors (unless they just die).

I’m much more inclined toward dialogues, partnership or similar with them than with most others out there. Rather than just be a direct competitor that isn’t solving any problems really, Open Collective is perhaps the one org that really seriously is already solving real problems in this space (as opposed to just capturing donations that would happen anyway or undermining FLO by encouraging paywalls like Patreon does).

I’ve wondered about this too, so thanks @chreekat for bringing it up, and @wolftune for the perspective. I’ve been supporting QubesOS and via OpenCollective for a while.

I’ve introduced myself on their Slack channel. :slight_smile:

We should have an OpenCollective account for Snowdrift! I’m sure they would bend on their minimum requirement of having a GitHub repo with 100 stars (or I bet we could get those extra 15 stars pretty easily.)

We should also evangelize for OpenCollective to implement crowdmatching themselves, or to use our platform if it ever becomes functional. And we should focus purely on building a funding platform, so we don’t waste time solving problems that other people are solving!

This morning, I attended Open Collective’s open standup and then chatted a bit afterward. Here’s my takeaway.

I agree there’s a lot of mutually beneficial non-overlap between our projects. Their intent is not to be the legal entity that accept donations on others’ behalf, but to facilitate such entities, which they call “hosts”. That is, Open Collective is a platform for facilitating management of fiscal sponsorship. They do have one host specifically for open source projects (two, actually; a 501c3 and 501c6 for non-US projects), but they would also be happy to have the OSI on board as a host.

In fact, I think we should urge the OSI to go about doing that. Then it would definitely make sense for Snowdrift to exist on OC’s platform as a collective hosted by OSI - since that fiscal arrangement already exists.

We should keep moving with our plan to directly integrate with Stripe, but in the future we could also consider integrating with OC as a funds-transfer partner. Projects that raise money via Snowdrift crowdmatching could still have that money pass through their OC host.

2 Appreciations

Thanks for the clarity and being proactive with that connection. I would probably love a scenario in which we are able to operate through Open Collective[1] instead of directly with Stripe.

Is there a chance that working through Open Collective could allow us to enable the original vision of a wallet style approach to crowdmatching?

I noticed that OC just added a “virtual card” function which we have wanted ourselves (where I could gift someone $5 of credit that they can distribute through crowdmatch pledges as they desire). That inherently requires a wallet-style functioning!

While some people may prefer the monthly-budget-cap approach, my vision for the psychology of crowdmatching works better with the wallet style. People say, “I’m willing to put $10 into crowdmatching and see how it goes”, and then if it runs out fast, instead of being disappointed, they may then find themselves surprisingly thrilled at how effective crowdmatching is being for the projects and happily deposit more to their wallet. I want people to not think about anticipating and planning how things will go into the future but to feel willing to try initially and then see. And “Ok, I spent my $10, how much more do I want to put in?” as a one-time decision is more likely, I think, to lead to effective crowdmatching than, “I hit my monthly budget, I guess I’ll be okay increasing it…”.

I’d also like to use the transparent budgeting stuff OC has. But besides us as a co-op, I’d like to see that sort of tool and transparency used by all the various projects we support too.

My main concern in collaborating more strongly or having crowdmatching implemented there is the importance of maintaining the understanding that crowdmatching only makes sense for public goods.[2]

If we can maintain our framing and holistic approach while working with or inside OC, I’m not opposed to the idea. As I’ve mentioned from conversation with Shauna Gordon-McKeon, we’d rather succeed politically and fail technically than the other way around. If we can work with OC technically without undermining our political goals, that seems a potential win-win.

  1. But not through OSI because we go far beyond OSI's software-specific scope. Our OSI support is through our full-launch, not intended to continue into complete operations. ↩︎

  2. or mostly-public goods, it's about the concept of why it makes sense, and there's fuzzy cases like roads themselves that are 95% development and maintenance even though there are small per-use costs incurred. ↩︎

I am in no way certain on the point of enabling wallet-style crowdmatching, but it is an excellent question. I suspect it would depend entirely on the status of the host entity, and that it would not be easy.

Here’s the brief description of the process that OC mediates, step-by-step:

  1. Hosts accept donations on behalf of collectives
  2. Collectives submit invoices to their host - anything from “$20 for Digital Ocean” to “$2,000 for Professional Programmer’s salary”
  3. Hosts ensure that their ledger indicates they have the appropriate funds allocated to the collective in question, then pay out the requested amount.

In other words, they facilitate precisely what OSI and similar organizations already do.

I really doubt that they’d have any great advantage over us when it comes to the legal hurdles of provisional, un-earmarked funding.

So, I guess if we are not relying on OSI in the long-term, then the point is that, in order to consider the wallet approach, we would have to be a host and accept all that liability, same as if we just worked with Stripe directly and did a wallet approach by being ourselves the fiscal sponsor for any projects we include?

Perhaps their new “virtual card” gift-card function has to be designated to a specific host?[1]

I see is hosted directly by OC via

US C corp to temporarily host open collectives before they have a proper host

I guess they are treading carefully in that area and hoping to minimize their long-term liabilities as a fiscal sponsor. That makes them seem less remarkable to me, less really filling an important gap. They still seem to be aligned and worth building alliance with and seeing where that leads.

  1. And, following that assumption, we could implement a gift-card approach if we said that gift cards only work for projects we are willing to fiscally sponsor, which would be only us for the foreseeable future but could expand… ↩︎