×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Can I Contribute To Open Source?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the in-kind dept.

GNU is Not Unix 332

rtobyr writes "I work for a state government agency. That means we can't donate money, because it's a 'gift of public funds.' I had the idea to put up a Web page stating that we 'use the following free software to save tax dollars,' as a way to help spread the word about open source software, but management calls this an 'endorsement.' A mirror server is a no-go as well. I'm certainly not a talented enough programmer to help with development. I've donated $10 here and there out of my own pocket, but I'm hoping you Slashdotters have some creative ideas about how my organization could give something back to the teams that create free software we benefit so much from."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

332 comments

Pay for your free licenses (5, Insightful)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30529950)

Buy support. Pay for your Linux licenses. Just because it's open source doesn't mean that you should pay $0.

By buying from a legitimate open source company, you help reinforce the open source eco-system.

And it's all legitimate: it's not a donation, so your boss shouldn't object. You are still saving a lot of money compared to buying a proprietary solution, but you are helping people who code full-time sustain themselves. Let's face it, developers are the critical resource for most open source projects.

PS: some cool startups are looking for extra developers/founders [fairsoftware.net] : help people go solar, build a better bug collector tool, or help build a music community that supports its bands.

Re:Pay for your free licenses (4, Interesting)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530022)

Exactly. My company has used OpenVPN for a long time. Recently I saw their nice pay product and convinced my boss that the features it offered was worth it (wasn't a hard sell at all). Now we have bought 20 user licenses of OpenVPN. It allowed us to give back, and still look good to the business office.

Re:Pay for your free licenses (4, Interesting)

Forge (2456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530432)

You also don't need to buy support from an existing provider. You can ask the project leaders for something you find valuable to submit a bid for annual support within a defined price range. With the price range limited, they automatically win on competence.

This means you could for-instance switch from Windows to KDE on 100 desktops and offer the KDE project the bargain basement fee of $10 per PC, per year to deliver the desktop the way you like and respond to concerns.

Re:Pay for your free licenses (4, Insightful)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530532)

You also don't need to buy support from an existing provider. You can ask the project leaders for something you find valuable to submit a bid for annual support within a defined price range. With the price range limited, they automatically win on competence.

I don't know what it's like over there (I expect it's similar) but over here that would be illegal as any competitor to that project could file court action claiming corruption in the tender process. And win.

Re:Pay for your free licenses (4, Informative)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530444)

You are still saving a lot of money compared to buying a proprietary solution...

Except when you're not.

I'm looking at you, RedHat and SUSE.

You're doing it wrong. (2, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30529984)

I had the idea to put up a Web page stating that we 'use the following free software to save tax dollars,' as a way to help spread the word about open source software, but management calls this an 'endorsement.' A mirror server is a no-go as well. I'm certainly not a talented enough programmer to help with development.

First, if your manager says don't put up a web page, then don't. End of discussion. Yes he might be wrong. In fact, it's likely he's wrong. But you have a job to do -- don't risk it by challenging your boss. It's enough you're saving taxpayer dollars doing that, even if it isn't acknowledged (Thank You).

Second... I don't want my tax dollars being used for a mirror server. Plenty of other people do that already, and even if they didn't, we have bittorrent.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530060)

But you have a job to do -- don't risk it by challenging your boss.

Maybe it's just the person you are, but I think you're flat out wrong. Putting your head down and just doing your job instead of making a persuasive argument and showing the benefits is simply pathetic (especially at a government job, where it's typically much more difficult to get fired/laid off). Before working for myself, I've challenged bosses before when I thought a decision was grossly incorrect (don't quibble over little stuff), and have even gone above them before with less than horrible results (once got a raise, once got my boss' job). Not to go too far off-topic though, going through life never challenging those above you is.....no way to go through life.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530172)

Maybe it's just the person you are, but I think you're flat out wrong.

You're entitled to your opinion, but I'm speaking from a decade of experience in the field.

Putting your head down and just doing your job instead of making a persuasive argument and showing the benefits is simply pathetic

He made his argument. He lost. Move on. Pressing the issue will only irritate management. It's not business-critical and it's not impacting his professional reputation. If it was, then appeal to upper management and/or write a CYA letter informing them of the consequences if your professional recommendation is not followed.

