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Donating $5,000 to .NET Open Source

Way back in June of last year, I promised to donate a portion of my advertising revenue back to the community:

I will be donating a significant percentage of my ad revenue back to the programming community. The programming community is the reason I started this blog in the first place. The programming community is what makes this blog possible. It's an open secret amongst bloggers that the blog comments are often better than the original blog post, and it's because the community collectively knows far more than you or I will ever know.

So, what's significant? Let's start with $5,000.

I've personally benefited most from the .NET open source community, which I feel is radically under-served by Microsoft, so I'll be contributing this money to one or more .NET open source projects to maximize its impact. And what's even more exciting is that I have a verbal commitment from Anand Iyer, a MS Developer Evangelist, for Microsoft to match my contribution. That makes a cool $10,000 we will be contributing to support open-source .NET projects!

As much as I abhor advertising, I'm tremendously excited to have the opportunity to share my advertising revenue with the larger .NET programming community. For me, that's the tipping point. Giving back to the community is what makes the pain of advertising worthwhile.

You may be wondering why I'm singling out .NET here:

Why am I focusing on .NET open source projects? In short, because open source projects are treated as second-class citizens in the Microsoft ecosystem. Many highly popular open source projects have contributed so much to the .NET community, and they've gotten virtually no support at all from Microsoft in return. I'd like to see that change. In fact, I'll go even further-- I think it must change if Microsoft wants to survive as a vendor of development tools.

I originally had grand plans of dividing the money up a few different ways, and setting up a voting system to determine which projects were awarded the various grants. I even considered a March Madness college basketball themed set of brackets and finals and everything. After agonizing over this process for months, I've decided that's too complicated. There are almost a hundred contenders, all of which have to be mapped to the criteria I defined for the grant:

  1. The project must use an open source license.
  2. The project must use a commonly available method of public source control.
  3. The project must provide public evidence that it accepts and encourages code contributions from the outside world.

I'm exercising my executive privilege and keeping it simple. I'm picking a winner and they get the whole $5,000.

The winner is still based on voting, of a sort; I did a word count on the comments to my original post. One project was mentioned over and over again in the comments, and it met all three criteria.

I'm proud to announce that this year's $5,000 .NET open source grant goes to ScrewTurn Wiki.

$5,000 check to ScrewTurn Wiki

This is like one of those exaggeratedly giant checks you see people winning on TV; it's for promotional purposes only. There's no actual check. The real money is being sent via wire transfer to Dario Solera, the ScrewTurn Wiki project coordinator. What's Dario going to do with this money? You'll have to ask him. That's not for me to decide. There are no strings attached to this money of any kind. I trust the judgment of a fellow programmer to run their project as they see fit.

(Microsoft's $5,000 grant will be handled independently; details will be forthcoming soon on that.)

I won't lie to you. It was easy to promise this grant money when I was essentially getting paid twice -- once by my previous employer Vertigo Software, and again by my blog via advertising revenue. That increasing sense of guilt over "double dipping" was one of the reasons I felt compelled to quit. But now that I have to cover the mortgage -- a crazy California mortgage no less -- with revenue from my blog, and the unknown future revenue from our upcoming stackoverflow.com, it's a bit scarier.

But I figure if it isn't a little scary, it's not worth doing.

And I have found that you get back what you give, many times over.

It's a small gesture, I know. But I believe in this stuff. I wouldn't have kept banging out entries on this blog for the last four years if I didn't truly believe in the power of programmers collectively building useful stuff together. Here's to Dario Solera, and all the ScrewTurn Wiki programmers -- and to the spirit of every programmer who has ever helped build something for the programming community.

And who knows -- maybe next year we'll even do this thing again.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror