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The Almighty Buck

Affero's Hack-a-Thon 173

Henri Poole writes "I've got friends who ride their bikes for a week and get me and others to donate $100 to their cause. Spending more time on lists then roads, we've set up an analogous service for Free Software and Open Source projects. Substitute the physical sweat with a good hack, and you'll see the match. After you save your next newbie from tech-hell, just ask them to help your cause. In Lessig's blog, he writes "If there's one thing I've learned from watching, and tinkering, in this web-log space, it is that the many tiny brushstrokes of thousands paints more and more powerfully than the blast of even the most important and powerful papers...As I indicate on my Affero page, I count FSF and EFF as the two key players to support." And if you don't think you can make a difference, do this math: A $1 donation to the FSF for every user of GNU/Linux would increase their budget by 30 fold."
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Affero's Hack-a-Thon

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  • Advertising (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MeanMF ( 631837 )
    Wow, I didn't know Slashdot was in the business of giving away free advertising... Good to know!
    • by zapfie ( 560589 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:03PM (#4858782)
      Wow, I didn't know Slashdot was in the business of giving away free advertising... Good to know!

      You're new here, aren't you?
      • Sorry for sounding like a newbie... is this better?

        "Wow, I didn't know Slashdot was in the business of giving away beowulf clusters of free advertising in Soviet Russia... Good to know!"
        • er.. nothing to apologize for, it was just amusing. It's more that pretty much every other day Slashdot runs a story about a product which reads like an advertisement. They even did a joke about it on April Fools day once.
  • by The-Perl-CD-Bookshel ( 631252 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:07PM (#4858804) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I could give my money to these people who will fight the scourge of the corporate world...or I can make a twenty minute phone call!

    Wait, i'm reading Slashdot, that means that I don't have anyone to call, so i'll just give my buck to the EFF instead of Terry Bradshaw.

    • Does anyone know of an EFF equivilant based in Europe / UK / Ireland? I'd be more inclined to donate to a more Eurocentric organisation given the chance. I know of the
      but it seems to be just a place holder at the moment.
    • I'd donate, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ryochiji ( 453715 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @09:55PM (#4859390) Homepage
      I'd like to donate to FSF and EFF because of what they stand for. But the sad fact of it is, my own OpenSource project [ilohamail.org] has only resulted in $10 in donations for over 2.5 years of work (despite the 10,000+ downloads and ~500 registered users in the 7 months since initial release...not to mention the estimated 15,000+ end uesrs).

      As a college student who has a stomach to fill, rent to pay, and an education to complete, making monetary contributions really isn't an option. Hell, if I had money to spare, I wouldn't be trying to sell thongs (see sig).

      • by LetterJ ( 3524 )
        I hear that. All of this "if every one just donated a dollar" talk doesn't go anywhere. If every user who downloaded my PHPTriad gave me $1, I'd have nearly $2 million. I made about $200 in 2 years with nearly 2 million downloads. I switched to a more commercial model and am doing much better. It's a sad fact, but without at least a small level of coercion or extreme celebrity, people don't pay.
      • Then they'd truly be open source thongs!
      • I think the point is that if you have an project you could set up with affero to accept donations on its behalf. Thus, you are looking at this the wrong way. This is a tool for ALL free software projects, not just the EFF and FSF.
  • wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:08PM (#4858809)
    and I thought MY posts were really confusing...
  • verification? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:09PM (#4858819)
    Can you verify that your "earnings" are really forwarded to the cause you've selected?

    If so, how?
  • I think... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:09PM (#4858822) Homepage Journal
    Hemos is still hungover from CmdrTaco's wedding.
    • Is it just me, or is it amazing how few people realize that the editors arn't responsible for the text in italics?

      I mean, maybe they should be responsible, but they certanly don't act like it.
  • The diagrams notating the donation process are too confusing, this system spells trouble from the get go. ;-)

    And what if the people asking for help don't even know how to click a link - much less achieve donation.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:13PM (#4858855) Journal
    Affero's Hack-a-Thon...Substitute the physical sweat with a good hack, and you'll see the match.

    Ummm, not that you should be expected to read your own site before submitting a story about it but -- which is it? Donations for hacking or in appreciation for tech support? The site is entirely focused on the latter and your writeup seems to be half about that and half something entirely different.

  • If FSF/EFF had $1 for every person whose computer I've fixed/reinstalled/upgraded they would have...well heck...atleast $20 more than they have now. I think that in the future I shall make a point of telling them to donate a small sum to FSF/EFF the next time some coworker of my mom/distant relative/that guy from high school asks me "So what do you want for this?". (Well, the guy who calls at 11:30 PM on a sunday evening because he can't find his favorite font will still have to pay me $50 per hour plus expenses) Bummer it's a hassle to donate money if you live in Sweden though.
    • by Soulfader ( 527299 ) <sig@siBALDWINgspace.net minus author> on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:25PM (#4858938) Journal
      ...that your average Joe is going to respect your wishes to make a micropayment to an organization he's never heard of.