You admit that you don't quibble over little stuff. This is pretty minor -- his job is IT and while his aims are noble he hasn't been asked to represent his employer. That's somebody else's job. You have to recognize the limitations of your job function and work within them -- that's not putting your head down, that's being a professional and doing your job.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1, Offtopic)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530310)

I guess I jumped into running my own consulting firm (and out of working for a manager) fast enough that I'm not cynical to the point that it's just a job if it's something you care about. I wish your 10 years in the industry had been better than my 10 =( I seem to have had the opposite experience, but I've worked at Pixar, a DOE lab, and Google, so YMMV.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (2, Insightful)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530346)

Name dropper

Re:You're doing it wrong. (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530440)

You'd do it to if you got to work there ;) Besides, I was trying to prove a point. It's not like I've worked at easy going places my entire career. The DOE lab was extremely stuffy and bureaucratic, but I was able to make a lot of great changes by getting to the right people.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530378)

anyone can start their own "consulting firm" lol

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530496)

There is something to be said for being an advocate for your position and arguing for what you think is right. But there comes a point where you have to cede that the final decision is made by those above you(or by your client) and that ultimately you must do as they want.

By accepting this, you can make a professional argument to support your position and still save face when you lose the argument. Pushing too hard will make you look bullish or get you fired.

As for the submitters original question, buying support for business critical programs is the best way. Or if nothing else, if you're using Linux, buy your distribution from a vendor instead of downloading the ISO.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530596)

I agree very much with both of your points (my debate with girlintraining and your answer to OP's question). As a fan of like-minded individual's, next time you're in Chicago or San Francisco, let me know if you want to grab a beer (I've got offices in both locations).

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530720)

I guess I jumped into running my own consulting firm (and out of working for a manager) fast enough that I'm not cynical to the point that it's just a job if it's something you care about.

Well there you go. You're the boss, so you're always right. Of COURSE you would encourage yourself to stand up for what you believe in - you are the boss. The boss ALWAYS does that. What you need, on the other hand, are examples of where your employees stood up to you and changed your mind, or preferably elevated their career by doing so. That might be constructive. But if you are neither employer nor employee then your opinion probably doesn't carry that much weight as you have nothing personal at stake.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530670)

You are a fsking moron. What if he has mouths to feed? "Got fired today, but it's okay, I defended freeeeeeedom, GNU, and Open Source"

Re:You're doing it wrong. (3, Interesting)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530132)

Second... I don't want my tax dollars being used for a mirror server. Plenty of other people do that already, and even if they didn't, we have bittorrent.

Indeed. Government should be as efficient as possible. As a public servant, your responsibility is to the taxpayers. You should offer only those contributions which do not increase the burden on those taxpayers, or which directly benefit them.

If you can't contribute bugfixes or enhancements, then contribute by filing bug reports and feature requests. Possibly documentation, but only if it is something that you, your coworkers, or your eventual replacement would use in the future. (IE documenting the structure of an unclear config file, not writing a detailed tutorial.)

Anything else you want to do, do it on your own time and your own dime.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530236)

Possibly documentation, but only if it is something that you, your coworkers, or your eventual replacement would use in the future. (IE documenting the structure of an unclear config file, not writing a detailed tutorial.)

Actually, writing up documentation is a great way to contribute to open source. If written in a generic fashion, it can be released to other government organizations (and the general public). There's plenty of other ways to advocate open source that are work-related as well.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530558)

Indeed. Government should be as efficient as possible. As a public servant, your responsibility is to the taxpayers. You should offer only those contributions which do not increase the burden on those taxpayers, or which directly benefit them.

It's that direct stipulation that leads to short-sightedness, and ends up costing taxpayers billions in the long run.

"Oh, well we don't need to shore up these levies in New Orleans. There's no immediate benefit when there hasn't been a major hurricane in years."

"Oh, bridges can last a little while longer than designed. We'll just send someone by periodically to do a cursory check. That's a lot cheaper than replacing all those 1930s projects."

"Who cares about preventative care. If you want that, get insurance and go to your doctor. Never mind that taxpayers will cover you when your problem gets worse and you go to the emergency room uninsured."

"Regulation is an inefficient burden on commerce. It's hard to show a direct benefit when you back during a boom and ignore any lessons more than three years old. Just let it all go, and the publicly-chartered companies will police themselves!"

