While at PyCon I heard about plans to integrate Gittip into rubygems.org and so I decided to have another look at Gittip. For those that don't know, it's a website where you can give and/or receive money to/from others on a weekly basis. You can give as little as $0.25/week ($13/year) up to $24/week ($1,248/year). Being on a weekly schedule allows you to say "I appreciate the time and effort you put into open source; keep it up!", compared to bounties which are goal-specific and don't recognize people who make contributions that have no direct financial benefit or make contributions year-round.
As I was poking around the site I noticed that my friend Jesse Noller was the top recipient. I read his page on Gittip which listed his vast accomplishments that he has made in his spare time for no pay beyond gratitude from others and any feeling of accomplishment his hard work gives him. But the other thing his Gittip page mentions is what receiving tips means for him.
It basically boils down to a way for people to thank his family for letting him do his open source work. That sentiment really struck a cord with me. Like most open source contributors, I do it because I derive some enjoyment from it. It's a feeling of accomplishment, it's the camaraderie with my various friends that I have in the Python community, etc. In other words it's all very intangible but I do get something from doing my open source work.
But my family doesn't get any of the benefit that I get. Since I am not paid to do my open source work I need to take personal time to do it. That means I have to take time away from my wife to do this rather solitary work of contributing to open source. While my wife understands why I do what I do for Python, her benefit of getting to be proud of me is indirect and very diluted compared to what I get from it (although she is starting to increase her participation by attending PyCon).
But having people express gratitude through Gittip gives more direct benefit to one's family. When I asked on Twitter and Google+ for people to tip Jesse to thank him for all that he does through the year (and especially for PyCon in the past two years), he got a nice bump in his tips, and so he was able to take his daughter and family out bowling that night.
Tips then are a way for the community to thank someone's family for letting them share their loved one with open source. For instance, tips for me would be a way of thanking my wife for letting me spend the hours I do contributing to Python in my various ways by letting me treat my wife to a night out so neither of us has to cook. It also doesn't hurt that it acts like a small form of blackmail; "yes, Andrea, I do need to get this patch in and you should let me put the time in since the Python community treated you to a nice dinner last night" =) .
All of these reasons are why I'm joining Gittip. It has actually now reached the point of legitimacy to have Heroku as a company start leaving tips and Read the Docs is trying to pay for various expenses through Gittip; it's no longer just a bunch of individuals. So please consider signing up to both receive and send tips if you have the financial means to thank those in open source for their diligent and hard work.