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Brilliant Ideas: BeerWare

beer will change the worldSometimes I have ideas. I know, happens to the best of us. Most of the time, these ideas have been had by others before me. This is probably one of those. If it's not, remember you heard it here first and if you turn it into a million dollar business, make sure to cut me a check.

I'm not kidding, this is a million dollar business idea. And it involves BEER, how awesome is that? Anyway, here's the pitcher (ahah, ahah, I kill me):

Some of us people in the Open Source world do not much care for convoluted licenses; we prefer simple and permissive licenses instead. Sometimes, we don't care at all what you do with our software, we just want you to use it. Placing things into the public domain has it's problems, and, quite frankly, for the most part, people like me really don't want to spend more than five seconds on thinking about the license at all.

So what do we do? One perfectly reasonable solution is to place your software under the Beerware license, which describes rather aptly how I feel about what people can do with software that I write:

Originally written by Jan Schaumann <> in March 2012. As long as you retain this notice you can do whatever you want with this code. If we meet some day, and you think this is worth it, you can buy me a beer in return.

Ok, enough about boring things like software licenses. I like beer, and I like people to use my software -- that much is obvious. But realistically, I get very little beer out of this, which, as I'm sure you understand, poses a conundrum for me. Now here's how we turn this into a money- and beer making machine:

Imagine an application/network/service whereby which anybody anywhere can "buy me a beer". That is, somebody finds my software useful -- or liked a presentation I gave or asked me for help and somehow I managed to be useful -- and they want to buy me a beer. At less than $10 at any reasonable bar, that's not a bad value to show your appreciation. However, given current geographical distances, it's difficult to make this happen. "IOU"s are rarely remembered, and sometimes you really just want to buy me a beer RIGHT NOW. (Alright, suppose it's somebody else, not me. I'm sure you can come up with somebody whom you might owe a brewsky or two.)

So: you whip out your cell phone, tablet, laptop, whatever, log in to beerware-the-app (clever name here, please) and submit your payment for one beer to the listed participating watering hole. Upon being notified, I leisurely stroll over there and enjoy my beverage.

This requires local bars to sign up -- what do they get out of this? Well, that should be obvious, if you know me at all. What are the odds of me walking into a bar and having precisely one beer? You're right, I'll probably purchase another beverage. Or two. In fact, I'm likely to coerce somebody else to accompany me to enjoy said free (to me) beverage.

What's more, the participating bar does not provide the beer to me for free -- it was paid for up front, after all. And it's possible I don't actually show up at the bar at all, so they win. (Let's arbitrarily declare that a beer thusly paid for must be redeemed within 3 months or some such.)

Now from my perspective, this is entirely awesome: people will be able to literally "buy me a beer", and I may have beer credits at certain locations. I can drag friends to this random bar because I have a beer waiting for me there!

Add to that all the current hullabloo around location-based social networking and simple payment services, and I'm sure some business oriented people can make a rather solid startup proposal based on this idea. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Now if you go ahead and steal this idea and don't get me in on this, at least have the decency to buy me a beer some time...

April 10, 2012

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