I think we have very different opinions on "efficient". I believe that long-term and indirect benefits can be significantly more efficient than short-term nearsightedness, and the government if anyone should be able to look at the long term. In this case, for example, he should find a way to fund the projects he uses (such as buying support licenses), because in the long term it will keep the projects active and improving, and save significant cost versus a system redesign due to an EOL/abandoned software product.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (4, Interesting)

bberens (965711) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530638)

*shrug* At my company I put it in the suggestion box to support some of the open source projects we use. The manager pulled it out and got with a few other development departments and all of a sudden several open source projects got a check for several thousand dollars each last year. I was hoping we'd drop them a $10 spot or something. Not every work place would do that.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (0, Offtopic)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530276)

First, if your manager says don't put up a web page, then don't. End of discussion.

Not quite. If you believe that your manager is wrong, go to his boss.

LK

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530518)

go to his boss

That's a sure way to piss off a person uniquely able to make your life miserable.

In this case, such policies must be written. Track them down and verify whether your boss is correct.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530742)

go to his boss

That's a sure way to piss off a person uniquely able to make your life miserable.

In this case, such policies must be written. Track them down and verify whether your boss is correct.

Agreed. Be careful where you crap when your boss can make you sit wherever he wants.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

reub2000 (705806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530286)

Second... I don't want my tax dollars being used for a mirror server. Plenty of other people do that already, and even if they didn't, we have bittorrent.

Many of the mirros that download from are hosted by state universities, and guess who funds those.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

solid_liq (720160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530494)

"Second... I don't want my tax dollars being used for a mirror server."

You sound like a Microsoft junkie. I suppose you think opensource is, "evil evil bad!"?

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530530)

I don't see him challenging his boss anywhere - he's just relaying the story so he can say what did and did not work in the past. I think you're jumping to assumptions here.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530540)

Ummm...tell your (idiot) managers to google "open source in government"...:-)

Here's a starter:
http://goscon.org/

Re:You're doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530552)

First, if your manager says don't put up a web page, then don't. End of discussion. Yes he might be wrong. In fact, it's likely he's wrong.

Indeed, heaven forbid we might imply that we actually ENDORSE the software we use!!

Get others in Gov to use it (5, Informative)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530000)

The knowledge that government agencies are using open source tools probably does a lot to legitimize such software. Even if you can't publicize it, you can probably let other government agencies/depts know what you use and how it helps you and how it helps with your budget (crucially important to every government entity) and encourage them to adopt similar practices; hell help them out with doing so and making the transition.

Eventually, the word will get out through suppliers, vendors, potential news articles, etc and will do more to help the movement than small monetary donations. Whaddya mean that program x is unreliable, the fire dept/tax agency/welfare dept, etc uses it?

Re:Get others in Gov to use it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530386)

I have worked in and around government agencies most of my IT career, mainly as a IT security based consultant/developer or IT Infrastructre. I can not think of a single GOVERNMENT agency that would be considered by the rest of the community or even for that matter other agencies as a good example of how to run IT, even the ones using Open Source software. If you honestly believe when it comes to IT that government entities and Agencies are significantly interested in how some utility affects there costs then I have a bridge to sell you too.

The reality of Government IT is they usually have a budget, they want to spend ALL of that budget otherwise it gets reduced the following year, there are agencies that buy packaged software that will sit on shelves never opened just so they can be sure to spend enough of there budget not to have it reduced the following year.

Re:Get others in Gov to use it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530598)

perhaps he could go around letting project know that they use their software and thanking them. He may not be allowed to put up a webpage saying "we use X", but telling the people at X that they do so that they can say "Y uses our software" is the other side of the coin, and may be worth asking about.

eliminate the need for a monetary system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530002)

it's as clear as daylight.

Write documentation or contribute art (4, Insightful)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530012)

Many FOSS projects need lots of help on the documentation and art assets.

Re:Write documentation or contribute art (4, Insightful)

multisync (218450) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530138)

This is what I came here to post. Since you've already done that, I'll add that the submitter can also participate in forums or wikis devoted to FOSS software he uses; beta test new releases; attend LUG or other user group meetings; help spread the word to other potential users of FOSS and teach his kids/nieces & nephews/whatever young people he may encounter in life that there are alternatives to proprietary software.

Donate (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530018)

For many projects out there $100 would be a lot of money. In many cases project web pages have "Donate" links which work through paypal. So I suggest you list a few OSS products you use. Take a couple of hundred dollars out of petty cash (call it software licensing) and donate it to those projects.

