Gunslinging Hackers On The Web Frontier: Dust And Whiskey And Pistols

By February 17, 2012

There’s coding, according to programmer and free culture advocate Rich Jones, and then there’s hacking. The idea behind his new project,, is to connect hackers to paid gigs, drawing money into the open source movement.

“It quickly became pretty apparent to me that for the [free culture and open source] movement to have any lasting weight, there needed to be economic support structures to support the development of free cultural works, ” he wrote in an email message. “I want more open source developers to have access to high-quality paid programming opportunities to support themselves as they work on their own projects.”

Jones, who pays his bills as a freelance programmer, designed the site with an Old West theme, fitting his gunslinging online persona. Some of his previous projects include OpenWatch, a suite of smartphone tools for recording encounters with law enforcement, and procuring a copy of the late Wu Tang Clan performer Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s FBI file (PDF). is open to freelance jobs as well as permanent positions, and open source jobs are free to post. At press time, open gigs included making improvements to an online shopping plugin, with an asking price of $150, and a heavy-duty social networking database job, for $4000.

It’s not a new idea–similar, established services include Elance and oDesk–but Jones sees a significant cultural difference between the clientèle he’s targeting and that of earlier generations, which often cater heavily to offshore freelancers. From the ground up, he says, was built for coders from the open source community–people who care enough about software to work on it on their own time.

“Members of almost entirely come from the open source community, where people really care about the quality and philosophy of software,” he said. “I think our programmers realize that finished means ‘Looks good, feels good, works good,’ whereas on offshore sites, finished means ‘Mostly meets the specification.’”

Additionally, he says, developers with free culture ties are better-prepared to draw on open source code, which can save time and effort.

Jones is self-funding the project, and he admits that marketing has been a tough nut to crack (the project has been getting decent referral traffic from GitHub). He’s been giving out a number of free-post codes in an effort to build a critical mass of users, and he’s planning an Amazon-style rating system to keep the quality of the pool high.

And the offbeat feel of the project? He says it’s about providing the tools to do what he enjoys: writing good code without sacrificing freedom.

“I’m sick and tired of shiny blue and white websites with cartoon characters everywhere,” he said. “That’s just not who I am, and I don’t think I’d be able to put as much energy into a project that looked like every other stupid startup website. The aesthetic of the site is much more what I’m about, dust and whiskey and pistols.”

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