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20 Oct 2020

Why You Should Pay for Open Source

A strong case for supporting (and paying for) open source.

will torchbox.jpg

Will Heinemann

Torchbox New Business Director

Our good friend Tim White is a keen supporter of open source technology. Tim is an industry veteran with decades of CMS experience; in his role at the Motley Fool he has funded core Wagtail enhancements – like workflow – to make Wagtail work even better for enterprise use-cases.

In this talk from Wagtail Space 2020, he makes a convincing case that organisations should pay for open source (the alternative is an 'apocalyptic hellscape').

Below, we've extracted the closing arguments in Tim's excellent blog, originally published on Medium.

Philosophy time

All this comes together to support this ‘upward spiral’ of open source contribution, that makes things better for both you and the open source tools you depend on.

This upward spiral takes you from an open source creator, to an open source sponsor — where you are commissioning open source software from others.


You start out as an open source consumer, using other organization’s projects.


Then you start contributing, from submitting bug reports, answering Stack Overflow questions, and submitting pull requests to the projects you use the most.


Then you create your own open source projects, often as modules for other projects (e.g. my django-termsandconditions project). These are usually small one offs and helpful projects that you want to get open source benefits from.


This is the highest point of the spiral, where you are sponsoring other projects to enhance them to meet your product’s needs, perhaps even creating new, sponsored work along the way.

You may end up at different points of this spiral in your career as a developer, or the lifecycle of your organization. One year, you can get approval to commission work, and the next year, you can’t. That’s fine — the goal is to find the right contribution level for you and your organization at any given point in time.


Open source projects need help to get better and stay secure.

Chances are you don’t have enough folks to spend their time both building your product and enhancing the tools you use to meet your needs.

You are already paying for open source, just not in a way that gets you direct benefit.

You can commission enhancements to open source software through the organizations that create and maintain them, or through gig workers or agencies that can submit enhancements on your behalf.

All this is 1000x cheaper than paying for closed source software, and allows for infinite scaling, and much faster developer problem resolution.

I hope this opened your mind to why you might pay for your open source!