Re:Donate (1)

oasisbob (460665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530084)

For many projects out there $100 would be a lot of money. In many cases project web pages have "Donate" links which work through paypal. So I suggest you list a few OSS products you use. Take a couple of hundred dollars out of petty cash (call it software licensing) and donate it to those projects.

The OP can't do this. If you think state governments in the US have anything close to petty cash funds, you're probably mistaken. They're too ripe for abuse.

Re:Donate (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530156)

For many projects out there $100 would be a lot of money. In many cases project web pages have "Donate" links which work through paypal. So I suggest you list a few OSS products you use. Take a couple of hundred dollars out of petty cash (call it software licensing) and donate it to those projects.

The OP can't do this. If you think state governments in the US have anything close to petty cash funds, you're probably mistaken. They're too ripe for abuse.

How do they buy pencils and books?

Re:Donate (4, Informative)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530278)

They buy pencils and books with a purchase order from an approved vendor. My girl friend works for the state of California. I was talking to her about dealing with invoices the other night. She looked at me like I was crazy. She never deals with invoices because she is only allowed to buy things approved ahead of time and has to go through a long and involved process to do it. Buying anything at the state level (in California) is an exercise in frustration and patience. They can't even buy electronic devices that aren't on the approved list without having the local fire official sign off on them. If they want a microwave they can't just go down to Target and buy one. They have to solicit bids from three approved vendors and MUST go with the lowest price for the item.

Re:Donate (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530288)

You have a department that forms a comittee that discusses the various ways those supplies could be bought, then they send out at the very least 10 requests for offers, they get about 5 in return which again needs to be discussed for feasibility and long term cost of deployment. The whole deal is noted down painstakingly in a report no less than 50 pages for approval by the higher ups. They, in turn, get to meet and find a consensus to approve the purchase of a pack of pencils.

All of course in the name of avoiding a waste of taxpayer money.

Re:Donate (1)

colesw (951825) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530300)

If its anything like Canada, they will have a list of sellers that they are allowed to buy pencils and books from. These people bid for that, and you as a employee will have to ask a purchaser for your department to acquire said goods.

In Canada nothing is paid for with paper money, its all credit, checks (and slow phasing out a kind of money order).

Re:Donate (1)

EndlessNameless (673105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530416)

A purchase order is put in for office supplies. Most places that deal with corporations or the USG accept POs. The accounting/finance department tracks all POs and monitors for legitimacy and patterns of abuse.

To clarify, as I assume you're unfamiliar with them:

Purchase orders are legally-binding documents, and as such they are often accepted in lieu of immediate cash payment. Merchants will often require certain paperwork on file before accepting POs from a company; failure to issue payment would result in a fairly simple court case---the purchase order is essentially a contract on the part of the buyer.

Re:Donate (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530632)

Nah we had them when I worked for the state government here in Victoria, Australia. Petty cash may have been limited to 100 AUD or so. Normal purchase orders went to 50KAUD. Above that you had to go to competitive tender. All purchases had to be signed off by our manager but he was right there and understood the work.

But because we did a lot of tech stuff we had a lot of small purchases on the go. We fabricated our own cables to a point, and sent bigger jobs off to a small company who did that as their business.

There would have been a way (for us) but partly that was our management understood the biz. If management were non-technical it would have been harder.

Re:Donate (1)

jmnugent (705421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530534)

My previous job was in a K-12, and my current job is in a municipal city gov.... in both cases, I use my own money to buy the small things I need (office supplies, paper towels, Flash Drives, etc). The main reason is because if I buy it myself, I get exactly what I want, and I get it as soon as I need it. If I use the "official" process of using my purchase card or writing a Purchase Order.. it could takes weeks and multiple copies of paperwork to approve something simple. I (and more importantly the people I provide support to) don't have time for inefficient bureaucratic processes.

Re:Donate (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530164)

> They're too ripe for abuse.

Ripe for abusive political accusations, at least. If the typical shareholder was as old-testament jealous as politicians wanting to appear "tough on government waste", then CEO live expectancy would be measured in weeks.

RTFS (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530578)

Take a couple of hundred dollars out of petty cash (call it software licensing) and donate it to those projects.