      User: "So what do you want for this?"
      Tech: "If you find my service useful, please consider contributing $25 to blah blah blah" (at this point user has tuned tech out)
      User: (Internal monologue) "He doesn't want my money, apparently. Very well. I shall buy bread and circuses. Huzzah!"

      Maybe it would be better just to take their money and donate it for them. =)

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Or charge double and donate half ;)
      • Good in theory, but I think that that would lose the meaning of the process: get people that would not normally know about these groups to slowly become aware: of not only the groups, but also the things that they support. Even if they don't end up donating, at least they will hopefully go to their website, and have a quick read around of what they stand for. Then, the next time they see an article mentioning, for example, the DMCA, they will at least know what the newsfeed is on about.

        Project to a point where hopefully you find a critical mass, and what you have helped to do, in fact, is teach people about what rights they are losing, and then we have a chance to actually fight these laws. When you have the general public complaining about laws, you (you being a politician) can't ignore them as easily as you would a group of geeks.

        But, to get back to the point of how you will know whether they've donated or not, I think I'll be doing this from now on:

        1) Tell them how much it would cost someone else to deal with the problem
        2) Tell them that if they donate a small amount of money to a group of your choice, you'll do it for nothing
        3) Before doing the work, ask them for proof of the donation

        Now, regarding Point 2: I would actually give them a few to choose from, and ask them to choose, after doing just 5 minutes research on each group, and ask them why they chose that particular group.

        And regarding Point 3: This gets back to my original point that a donation now isn't necessarily needed: if they didn't donate, ask them at least for a quick rundown on what they consider to be the benefits of that group. Try and convince them to at least join an announcements list. They will eventually see the value in joining, and so it will happen over time.

        Finally, if they ask you why they should bother doing at least looking up the groups, tell them the work you'll be doing for them didn't just jump into your head: you had to learn, and all you're asking is for them to do some learning too.

        Well, that's what I'll be doing from now on, anyway.
        • Yeah right, like your average computer newbie is really going to want to contribute to one of these groups. As if your mother in law is going to read one of RMS's manifestos and think he's a prophet, not to mention sane.

          As for the EFF, remember that the majority of Americans think it's okay for the government to read your e-mail, as long as it helps stop terrorism.

          • You know what? I don't care if they don't want to contribute, but I will do free work on the one condition that they go and educate themselves a little: learn to think that it's NOT okay for the government to read their e-mail.

            If they don't want to do that, that's fine by me. But as I said in my original post, if they don't want to do that, they can pay me my normal hourly rate.

            When presented with the two options, my average computer newbie or mother in law is going to want the cheaper option, but to get that they need to realise that I will make sure they learned something.

            In a way I'm forcing them (financially) to learn about what's happening to their rights. And I believe that they will see a connection between the fact that I am willing to do this for free if they learn this. ie. it must be valuable to me, a non-computer newbie, so therefore they'll start to wonder why it's that valuable to me to do work for nothing.

            I think that they will realise that:
            1) I obviously believe in this
            2) I obviously want them to believe in this
            3) They should obviously believe me that they should want to believe in this

            If they come to me for help, and my help comes free but with a little "but hey, you know what...?", wouldn't they begin to realise it's for their own good?
            • You forgot 4) They should obviously believe that you believe that you believe that they should want to believe...

              Anyway, have you actually tried this? Your expectation may be that you will blackmail them into learning about their rights. The reaction I would expect is more along the lines of "He's a bit of an odd one, isn't he?"

              Personally, I willingly help people with tech support if they need it (and I don't demand money or that they share an ideology). Generally, this is limited to when I was already in their home. But if I get really stuck on something, I don't bang my head against the wall; I simply tell them I don't know how to fix it.

              • No, I haven't tried this, though only because I hadn't thought of it.

                Like you, I will normally help people if they need it: I'm a big fan of having someone else's machine to play with, but quite a number of times I've had "friends of friends" ask for help. They offer money, but they're too closely linked to actually accept it, so this could be a happy medium.

                I mean really, most of the people close enough to me to get "unrequited support" already know enough about the things that are important to me 'cause I always end up whinging about it while I'm helpinf them out.

                Everything in moderation, I suppose...
      • Whenever I go fix someone's PC, be it Windows or Linux, they always try to offer me money. I usually refuse, but I think from now on I'll open their web browser to eff.org and tell them that if they want to pay me, do it there. These are family members and friends of family for the most part, so there is some feeling of obligation, and if I pop open a charity then I really don't think they'd feel right refusing.

