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Re: All DPL candidates: Debian assets

Hi Lucas,

Since I am one of the local organizers this year for DebConf, which is
Debian's single largest annual expense; and in light of the ongoing
discussion you and I are having about DebConf budgeting; it should be no
surprise that I have opinions on the question of Debian asset management.

So I'm going to pile on this thread with some questions to both candidates
about their view of the DPL's role in responsibly managing Debian funds.

On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 05:37:04PM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote:
> On 20/03/14 at 22:44 +0100, Neil McGovern wrote:
> > I don’t think there’s an “if” here. Ever since I was secretary of SPI,
> > I’ve been concerned about the amount of money that Debian has
> > earmarked. Again, I disagree with Lucas here - I don’t think that
> > saving donors money is a good plan, our donators expect their
> > donations to be spent to progress the project.

> > At the moment, in just SPI, we have > 100k USD awaiting being spent.
> > As an indication, that’s enough for a DebConf without any sponsors!
> > Our donations should be spent. Be that better porter boxes, or a
> > better backup service, or simply making sure our core machines are
> > replaced regularly.

> I would put it differently: "in SPI, we have ~$100k. That's barely
> enough for a DebConf for which fundraising would mostly fail, or for
> which many unexpected expenses would need to be made!"  (the amount of
> sponsorship raised for DC13 was ~ $160k; the deficit for DC10 was $50k
> despite $90k of fundraising)

(To Lucas) Why should Debian need to hold a reserve with its TOs to fully
fund a DebConf for which fundraising has failed?  I believe the operating
principle is that the DebConf organization should never spend money that it
doesn't already have - i.e., never more than the sum of confirmed DebConf
sponsorship plus money from Debian's general fund that the DPL has approved
(with the possibility, but not the guarantee, that it will be returned at
the end of the conference).  Do you disagree with this principle?  If so -
why, and what are the criteria you would use to decide a DebConf has
"failed" at fundraising and dip into these reserves?  If not - why does
Debian need to worry about reserves to cover DebConf?

(To both) What kinds of unexpected expenses do you think Debian should keep
funds available to cover?  What do you think is the appropriate level of
cash reserves for the project to hold, and why?

> We need some amount of savings to care for all the unexpected problems
> that could happen, and at the same time, we need to spend money where
> needed to support Debian's goals.
> The really hard problem is to find a good balance between saving money
> for the unexpected, and spending more money. We need to be careful with
> that, and build a good understanding of Debian's historical needs so
> that we can spend more money if needed without jeopardizing the future.
> So, yeah, it seems that Neil and I disagree on that, because I don't
> think that it's as simple as 'our donations should be spent'.

(To both) Management of Debian's assets is one of the key duties of the DPL.
What principles guide you in deciding how to balance the use of Debian's
assets (infrastructure, DebConf, other Debian sprints, other expenses)?  If
elected, what will you do to ensure transparency to the project about how
Debian money is being spent, and how these expenses affect our overall cash

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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