Damn, dude... at least read the first line of the summary:

That means we can't donate money, because it's a 'gift of public funds.'

Re:Donate (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530586)

No don't. Odds are that is also illegal.
1. Pay for support.
2. When you pay for custom software make it FOSS.
3. Pay to have features added to FOSS that you may need.

Pay for support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530026)

And if you can't do that, just leave the OS and webserver (but not specific version) info enabled in Apache so at least netcraft knows what you're running.

Or ask a state rep or governor to praise the money savings thanks to free and open source software use in your department on the record and try to get their remark printed in a blurb in the local paper or online.

A Dichotomous Question? (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530028)

How Can I Contribute To Open Source?

This question seems to be distinctly different from your paragraph. Your $10 here and there is something I've also done many times. And it's great to hear that I'm not alone. From buying Firefox swag to just realizing that FOSS Product A saved me (at least) three days of my time so the least I can do is paypal $20 to those in charge.

So if you'd like to contribute in other ways, pick a project that has something that you know a lot about or are passionate about and try to make small improvements submitted as patches. Good with embedded C? Try to help out the Firefox team in squeezing out cycles. Good with computer vision algorithms? Hit up OpenCV or even write some more script/extensions for the Gimp. What's your passion? The most important thing to remember is to not get discouraged when your patch gets rejected or deferred or sent back. Ask for feedback from the team and keep in mind you're there to support them. Firefox might be too closely knit of a project for you to break into but just perusing sourceforge or github will open up your eyes to who's out there looking for your help. A lot of these projects have wish lists.

But what I'm hearing from you is that you'd like to give FOSS more recognition than contributions. No one wants your management or tax payer to feel obligated to fund open source. That flies directly in the face of what open source wants to do for you.

I had the idea to put up a Web page stating that we 'use the following free software to save tax dollars,' as a way to help spread the word about open source software, but management calls this an 'endorsement.'

Above all, respect your management. Were I in your place, I'd take a page from the DoD [disa.mil] and on your page post side by side both the open source products you use and the proprietary products you use with a brief explanation. Get your management to approve this (pending security concerns) and whenever a change is made or an addition of open source product is used, put it up. I think you'll find that your page--if not from the get go--will slowly start to paint a common picture: the coexistence of open source products and proprietary products not only working side by side but also supporting each other.

I would not recommend trying to make a business case out of government funded changes to open source products unless you have someone high up in your pocket and on your side. Doing something like that could really make you look foolish if you have no clout to begin with and could injure your reputability. Just a thought, you're free to proceed as you see fit.

Testing and documentation (and translation) (1)

catman (1412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530034)

If your agency can spend the time, testing/bug reporting and writing/improving/proofreading documentation is always welcome. If there are any people in your organization who are fluent in other languages, have them participate in the translations.

"Contributing" is impossible (2, Insightful)

Teppy (105859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530036)

Government operates by forcibly taking money from one person and giving it to another person or organization. So you can't "contribute" to open source any more than I can contribute my neighbor's car to a needy family. That said, by using open source you're doing a noble thing: you're preventing that much taking-and-redistributing that would otherwise occur. So I agree with your boss - don't endorse, don't "contribute", but definitely use, thereby reducing the burden of government for everyone. And, quietly spread the word to other government employees - it's rare to see such conscious actions by those in government.

Nice hipocracy there... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530198)

Government operates by forcibly taking money from one person and giving it to another person or organization.

Oh yeah, that's right... whine, whine, whine... I don't see you boycotting the internet (you know, that thing that was created with tax dollars.) Take your Libertardian hypocrisy and shove it, moron.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530228)

Not that I'm saying he should do this, especially if his boss has already told him not to, but it isn't taking his neighbors car and letting someone else have it. If approved it would be a government agency using your tax dollars and putting them to use to support the purposes of that government agency. This whole taxes equal theft thing has just gotta stop. Yes, taxes can go too far, lord knows I pay enough of them. If the agency he works for thinks that the best way to fulfil their objectives is with a donation to open source projects, that isn't theft, it's government.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (5, Insightful)

dermond (33903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530308)

Government operates by forcibly taking money from one person and giving it to another person or organization

where of course you assume that the person who had the money in the first place really deserved to have it. but a lot of persons today earn money without doing any useful work (e.g. they work for advertisment - creating artificial needs) or by doing harmful work (creating weapons, destroying the environment, etc...) or doing no work at all (just cashing in on their portfolio). the reason why some can earn a lot of money for nothing is in our system of society. this is an artificial system of laws and rules and it allows some to take the money from other persons without giving them anything useful in return.

so taking the money from people that have that money because of some artificial rules by an other rule (the tax system) is just one way to try to compensate the many faults of the capitalist system.....

mond

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530450)

In addition to your very useful rebuttal, there should also be the very obvious point that the OP is probably contributing to his government department operating more efficiently, thus reducing the government's need to forcibly take money. This is an improvement, yes?