        Or I could take the money and send it myself. But this way I'd eliminate the middle man, and gain the ability to accept payment in the form of credit cards :)
      • User: "So what do you want for this?"
        Tech: "If you find my service useful, please consider contributing $25 to blah blah blah" (at this point user has tuned tech out)
        User: (Internal monologue) "He doesn't want my money, apparently. Very well. I shall buy bread and circuses. Huzzah!"

        I admit I have thought this way before. I've gotten a lot of use out of VIM, but I've never :helped uganda [sourceforge.net].
  • Henri Poole... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joestar ( 225875 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:17PM (#4858882) Homepage
    Isn't he a former MandrakeSoft CEO who has been thanked from Mandrake 18 months ago for having tried to convert the Linux company into a e-learning company?

    As it seems Poole didn't know [linux-mandrake.com] anything about Free Software when he joined, it's great to see the months he spent with the Mandrakians converted him to Free Software anyway! Free Software: a real virus ;-)
  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nihilogos ( 87025 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:19PM (#4858898)
    I ride my bike every day, and you're telling me I can get money for it?

    I am wary of handing my bank details out over the internet, so if you are genuine please contact Mr.Abiola Williams at the Bank of Nigeria. He has all my account numbers.
  • Oi... (Score:1, Funny)

    by BHearsum ( 325814 )
    Is it just me, or does anyone else think we should find out 'Anonymous Coward's IP addy and ban him from here?
  • by DV ( 10611 )
    Hum, seems that there is far less users
    of GNU/Linux than Linux users. Maybe the
    30 fold figure is a bit unrealistic.

    DV, Linux user since '92 , a time where
    the FSF could not care less about Linux
  • by deego ( 587575 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:28PM (#4858956)
    Buy excellent manuals from them for yourself, or for your company:
    Form [fsf.org].

    Not only will this help them financially, this might also help further spread the cause of Free Software if more people then just you happen to look at the manual. Printed copies are still much nicer to read than online stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Perhaps we could convince one of the CDROM distribution vendors to market a "bundle" with a price that included a small donation to FSF/EFF. I occasionally buy a CDROM-plus-book bundle, and paying 1$ more to support a good cause would not bother me.
  • 30 Fold? (Score:4, Funny)

    by antis0c ( 133550 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @08:54PM (#4859094)
    For ever user of GNU/Linux? I don't think RMS has that kind of money.
  • I've donated money to the EFF in the past and a few other electronic charities, but I've never considered donating to the FSF. Does the FSF support projects that refuse to call their project GNU/Projectname? I guess what I'm trying to say, is giving money to FSF an endorsement of Stallman's views? Does the FSF give money to KDE or other programs that are in competition with FSF projects? The irony of the matter is that I would have donated to the FSF long ago if it wasn't for Stallman's extremism, but I guess the FSF wouldn't exist without Stallman's original vision.
  • 1) Bob is mad, the company that was supposed to donate money to the cause he choice had a huge party with hookers, drugs and booze. Joe know's Bob is mad, so he goes into hiding now that he has collected $1,000,000. Bob becomes very angry and decides to get back at Joe by hiring a hit man. Joe dies a tragic death, Bob gives the hitman $1 to go to the cause of his choice. 2) Profit!
  • Test
  • I thought it was about black hairdressers...

  • by geekee ( 591277 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @10:22PM (#4859537)
    I guess they weren't kidding when they said not free as in beer.
    • I've always wondered about the 'free as in beer' analogy...

      After all, the saying goes "You don't buy beer, you rent it."

      So beer sounds more like a licensing deal. In the end, if you keep trying to use it, you just end up with a bad taste in your mouth.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @10:24PM (#4859542) Homepage Journal
    Being able to copy and share files, use strong encryption, etc are nice. But lets also try to keep our "real life" rights as well, and donate to the ACLU along with the EFF!
    • if only there was a group similar in function to the aclu which people took seriously and didn't automatically think poorly of anything that mentions them.
      • The only people who have that reaction to the ACLU are right-wing crazies. You're not a right-wing crazy, are you Suppafly?

        I mean it's not like they're PETA...
      • There is [ij.org].

        Though the Institute for Justice is mostly into economic liberty (breaking government-sanctioned monopolies), protecting homeowners from eminent domain abuse (so the govt. can't force you to sell your property at whatever price so their favorite big developer can have a bigger parking lot), and defending school choice. That said, they're very good at what they do.

        • Aren't these the same people who think that limiting the amount of pollution you can dump into a stream from your property amounts to a "taking" of your property?

          Sorry, the waterways belong to all the people. One individual should not have the right to ruin it for everyone. If anyone is "taking" anything it is the idividual who degrades a common resource for their own selfish motives.

          These are the wacky extremists.
  • Since we can charge for the costs of cds in distributing opensource projcts..why can't we add one dollar to the cost for revenue stream that goes to these orgs..with of course fully informing the public about this?

