Once Plínio de Arruda Sampaio said that companies do not make donations but investments. He referred to political “donations”, though the phrase works for everything a company does. Especially open-source.

For a long while (when I was at university), I thought certain companies made donations to open-source products because they believed in them and sometimes even in their ideology. With time, I learned most companies would only donate to projects they use, which makes sense. Recently though, I learnt something else. Some companies won’t even donate to projects they use if they don’t see a clear ROI. For example, they won’t contribute to Rubocop even using it, but they will donate to a wrapper around their API because they can measure the number of requests.

No big deal, right? They are probably investing in projects with much less money. Or is there? What about the engineering hours that they saved by using Rubocop? Are we really fine with those giant corporations using open-source software and never giving it back? (with money or code)

The hard truth is that some companies only donate for PR reasons and to incentivize people to work on related projects. In one of the companies I worked for, they contributed only to projects generating revenue for them. One example was a framework plugin to use their API. They would count how many requests were made with that plugin to decide to donate or not. A secret not shared with outsiders, they even set goals for the engineers even if they were not in a relationship of employer-employee. It’s not far from what Github CEO said once about tech-workers salaries in the future being based on several companies.

Let’s focus on that company. We have their employees making ~20 thousand dollars (+ health care and other things) per month doing a similar work of the engineer building the open-source library. Their donation is 3 thousand dollars. The engineer must respect SLAs to solve open issues and make the features they want. At the end of the day, isn’t this a typical work relationship without any of the rights people died for, but with almost all the duties? Are they using open-source as an excuse to worse our rights?

Once, I read a tweet by a woman asking people to stop congratulating men for doing the basics. Maybe is time for us to do the same with their companies?

You won’t hear me talking on Twitter about how fantastic company X is for donating (probably with a lot of strings) to an open-source project.