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[Debconf-team] Money, and the spirit of DebConf

also sprach Martín Ferrari <tincho@tincho.org> [2014-09-11 02:09 +0200]:
> My last message on the topic, I don't want to drag this discussion
> for ever.

Thank you,

I think we are pretty much at the end of this discussion anyway.

Still, I have to respond to some of your points, but I will try not
to pose questions or expect a reply. Shortly after this, I will
write another message with the plan to move forward.

> Note that I am not opposing to the job fair or the booths. It is
> the sponsoring of the social events that I feel is kind of wrong,
> going against our spirit. It feels like monetising the conference,
> that's why I feel uneasy.
> I would rather cut the costs (or the existence) of all these (C&W,
> dinner, day trip, sponsored beverages) than selling them.

Just to make this clear: everyone feels that the spirit of our
conference is priceless, and we *must* *not* endanger that. We've
come a long way (see Git log), and the status quo does not
"monetise" or "sell out".

Your point about rather cutting costs than "selling out" is
a difficult one and needs to be regarded both in terms of DC15 and
future DebConfs.

We've pretty much continuously stepped up the ladder on the
conference dinner, and so have the expectations of our attendees.
I've heard plenty of comparisons at DC14 between different
conference dinners, or the quality of food offerings, etc..

I am not saying this because I propose to continue this trend of
stepping up the ladder, but because your suggestion to rather step
back down could have a very negative effect on the motivation of the
current or a future team. I know this is a soft point, but I am sure
nobody wants to enter the annals of history as the person organising
a DebConf that failed to meet the standards.

It's very possible, even likely, that this will happen in the
future, and we should be able to handle this as a team, making sure
to manage expectations (we are a volunteer-run, free-for-all
conference, after all), but we should also not shy away from
innovative ideas, as long as they don't negatively affect the
spirit of the conference.

*But*: this has two sides and what we do now obviously influences to
the future. If we succeed at raising a lot of money, then we *must*
*not* spend it at will. We should try to maintain a standard, not
raise it without limits, because otherwise we might be forcing
a future DebConf into the exact same situation we are trying to

Therefore, my suggestion is: split the way we look at things in two:

  1. there's raising money, and as long as we don't sell out,
     overcommit, lose character, give sponsors too much control, or
     alienate sponsors, we should be fine.

  2. and there are the events, and we should strive to keep them
     "natural" to DebConf and not fall for the possibility of
     spending more money than necessary to deliver to our attendees
     a memorable event in the spirit of DebConf.

I will return to this momentarily.

> Finally, if the non-profit is forbidden to do theses things, we
> could have one or two sponsors give the money to a normal trusted
> company instead.

Yes, this is also an option, and in fact it's our fallback to use
the money that SPI already has or will collect for this.

… and maybe this is the way to do things in the future. However,
we're about to run an experiment and the outcome is unknown.

We feel like we have taken all measures to ensure that the
experiment does not backfire and alienate sponsors or negatively
affect the spirit of DebConf.

At the same time, we feel that there's a lot of potential and the
experiment could turn out to be very successful, and hence
beneficial to DebConf in the long run. In addition to being able to
subsidise more people to attend, I stand by what I said: we cannot
have too much money.

But in the light of Steve's insightful response to the last time
I said this, let me offer the following two qualifications:

  1. we cannot have too much money if it comes to us without selling
     out or strings attached;

  2. we cannot have too much money if we know how to spend it.

I believe we are well in control of (1.), thanks to all your input
and the long time it took us to get to the status quo on the

And I believe we are well on the way towards (2.), without throwing
money out of the door, but this is really DPL terrain and we should
not venture into it just now or here.

> Another topic. I just saw the addition to the brochure of the
> diversity effort. While I am all for getting money for diversity,
> what do you have in mind when you invite sponsors to contact us?
> It is just a way to get more sponsors on board, so we can then
> manage the money, or will they have any active involvement in the
> use of the money?

Short answer: we control how that money is spent (i.e. who we reach
out to). We will *not* let sponsors have an influence here.

 .''`.   martin f. krafft <madduck@debconf.org> @martinkrafft
: :'  :  DebConf orga team
`. `'`
  `-  DebConf15: Heidelberg, Germany: http://debconf15.debconf.org
      DebConf16 in your country? https://wiki.debconf.org/wiki/DebConf16

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