    Would I part with the dollar, yes!
  • Whenever I make a purchase from http://www.everythinglinux.com.au [everythinglinux.com.au], I make sure I add a Debian Donation [everythinglinux.com.au] or two to the order.
  • by mpsmps ( 178373 ) on Tuesday December 10, 2002 @11:42PM (#4859907)
    Maybe the FSF could get funds by having everyone who uses one of their products give them a dollar.

    Oh, wait...
  • Too bad there are no users of GNU/Linux yet. I guess the FSF is yet to start their own Linux distro (which, incidentally, woudn't be a half-bad idea).

    Might I suggest the EFF as a considerably less politically dangerous target of such contributions? Whilst their scope is admitedly more US-centered, I'm guessing the opinion that they are a genuinely useful entity is nearly unanimous.

    Oh, and don't get me wrong-- the FSF is useful as well, and they have created good, useful software which I use daily; it's just that they(1) also hold political/sociological stances which make me beleive that some of the figureheads are going forward with both feet firmly planted in midair. :)

    -- MG

    1) Where they can generally be understood to mean RMS.

  • >>A $1 donation to the FSF for every user of GNU/Linux would increase their budget by 30 fold It's called selling your software. Some people seem to find it quite profitable....

  • They stop insisting on the absolutely fucking retarded GNU/Linux moniker. Give it a rest.
  • I know how to fix your problem.
    Do this: Blah Blah Blah

    I cannot fathom any problem that would be fixed by doing "Blah Blah Blah". If anyone can tell me what a Blah is - I'll donate to your cause.
  • by Eneff ( 96967 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:03AM (#4860883)
    I use Redhat Linux 8.1!

    Who should I donate to then?

    In all seriousness, I still have not seen a cogent argument that supports "if we use free software, we must support the ideals of free software," and it's corellary, "If we use free software, we must support Dick Stallman."

    As for paying people for doing tech support in newsgroups and mailing lists (Ob-topic), I keep on thinking it makes someone little more than a hi-tech waiter. It also makes people more demanding. "I won't pay if you don't handhold me through this" when "pay" is akin to 5 bucks.

    I always wondered how a 900 number would work for answering questions... Perhaps an 800 number that asked for the credit card number would work better. That way, people aren't paying to wait on hold...
  • The terms of service (and I imagine how they support themselves), say they take 6% or $1.00, whichever is higher of each donation.

    What it doesn't say is if that is 6% plus credit card charges (usually 2.5%, but often higher of you have lots of small transactions) or instead of credit card charges.

    Either way, donations of $10 or less means that they are taking a substantial portion. To be fair to them, it's probably the only way they can stay in business.
  • If there's one thing I've learned from watching, and tinkering, in this web-log space

    You can learn and watch in LOGSPACE? Impressive. I would have guessed you would need at least P to do those things.
  • ...I ride my bike to uni and to work (and most everywhere I go for that matter, unless it's another city, in which case I take public transport); send me money!
  • So does this mean that if the help was sub-par or more hurting than helpful, that we can dock them?

    Sounds like a good way to keep bad help off the internet! :)
  • Having followed the quoted link to FSF financial data [guidestar.org] just to see what could possibly be on the end of the worlds longest context tag, I then looked up those of the EFF [guidestar.org]. The FSF shows half a million turnover, 1 million "assets - liabilities", whereas the EFF shows 2.5 million turnover, half a million "assets - liabilities".

    I am not an accountant (IANAA?), so perhaps someone could explain why sitting on the best part of $1m cash is a good way to operate a non-profit whose turnover is half that? How do these figures compare with for-profit organisations? As the site says, if assets significantly outstrip liabilities (presumably a difference that has to be considered in relation to annual cash flow to determine if it is a "big" difference or not) then the organisation may not be putting its resources to best use.

  • Home centers are designed for the do-it-yourselfer who's willing to
    pay higher prices for the convenience of being able to shop for lumber,
    hardware, and toasters all in one location. Notice I say "shop for," as
    opposed to "obtain." This is the major drawback of home centers: they are
    always out of everything except artificial Christmas trees. The home center
    employees have no time to reorder merchandise because they are too busy
    applying little price stickers to every object -- every board, washer, nail
    and screw -- in the entire store ...

    Let's say a piece in your toilet tank breaks, so you remove the
    broken part, take it to the home center, and ask an employee if he has a
    replacement. The employee, who has never is his life even seen the inside
    of a toilet tank, will peer at the broken part in very much the same way
    that a member of a primitive Amazon jungle tribe would look at an electronic
    calculator, and then say, "We're expecting a shipment of these sometime
    around the middle of next week."
    -- Dave Barry, "The Taming of the Screw"

    - this post brought to you by the Automated Last Post Generator...

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?