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Re: PaySwarm-based Debian donations (was: Re: KickStarter for Debian packages)

On Sat, Jun 15, 2013 at 11:20:47PM -0400, Manu Sporny wrote:
> Thanks to everyone that has participated in the discussion thus far. :)
> I think there have been a number of solid concerns and issues raised,
> which I'm going to try and wrap into a proposal below.
> I think it might help simplify the donations goal by framing it in the
> following way:
> Ultimately, where to send a donation is the decision of the person or
> organization doing the donation (the benefactor).
> Package maintainers, software developers, and project organizations can
> lobby for where they'd like to see the money go, but it's the benefactor
> that decides where they'd like to send the money in the end. Given that
> premise, all a package maintainer, software developer, or organization
> can do is make suggestions to the benefactor.

I am afraid I find this whole approach not just questionable, but
likely to distort, and damage, the free software development processes
in general, and Debian development in particular. I suggest we, the
Debian project, approach this very carefully.

While the reality is slightly more complex, we are currently in a
state where we make technical decisions mostly based on what is the
right thing to do. We sometimes disagree on what the right thing is,
but the disagreements are based on our interpretations of shared goals
and values, and different evaluations of the various solutions, and
different emphasis on various technical virtues.

The more we introduce money into the development process, the higher
the risk is that we get away from making decisions based on what the
technically right thing is for us and for our users, and the more we
will decide things based on how we can maximise our income.

Be careful what you reward, because you will get more of it. Even if
you don't actually want more of it.

You suggest that package maintainers get to suggest where donations go.
There's two glaring problems there. First, it disregards all the great
things people do to make Debian better that are _not_ about packaging
at all.  We have translators, documentation writers, wiki gardeners, bug
triagers, people who answer questions on the debian-user mailing lists
in various languages, people who help staff Debian booths at various
conferences, people who run user groups. And so on, and so forth. None
of this work is highly visible, and it's really hard to target them with
donations, yet it's often more work than maintaining packages.

Second, even considering package maintainers only, targeted donations
would unfairly favour those maintaining the most visible packages.
If maintaining, say, Iceweasel or GNOME or Emacs results in getting
money, that will certainly lessen the interest in maintaining, say, 
Make, coreutils, or Grub. If having your name on four hundred packages
gives you ten times more money than maintaining one package well,
what happens to average package quality?

These are not unsolveable problems, I'm sure. However, I don't think
your attitude to solving them will result in a good solution, and you
may wreck things on the way. You push for a particular payment solution,
and dismiss the experiences and concerns of your critics. I fear this
is not a recipe for success.

(Disclaimer: I used to have a consulting contract to "improve the
technical quality of Debian", which gave me a livelihood for about
1.5 years. The lasting result of that was piuparts.)

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