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Re: How to leverage money to accomplish high impact Debian projects


as said in private some time ago to Raphaël, I find Freexian's initiative great, and I wish there were more options to get paid to do Debian work.

On 19.03.21 11:29, Enrico Zini wrote:
On Thu, Mar 18, 2021 at 09:16:15PM +0200, Jonathan Carter wrote:

I don't think that lack of interest is the problem here, but I do think
that Debian contributors tend to be already starved for time, and trying
to get them to do more is like trying to tap water out of an empty well.
For some, a financial incentive might work if they're not currently
working full time, and especially if they need money, but the median
Debian developer seem capable of sustaining themselves reasonably well.

Thinking at how we set our bar for membership in building a reputation
within the project, I imagine we implicitly select people who are able
to sustain themselves reasonably well without Debian's help.

… yes, and these people are generally men living in the Global North. Most of them do have full time jobs, others are students, and their free time is spent on Debian. For many of these people, working on Debian is not about having to earn money, it's about the joy of creating something as great as Debian. But the Flosspols study of 2005 had already made the point that this might be a problem for diversity: there are 10 times more women working in proprietary software (~20%) than in free software (~2%), because most of them have less free time or need to sustain themselves financially with their work. This is also true for people from less economically secure backgrounds, specifically the Global South.

I'm not sure it's something I'd want to change. I see being an employer
as a radically different thing than being a volunteer-based project.

I'd be interested in looking a bit closer at the volunteer system: are we excluding people by doing that? How could that be changed?

I think Enrico is asking the right questions below already. I would add:

(How) could the Freexian model be extended? Which other organizations could do this work, identify useful projects and invite people to work that are not necessarily part of the group of usual suspects?

In practice, I see more than these two options.

On the "employer" side, our ecosystem does include employers who pay
people to do Debian-related work. While Debian Developer's bills are
currently mostly outside of what Debian can or wants to worry about, the
Debian ecosystem does include the possibility of doing Debian work and
having bills paid.

There is also a "contractor" side: without developing the infrastructure
to hire people ourselves, we are able to (and do) contract employers (or
self-employed people) to do things we need.

I'm writing this to suggest that although we can't (and probably
shouldn't) take responsibility for Developers' bills, we could have some
limited level of control over the financial angle which we might decide
to use, to encourage our community to develop towards specific strategic
directions we might care about.

For example, on the 'employer' side:

  - Are the possibilities of making a living with Debian work available
    enough and advertised enough?
  - While not hiring pepole directly, could Debian encourage Debian as a
    professional career?
  - Could (and do we want to) offer infrastructure for that? For example:
     - a channel for employers active in Debian's ecosystem to post job
     - a channel for advertising Debian contributions that happen during
       paid time of some employer
     - a list of important that are currently not getting solved, and
       that an employer might want to pick up, and get credit for

And on the 'contractor' side:

  - Are the possibilities of contracting external work exploited enough?
  - Are they clear enough?
  - Do we need some procurement guidelines?
  - Do we need procurement know-how and support? (I sometimes have
    problems for which I could use external help, but I don't know how to
    find and choose a professional that provides it).

I'm not expecting you and Sruthi to answer these questions now: I think
that questions to prospective DPLs should be more about vision.

To turn this all into an actual question: should Debian consider things
like that to be within its problem space?

If all goes well and you have a magic wand and everything, how do you
see the Debian ecosystem dealing with money problems a few years into
the future?

^ that, and adding: do you think that we could improve on diversity and sustainability by having more possibilities to get paid to do Debian work?

take care,

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