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

On 19/03/21 3:59 pm, 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.
> 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.
> 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
>       offers
>     - 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?
Yes, definitely. Debian should always remain a voluntary project, but
there is nothing wrong in facilitating paid work. I believe this will in
fact encourage diversity and we will be able to attract people who could
not dedicate time just because of monetary constraints.
> 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?

If I have a magic wand, I will have a system of streamlined income and
expenditure. Leaving behind a fixed deposit of amount necessary to run
Debian for a 5 years, everything else would be spent on projects,
hardware, events and activities benefiting the project as a whole. When
it is safe to have in-person events, personally I would look forward to
funding more and more local Debian events. While the expenditure is
happening at one end, there will be attention on getting enough donation
to keep these activities in the future years too.

Phil's idea of allocating per head budget for DDs which can be pooled
together to fund projects etc will definitely be explored. Another
approach I would try is drafting out a "budget plan" allocating
pre-approved amounts to various teams/projects which does not need
further approval from DPL. The "budget plan" can be prepared based on
the proposals received from the community.

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