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530680)

I wonder what universal truth you can use to make these judgements, where everyone would automatically agree?

but a lot of persons today earn money without doing any useful work (e.g. they work for advertisment - creating artificial needs)

If I ever invent something interesting, I hope someone with better skills than I have can get people to understand what it is, and to buy it. I hope they get paid for their trouble.

or by doing harmful work (creating weapons, destroying the environment, etc...)

Next time one of our soldiers pulls the trigger on his or her rifle, I hope the round fires. I hope that weapon was made with care and pride, and I hope the people who made it got paid to do so. Likewise, I hope the folks burning all that coal at my local power plant also receive a paycheck this week.

or doing no work at all (just cashing in on their portfolio).

When my invention makes me rich, I hope my children inherit what I don't get around to using. I hope people like you don't get to decide what's better done with the money I earned.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530694)

there was a fascinating story on the BBC last week (waiting for someone else to provide the link) about the value that people put into society compared ot how much they're paid. Hospital cleaners put in £12 for every £1 paid, tax lawyers take out £47. Tasty, huh?

Though, I would disagree that creating weapons is necessarily harmful. Having powerful weapons scares other people off into not starting wars (viz. strong countries do not get attacked), wars are bad for everyone, ergo sufficient weapons to deter wars are good.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530744)

Um, you do realize that no personal property whatsoever can exist in the system to you seem to prefer? I can't ever really own something, because the minute I use it to generate income you say that I'm getting something for nothing, scamming the "system", ruining your mojo, etc. So you feel free to take some of the income I generated. Well, then surely the bit you left me is really mine now, right? Oh, no. If I use *that* bit to generate more income, say by loaning it to someone, you still say I'm getting something for nothing, scamming the "system", etc. etc. So you take some of my income from *that* endeavor. What you seem unable to accept is that if I earned the first bit of property - really earned it by the sweat of my brow doing work that you happen to acknowledge as useful and ethical, then I freaking own it. If I really own it then I can loan it to someone for money and no one has any right to a penny of the proceeds but me. To tax the proceeds of the loan is to tax more of the original property - to tax it again and again and again.

Also, if you really disagree with some methods of earning money, then change the law so they are illegal or, if those already exist, catch the people doing them. Don't undermine the very concept of property as a shortcut to recovering "your fair share". You will - and I don't expect you to understand this - only end up undermining your ability to own "your fair share" in any meaningful sense of the word "own". You won't own it, you will merely be allowed it - hopefully! - by others like yourself.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530328)

So move somewhere with no taxes (or no tax collection success). A hut in remote Somalia for example.

Of course I'm not sure how you are going to stop a hundred just as well armed as you men from taking all your stuff what with no government stealing from you to provide law and order.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

jabbathewocket (1601791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530350)

Angry much? Fact of the matter is that you need a civics lesson on how and more importantly why government operates ... Don't blame the idea, blame the implementation.. if your unhappy with government, put your butt to work, run for office, fix from within, and most importantly VOTE dont just bitch on the internet about how government is evil and steals your money to give it away to someone else. The problem with government, is the people both in power, and the folks who put them there AND KEEP THEM THERE.. NOT the ideas/goals that put them in power.

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530620)

Good luck avoiding roads and footpaths. And don't you dare ever turn up to a hospital without insurance, or call the police or fire department. After all, those aren't things government should be doing, should it?

Re:"Contributing" is impossible (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530688)

I agree with the concept you are advocating... that any use of tax dollars not designed to reduce the burden of taxes should be eliminated. However, others have suggested ways to contribute which do further that goal: namely, writing documentation for other departments/branches of government on how they can use OSS to reduce their reliance on tax dollars. In that case, spending tax dollars (aka: paid time) to write the documentation results in a net savings.

