Open Source Innovation Happens Elsewhere: Funambol Code Sniper Goes 2.0

Funambol has just launched the latest edition of its Code Sniper program - a program meant to encourage development by the community of new components – now also  for the open source mobile cloud.

Differently from the Phone Sniper program, aimed at getting micro-contributions, Code Sniper rewards more complex contributions. Stefano Maffulli, Funambol Community Manager, told me more about the “Funambol way“, maybe other vendors leading open source projects could find it inspirational.
How did you come up with the idea to launch a new edition of the program?

I wanted to widen the reach of Code Sniper program and include bug reports, documentation and code cleanup.  Such contributions are important for the health of any free software project, and now they’re given full recognition in Code Sniper v2. I had the impression that some of the interesting projects sponsored under the program lost opportunity to mature after they were declared ‘done’. Also, I wanted to make it easier for more people to work on the same project and earn their bounties with collaboration, not just solitary work.

Are there any specific constraints you have identified?

The inspiration of how to design the new process came from the SCRUM development method used internally by Funambol: all tasks related to software development are broken down in smaller pieces that are estimated, carried on and completed.
With the new Code Sniper the community has the incentive to break down development effort in smaller tasks; the clear advantage is that the development plan is public andmore than one person can earn bounties working on the same project. We published a more detailed guide of how to break down complex development efforts, like developing a sync client from scratch.
The decision of how much to give to each task is shared within the community: a small bug fix or an important feature have a different amount assigned. Bounties can go up to $500, even more if appropriate.

Did you ever use the program to hire people, by any chance?

I hope to give more value to the community by incentivating the creation of a backlog of tasks. I noticed in a couple of cases that very interesting and useful projects started suffering when Funambol hired the Code Sniper developers. The company put them to work on the product leaving little time to further the community projects. For example now the Funambol client for Thunderbird, initially funded by a Code Sniper bounty, can again be financed.

“Cannibalizing” your own community is not that bad, though. All in all Funambol’s community benefits from those programs, getting results in shorter time, and bounty-coders are probably happy to get a job this way.

Thank you Stefano, and happy hacking!