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Re: [Debconf-team] Travel sponsorship fun, update

On Sun, 05 Jun 2011 23:53:35 +0200, Joerg Jaspert <joerg@debconf.org> wrote:
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> Second: We just set a date for the IRC meeting. It will be held on
>   Sunday, 19 June, startng at 18:00 UTC
>   (use date -d @1308506400 to see what that means in your local time)
> and will be held in a channel limited to the team members.[1] As such we
> expect to be able to tell people about their travel sponsorship status
> on or after the 20th of June. (Provided someone of our beancounters
> tells us how much money we can hand out for sure).

Hi Joerg,

As you just told me on IRC, no money gets handed out until that point.

I'm aware that there is probably no chance of doing anything about that
at this stage, but it strikes me as a shame that we seem to have set
things up so that we wait until all the cheap flights have gone before
we're able to fund anyones flights, so perhaps we can aim to optimise
this a little in time for next year, or perhaps, depending on the
parameters we're working with, we can even do a little better this year?

For this year, since we're not having to cover accommodation etc.  (in
the rose tinted world in which I live) I can imagine we'll have so much
spare cash that we'll be funding most of the applicants this year.  If
that's true, and if it were possible to (easily) decide that something
like 25% of the applicants can be confidently expected to be in the top
half of the final list, we could tell them some good news straight away.

OK, back in the real world, I expect we've no idea how much cash there
is, and there are serious disagreements about the ordering, so there's
no chance of this being done before the 20th, so let's not waste more
time discussing it.

So, how about next year?

I seem to remember that some Japanese researcher has worked out that the
cheapest prices for flights are available 8 weeks in advance.  It would
seem like a good idea to make at least some of the decisions by at least
9 weeks before DebConf12 to let people take advantage of that.

I'm wondering if there's some way of applying a triage system to
applicants, so that we can start making the more obvious decisions as
the applications come in, rather than waiting for the last application
and the last sponsorship money to arrive before starting.

I do understand the temptation to come up with an accurate ordering of
all the candidates, and can see that, given the tendency for the
available funds to be unknown, it's useful to be able to say who will
get funded next in a strict order, but ...

What I'm imagining is that as candidates appear, the funding folks put
them into some sort of order, and when a few have accumulated, the
person on the top of the stack gets told that they're funded (or maybe
told that they have 50% of their funding approved, the other 50% waiting
for the end of the process that could run as it does now)

We should tell people that this is how it will work, and that if you
apply late you might miss out because the new system unfairly favours
early applications. (I presume it would be helpful if people applied early)

The other problem we normally have is that the funding only dribbles in,
so we don't know the total, or even actually have money to give out at
the start, so Debian/SPI should underwrite enough to lubricate the
wheels of the process (say 20% of the expected total fund, up front,
returnable when the sponsors cough up the cash).

Of course, I'm implicitly volunteering the team for doing work at a
different time, and perhaps there's no chance of this working because
it's only late in the process that people manage to get their act
together (I'm certainly normally like that, so I sympathise), but part
of the idea is an attempt to cut down the work involved, since if one
manages to decide to fund someone on the day they apply, or to tell them
that they're hopeless on that day, you don't really need to consider
them after that, and can concentrate on ordering the difficult middle
bit where the cut is actually going to fall, and therefore where the
ordering decision really matters.

Since that's all based on assumptions rather than any concrete idea how
the current process works, feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot, and
that I don't understand any of the nuances.

Since I shouldn't criticise without offering to help, feel free to take
this as me volunteering to be a (disorganised) member of the team if you
need more bodies.

Cheers, Phil.
|)|  Philip Hands [+44 (0)20 8530 9560]    http://www.hands.com/
|-|  HANDS.COM Ltd.                    http://www.uk.debian.org/
|(|  10 Onslow Gardens, South Woodford, London  E18 1NE  ENGLAND

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