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Re: Skolelinux and the "Debian Labs" idea

On Tue, Oct 14, 2003 at 09:11:31PM +1000, Martin Michlmayr - Debian Project Leader wrote:
> > Certainly it'd be reasonable to restrict "Debian Labs" to groups
> > that are doing R&D rather than sales. Do you want to limit
> > consulting work too though?
> Well, if we don't, then any Debian consulting business can call
> themselves "Debian Labs" which is not what I'd like to see (if they do
> 100% consulting and don't put any work into Debian).  

Well, note that consulting and "putting work into Debian" aren't
necessarily mutually exclusive, and can be one and the same. You can
get a consulting job that says "write this program for me, GPL it,
and stick it in Debian", eg.

Even if you're just admining a bunch of Debian systems, you're likely to
end up writing useful scripts, or fixing bugs, or doing other development
work, and wanting to contribute that back to Debian.

> Perhaps
> consulting should be possible, as long as R&D is the main focus?

I'd say more that R&D should be the main focus, and the other stuff doesn't
much matter at all.

> > Not even Debian stable CDs? Why not, exactly? What conflict of interest do
> > you see here?
> Well, okay.  They can surely sell Debian CDs in order to fund more
> R&D.  (But they shouldn't call themselved "Debian Labs" in order to be
> in a better position to sell CDs in order to make a profit.)

Why not? Would you want to know that your $10 for a Debian CD goes to fund
Foo Debian Labs rather than Joes Pizza? Isn't that the way the FSF works?

(But they still shouldn't call themselves Debian Labs unless they actually
are doing useful stuff)

> Sure, I have no problem with this.  But Debian (the project) doesn't
> make money out of what we do

Sure we do. SPI collects it for us.

> and you could argue the same should
> apply to a Debian Labs (this is a big difference between Debian and
> Red Hat/Fedor, btw).

Mmm. I'm inclined to think that encouraging investment isn't necessarily
a bad thing here.

> > is their any salary limit? How about if they do it cheaper than any
> > competing support organisations, but still make a profit?
> Then they should clearly use the money (profit) to fund more R&D.

How about to pay back the guy who provided the rooms, computers and
connectivity when they started? Or the salaries while it was operating in
the red? How about compensating for the risk said guy undertook, given
the possibility that the research labs wouldn't ever become profitable
and he wouldn't get any money back?

Rather than just defending profits, let me put this another way.

Having donations just go straight from user's hands into shareholders'
pockets without ever providing any motive force to improve Debian isn't
useful. An alternative way of addressing this is just by providing better
information to everyone; eg letting users see what projects each Lab
is working on, whether they're a for-profit or not, seeing how much
has already been donated and how much has been donated in the past,
what their history of completing projects has been like, which developers
are employed there, stuff like that.

At worst, that sort of information at least gives the people working
there the ability to say "Hey, you got $1.3M in donations last year,
how come we got a pay cut, and had to solder our broken motherboards
back together ourselves?".

(Note that I don't really think this is of any interest to HP --
it's likely we'd have enough requirements to be a nuisance, and there
wouldn't be all that much money coming through anyway; but they're a
useful example)


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

Australian DMCA (the Digital Agenda Amendments) Under Review!
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