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Costs of running a Debian foundation

[ I wasn't sure whether to comment on Brian's platform or stay out of
this, but I think it's important to scrutinise the plan.  Please see
my disclaimers at the end though. ]


* You write: "Debian Project Leaders should have more time to lead
rather than be buried in the set of administrative tasks they
currently face"

It's not clear to that I follow this argument.  Right now, the DPL and
treasurer team only have to maintain a relationship with a third party
(the TO).  Isn't that *less* work than overseeing your own

* You argue that "history has shown that volunteers alone aren’t
enough" and that "difficult to find enough people to volunteer to do
these things".

I would agree with this.  And having done both volunteer and paid work
in this area, I can attest that there's a limit on how much admin work
someone will do as a volunteer.

However, Debian has historically had a rather strained relationship
with paid work.  One could argue that the current Debian / SPI
relationship works because Debian is paying a service provider.  But
if Debian were to have its own foundation, you could argue that the
topic of Debian paying people will come up again.

You make a good point that admin work is different.  But will everyone
agree?  If Debian starts paying for admin work, why not pay for other
activities where it's been hard to find work?

Maybe some would agree that this is actually a good path to go, and
that a Debian Foundation would lead to more paid opportunities in the
future, but I think you could easily see this as a source of much

How would you address that?

Also, who is going to decide who to hire/contract?

* "the DPL is no longer a special member of SPI invited to all meetings":

I have to give some context on this (BTW, I don't speak for SPI, but
I'm a SPI member like anyone in Debian can become).  SPI used to have
2 board advisors: a representative from PostgreSQL and the current
DPL.  At some point SPI said:

* We haven't used these advisors in years
* Why pick advisors from 2 big projects when SPI serves all associated projects?
* SPI's meetings are open: let's encourage everyone to participate

So let me ask this: why hasn't the DPL (or a representative) attended
the public SPI IRC meetings?  Registered guests are mentioned in the
minutes and I don't see anyone officially representing Debian.  Why
didn't the DPL(s) actively pursue their advisor role?

* "without informing us, after 10 years of de facto practice, SPI
stopped waiving their standard 5% fees on DebConf sponsorship

So basically this is the crux of Brian's platform.  He's upset that
SPI is charging their standard 5% fee on DebConf sponsorship.  (And
there are important questions about this change, but I think that
doesn't actually matter in this context.)

What matters in my view: why do you think that 0 fees should be
charged on DebConf sponsorship?

And how does that square with your argument that this work can't be
done by volunteers.  On the one hand, you argue that this needs to be
paid work.  On the other hand, you are upset that SPI is charging for
its work.  Well, I don't think you can have it both ways.

Of course, this issue would go away with a Debian Foundation, but how
much is that going to cost to run?  Definitely not 0 since you suggest
paid staff.  Less than 5%?  More?

Fundamentally, I think you underestimate how much work it is to run a
non-profit properly, and therefore how much it would cost.

Have you done some numbers?  How much income does Debian have each
year?  How much would an admin of this Debian Foundation cost?  What
other fees and expenses are there?  Legal fees?  Trademark fees?  What
about an external audit?

This isn't explicitly in Brian's platform but he seems to believe that
Debian could do it better and/or cheaper.  Is there any evidence for

Have you looked at other FOSS non-profits to see what they cost to
run?  Are you saying a Debian Foundation makes sense even if it's more
expensive to run than paying a third party provider?  (Maybe there are
other benefits that would justify the cost of bringing this in house.)


P.S. I'm not saying there is no merit in a Debian Foundation.  Maybe
there is.  Maybe there isn't.  (And there are definitely things I
don't like about the TO arrangement that would go away with a Debian
Foundation.)  My big concern is that in my view Brian completely
underestimates the work and cost involved in doing this properly, and
that it will just end up in yet another non-functioning non-profit.
I've seen to many time people starting new non-profits to solve all
problems and they just end up creating more (and similar) problems.


* I served on the board of the Open Source Imitative, Software Freedom
Conservancy and Software in the Public Interest: I know that it's hard
to run a non-profit.

* I'm currently a paid contractor of SPI, so you can argue that I'm
biased because of my income depends on SPI.  You could also argue that
I know better than many what kind of work is involved.

* I am not on the SPI board and I do not speak for SPI.

* I am part of the Debian treasurer team, but I don't speak for them.

Martin Michlmayr

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