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Proposal to Fund Debian Sparks Debate 162

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the much-ado-about-something dept.
lisah writes "The announcement earlier this week of 'experimental' group Dunc-Tank's plans to bankroll the work of certain Debian developers has sparked some controversy across the open source community. The leaders of Dunc-Tank say their primary motivation is to see that Debian version 4.0, also known as etch, is released on time this December. Debian developer Lucas Nussbaum, however, says that research shows that 'sometimes, paying volunteers decreases the overall participation.' Dunc-Tank member Raphaël Hertzog countered that the opposite is true and 'many Debian developers are motivated to work when things evolve,' a veiled reference to Debian's notoriously slow release cycle. Dunc-Tank member and kernel developer Ted Ts'o took the idea a step further and said, 'If money were among anybody's primary motivators...they probably wouldn't be accepting a grant from Dunc-Tank; they could probably make more money by applying for a job with Google — or Microsoft.'"
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Proposal to Fund Debian Sparks Debate

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  • the office (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Friday September 22, 2006 @12:40AM (#16158970) Homepage
    Debian developer Lucas Nussbaum, however, says that research shows that 'sometimes, paying volunteers decreases the overall participation.

    That's because when you pay volunteers, they become employees. And anyone who's ever worked in an office knows how that works.
  • by aliscool (597862) * on Friday September 22, 2006 @12:43AM (#16158981)
    than bounties paid by Ubuntu or Drupal to contributers?
    Dunc-Tank.org is organizing and raising money to step in and fund full time coding to ensure a deadline is met...
    I work a lot with Drupal and see this on the message boards often. "I'd like to see this feature built and I'm willing to pay XXX for it" Someone builds the feature and cashes in. Innovation and capitalism at work.
    I think Dunc-Tank.org has a great thing going here and wish them well with it.
  • Re:No no no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday September 22, 2006 @01:13AM (#16159058) Homepage

    I really like the fact that the Debian I use is the same Debian everyone else is using, not a development playground or redheaded stepchild money pit.

    So wait-- you seem to be saying that you like using Debian because there aren't any other organizations who are taking Debian, altering it, and using it as a base for their own distro...?

    I'm not saying that you can't like Debian or think it has a better philosophy or something, but complaining about Fedora/OpenSuSE on the grounds that it's used as a base for another distro-- I don't get it. Isn't Debian used as the base of Ubuntu, Linspire, and Xandros (to name a few)?

  • Agile Vs Debian (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drDugan (219551) * on Friday September 22, 2006 @02:40AM (#16159249) Homepage
    Gotta say, the speed at which we're developing software makes the Debian "notoriously slow release cycle" a non-starter for doing interesting stuff with the latest tools.

    With cash to spare, I'd put significant money into support for keeping all the apps in stable updated on weekly and monthly horizons, not bi-annual.

  • Paranoid mode on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Crayon Kid (700279) on Friday September 22, 2006 @03:07AM (#16159301)
    What are the chances that behind Dunc-Tank is a company such as Microsoft? Offer money to some Debian volunteers but not others, then stand back and watch them turn against each other. Quite a poisoned apple. And you end up crippling one of the most important Linux distributions around, one of the oldest, one that stands at the forefront of many things that Linux also stands for, such as proof that an open, decentralized system is viable. And all that for crumbs as far as money goes. I don't know, it's so insidious it's almost beautiful.
  • Volunteering (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gatzke (2977) on Friday September 22, 2006 @06:28AM (#16159652) Homepage Journal

    In college I volunteered at the Atlanta Kids Science Museum.

    About a month in, I realized all the other workers were not volunteers, they were getting paid. For doing the same stuff I was doing.

    That really destroyed my motivation. Why give away your time for free when others that are less motivated and less qualified are getting paid?

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tacocat (527354) <tallison1@@@twmi...rr...com> on Friday September 22, 2006 @07:12AM (#16159758)

    Perhaps a solution can start with a simple process something like:

    1. Development community identifies who they consider to be the top contributors. Perhaps Debians popularity contest software can help weigh in on what's most often installed on machines.
    2. Users are given the opportunity to make donations (eg: via paypal) to the community in a general fund.
    3. top contributors are given a strict percentage of the general fund (adding up to 100% of course)
    4. Additionally, you can opt-in for specific projects/products/packages to get their contributions directly. In case you really like a specific project -- frozen bubbles!!
    Probably not enough there to retire on. Probably some will feel they deserve more than the next guy. But the advantages are:
    • It's better than not getting anything at all
    • You know the rules before you begin -- everyone gets the same percentage.
    • Who gets the percentage is collectively determined and user installation base can be a factor.
    • Even if you aren't top dog on the porch, there is still a mechanism for you to get some contributions.

    I have no doubt that it isn't going to be perfect. But it's an organized way of saying thank you to the developers and helping them to see the benefits. For most companies it would be far cheaper for them to simply make an annual donation to a tax deductable organization than it would to manage the contracts or employee benefits.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday September 22, 2006 @08:01AM (#16159916) Homepage

    Not different, but not necessarily good.

    I don't see how it can work without resulting in:

    1. Duplicated effort.
    2. Sooner rather than better.

    Have you ever worked with any of the big Korean or Malaysian software developers? They run their operations like battery chicken farms, with developers crowded in elbow-to-elbow. Time to market is everything, and so they deliberately duplicate effort by promoting internal competition, with individuals and teams rushing to hammer out code before someone else beats them to it. It makes them a real nightmare to work with, and the standard of their code is appalling. They get code that gets the job done, but then they have to throw it away and start over. They actually, and I know this from bitter experience, obfuscate their code to make it harder for anyone else to work on it, so that they can win the next round of competitive completion. Yuk.

    I have a dreadful suspicion that software bounties will engender the same type-type-done-next school of development among Free software projects, and it's not something that I look forward to. My further suspicion is that Joe Bounty will lash something together to claim the money, and then Sally Tidyup will have to come along later and unpick the mess. Poor Sally.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ericlondaits (32714) on Friday September 22, 2006 @11:19AM (#16160898) Homepage
    I really don't get any of these arguments. I don't understand why OSS should be:

    - Developed ad-honorem.
    - Developed by individuals and not by companies.
    - All developers considered equals.
    - Fun to develop.
    - Not a job to develop.

    OSS is about Open Source... and all that implies. If some large OSS projects are handled like any other commercial software projects, more power to them... it's the "open" that matters. As long as the sources are open, volunteer groups will be able to apply a completely different approach and work philosophy to any commercially developed OSS product they want.
  • by jtwronski (465067) on Friday September 22, 2006 @12:45PM (#16161579)
    I've been thinking of posting a bounty on Ubuntu for a good vpn front-end. What do you mean that nobody collects them? Somehow, you got modded +5 without qualifying your opinion.

    Not trying to troll here, but am very curious as to why its failed. Do folks post bounties and then not pay up when they get their features added? If so, then Ubuntu/Drupal/whoever should look into taking the cash first, and putting it into some sort of escrow. Say, $100 in escrow for 60 days until the feature gets added, or you get your money back.

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