Micropatronage through the Open Company Gittip

No no. Thank you!

The internet is full of people creating amazing things and getting very little monetary compensation in return. Though they will probably always trail behind in number, there are also many of us out there who would love to give a little back. A guest posting here by Courtney Danforth has introduced some of the many ways to give, and both Jason and George have talked about crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter that bring support for proposed new projects to a new scale.

If crowdfunding is larger in scale, and project-centric, then microdonations and microfunding are starting to make their mark in supporting things like online content creation. Services like Flattr make it easier to make small one-off donations on websites that contain the Flattr button. So far, the most innovative entry into the world of microdonations I have seen, however, is Gittip. Gittip is not a site for single donations, but facilitates longer-lasting relationships of financial micropatronage.

Like the Git tool it is named after and Github, which I hope will now be familiar to our readers here, Gittip has grown out of the computer coding world and at its heart is about promoting openness. Through the site you identify individuals you want to offer a weekly gift, perhaps as small as $0.25, or much more, by entering their twitter handle, or their GitHub or Bitbucket (another code sharing platform) account and then selecting an amount you wish to give. If the person you have identified has a Gittip account or signs up for one, your donation will kick into life. Gittip has been slowly growing over the course of the past year, with founder Chad Whitacre both the biggest receiver and one of the biggest patrons on the platform.

There are a number of new services in this area, including another micropatronage service that works in a slightly different way, Patreon. What really makes Gittip unique, however, is not just its simple approach to setting up weekly gifts to your favorite open source coder, blogger, or anyone else, it is the completely open approach that Chad has taken. The entire source code for the company platform is on GitHub. The entire company is built as a radically open company in which the founder and any future employees are to be only funded through the platform itself (though a recent tweet suggests Chad is rethinking this). Chad also made waves in the world of journalism recently when he gave up the golden ticket for new startups by refusing to accept a TechCrunch interview unless he could live-stream and post the interview to YouTube.

There is a lot of room for growth for Gittip and these are early days. Unless they are surviving on ramen and living on someone’s couch none of the receivers are yet making enough from the site to live off of tips. It is also very much focused on individuals and does not yet make it easy to support organizations, though plans for this are in the works. The service is beautiful in its simplicity and the ambition of its creator to create an entirely new approach to founding a company is an experiment worth watching closely. Already, Gittip has entered into an “open partnership” with another new payments startup, Balanced. The relationship took off in true GitHub style, when Balanced issued a a pull request on Github to integrate the two services.

Have you tried Gittip and have an experience to share? What future might there be for the kind of open company that Gittip is trying to be?

Image No no. Thank you! Creative Commons licensed by Aaron Stidwell

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