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Results of the Debian Developer's Survey about Usage of Money in Debian

Hello Fellow Debian Developers,

Nearly one year ago the "Debian Developer's Survey about Usage of Money
in Debian" was announced [0].

More than 200 of you graciously participated, providing useful and
constructive answers.  It is my pleasure to announce that the analysis
of the survey is complete and available for public viewing/comment:


Great pains have been taken to ensure that the report is accurate and
error-free.  However, if you happen to notice an error, please direct
feedback to me personally.

The document is rather long but a copy of the TLDR summary is available
at the end of the mail, feel free to share your comments and questions
on debian-project@lists.debian.org.


On behalf of the Debian contributors behind Freexian.

[0] https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2022/04/msg00002.html


This analysis is based on 224 completed surveys. More than half of all
respondents are active in Debian on at least a weekly basis. More than
90% are involved in maintenance of packages, while more than 80% vote on
General Resolutions. This indicates that contributors to Debian tend to
be involved regularly in both technical and non-technical ways. While
email and mailing lists are the most popular means of communication for
project-related matters and connections between Debian acquaintances and
while nearly all respondents indicated that they use email for
Debian-related communication, fewer than half of respondents indicated
that they actively participate in mailing list discussions. This
indicates that Debian contributors tend to be engaged more in “doing”
than they are engaged in discussions of project-wide matters.

Without a doubt, the volunteer ethos continues to be at the heart of
what defines the Debian project. Nearly half of all respondents are
active in Debian in a purely personal capacity, which is to say that
they volunteer and are not compensated for their contributions to
Debian. Another nearly half of respondents are active in a mix of
personal and professional capacities, indicating that some of their
contributions are purely volunteer while others of their contributions
are monetarily compensated in some way. This suggests that non-volunteer
or professional motivations play a part in the contributions of at least
half of respondents.

The team with the lowest view of the sustainability of their current
level of Debian participation was the QA team, with only half indicating
that the current level was sustainable. There were relatively few
respondents overall who viewed their current level of Debian
participation as unsustainable, most of whom also indicated that it
would become sustainable if some of their Debian work were paid. This
would suggest that targeted funding may be able to produce an increase
in the sustainability of Debian participation and that such efforts
should make allowance for both funding of contributors who are already
being funded in some way for some of their participation and also
contributors who are not being compensated for any of their current
Debian contributions. This could be viewed as funding to maintain the
current level of Debian contribution, or possibly to prevent current
contributors from reducing their participation.

As far as increasing Debian participation, 65% of respondents would like
to spend more time contributing to Debian. More than 80%f of those, 112
respondents, indicated an answer of “yes” or “maybe, but it would
require important changes in my life” to the question “Could you
increase your involvement if some work was paid?” Given that 50% of
respondents indicated that they contributed in both personal and
professional contexts and given the number who indicated that they
definitely could or maybe could increase their participation if some of
the work was paid, it seems logical to conclude that a substantial
number of Debian contributors contribute to some degree in a
self-employed capacity. This is positive as it means there is a high
likelihood that targeted funding could produce meaningful increases in
Debian participation.  In general, there already exist actionable ideas
which survey respondents consider important to the Debian project and
for which funding could presumably be applied in order to aid their

There seems to be broad support for paying people who are already
involved as Debian contributors, but very little support for hiring
contractors, that is to say, those who are not already Debian
contributors in some way. Members of the Security Team were by far the
most supportive towards the idea of paying Debian contributors.

Concerning specific ideas to fund there is clearly a range of support,
with some ideas (like “Paying for development of new
features/improvements for Debian-specific infrastructure,” “Paying
development of new features/improvements to Debian specific software,”
and “Pay Debian contributors to complete large scale changes in a
reasonable time frame”) having positive support exceeding 80%, to “Pay
Application Managers to ensure we deal with new contributors in a timely
fashion” with a level of positive support below 40%. In general, the
most positively viewed ideas appear to be those with the highest degree
of required technical effort, while the least positively viewed ideas
can be seen to involve much less technical effort.

As far as funding particular roles, the Security Team and LTS Team were
viewed the most favorably and the Technical Committee and DAM the least
favorably. Of the responses to the “additional roles to fund” question,
DSA was the most often mentioned.

Respondents were given an opportunity to voice individual concerns about
the impact of funding on Debian (via a free-form text entry on the
survey). As is to be expected when soliciting comments from as large and
diverse a group as the population of Debian Developers, there were
numerous reservations and concerns expressed. The two which were brought
up most frequently had to do with ensuring that Debian project goals and
core volunteer ethos are not subverted by the participation of paid
contributors. Any funding efforts should carefully consider these
concerns and ensure that they are addressed appropriately.

In summary, there is broad consensus that funding would have a positive
impact, that there are particular ideas/tasks that have a very high
level of positive support for funding among the survey respondents, and
that there are particular roles as well that have a similarly high level
of positive support for being funded. Efforts to introduce funding to
Debian should likely focus on those ideas and roles which have the
highest level of positive support, and then possibly expand as the
concept is proven and refined.

Roberto C. Sánchez

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