Yesterday Hobu chastized successful MapServer users ZedX for apparently giving little back to the MapServer community. A soybean rust tracking web app developed by ZedX, using Linux and MapServer, recently made a splash in the All Points Blog. I think the fact that a company can put MapServer to use in a good sized contract without the need for paid consultation with core MapServer developers, or the need for feature enhancement, is a nice indicator of the maturity of the MapServer project. Touting their use of Linux and MapServer is also good for us all. Hobu knows as well as any of us how hard it can be to get an agency like the USDA to embrace open source. Hopefully ZedX will ice the cake and give their programmers a little time to share their new expertise with MapServer users through the mailing lists or IRC.
Near the end of his post, Hobu writes:
It is my hope that OSGeo will be able to provide a clearinghouse for contributions to its member projects and solves the issue of "great, I have some money/time/resources to contribute, who do I give it to?" Also, the ability to pool contributions together for larger efforts is something that is sorely needed. Those efforts are just getting off the ground though, and time will tell if that approach will be any more successful than individual-to-individual or individual-to-project contributions.
I'm in 100% disagreement with Hobu here. I don't think OSGeo is a good place for a company to invest modest amounts of money in open source projects. Look at the money being wasted now (yes, wasted) paying Collabnet for consulting on community building and open source development. Nothing against Collabnet, but the OSGeo projects already have communities and infrastructure. Direct contribution to individual projects remains the best way to make small to medium investments count.