Additionally, if there's some OSS which can't be used because it's lacking functionality necessary for the government (some kind of standards support, auditing features, whatever), then spending tax dollars (aka: paid time) to write this would also result in a net benefit, and the more departments/branches of government that would benefit, the greater the multiplier effect. If someone were able to spend a week coding up a patch to add necessary features for the IRS (theoretical example here) and it would save $50 in licensing costs for every IRS agent, that's money well spent.

Bug Reports (3, Informative)

thePsychologist (1062886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530038)

Use it, submit bug reports, and participate on forums. When you can, push for more open-source to be used in your organisation.

Re:Bug Reports (2, Insightful)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530616)

In particular, write really good bug reports. Spend the time to track down the simplest conditions to reproduce the bug, write the steps up clearly and precisely, and contribute example code or data. This is an enormous help to open source projects.

Metrics (3, Insightful)

osopolar (826106) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530042)

It's all about metrics - just telling you boss is never the way to get things done. Write a report - with real numbers, kind of like a cost/benefit ratio analysis.

You problem is not that uncommon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530044)

Many companies try to dictate what their employees can do in their own time with blogs, web sites...
Whether they are allowed to control you this way or not, the rule is always the same. Do whatever you want and don't get caught.

Curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530054)

That means we can't donate money, because it's a 'gift of public funds.'

And yet no one seems to have a problem with the brib^H^H^H^H "gift of public funds" to purchase votes for crap legislation.

Documentation and boxed CDs! (4, Insightful)

oasisbob (460665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530058)

At $JOB-- (public university), we had a pair of redundant firewalls running OpenBSD that saved us thousands, and made us very happy.

It was easy to get approval to buy the OpenBSD CD sets with each release. It was only a few hundred dollars over the course of several years, cheap for us, and better-than-nothing for Theo et al.

Check to see if the devs have any documentation (O'Reilly books, pay PDFs, etc) for sale. This is another good place to kick in a few bucks, documentation is a legitimate expense and worthwhile investment.

What bothers me is that some companies (eg ZenOSS) make support SOOOO expensive when you jump from the open-source to commercial version. The price jump for a small business is insane, especially if they're fine without 24/7 support and the features they have already.

Re:Documentation and boxed CDs! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530362)

Yep by far the best way to contribute to OSS from inside an organisation is to pay for something tangible. Support or media.

Re:Documentation and boxed CDs! (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530562)

I fully agree. Maybe the author should tell us what software they are using in their organization so that we can give them some specific options in this vein.

Participate in the projects that you use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530092)

You don't have to be a programmer to participate in projects. They need bug reports, they need feature ideas, they need people to help organize the roadmap and say what will make the next version the best version ever.

A lot of open source projects could really use the input of real life users. The developers may not use the actual software as much as you do, so your opinions about what features are truly important and what are nice to have, can often be more important than the developer's opinions.

So participate in the communities that produce the software you use. You'll help them make better software, and you'll get better software in return. If you need justification/rationale for your boss, you can point out that it's no different from corporate customers of Microsoft who participate in beta programs for software they use, or provide other feedback on advance copies. Open source is a perpetual advance copy of the next release, so you always have a chance to contribute that way, even if you don't code.

--Julian

Tweak your web page idea. (1)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530096)

Bosses don't like the "endorsement" aspect? Don't worry about it.

Put up a web page saying what software you use, open source, closed source, all of it.. Don't say why you picked it.

Put links to the open source projects.

You don't give it "endorsement," but you do get the software recognized (hmm, they use a webserver named "Apache?")

It's just freedom of information at that point.

Endorsement or Truth? (4, Interesting)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530100)

Besides the good suggestions above, I am curious about this part:

I had the idea to put up a Web page stating that we 'use the following free software to save tax dollars,' as a way to help spread the word about open source software, but management calls this an 'endorsement.'

Technically, if it is true ("you" are selecting free/open source software to save tax dollars, and there is a statement someplace in the govt documents indicating that is part of the reason for the choices made) then endorsement or not, it's public information, and I do not see why stating it, if worded correctly (to properly indicate the reason such choices were made) would run afoul of anything.

The government has in the past made statements on how it has or plans on saving money. The wording of such a statement though is probably key to ensuring it does not run afoul with any other rules and laws (also assuming that such a statement is both (a) true and (b) indicated in some public government document).

But that's just my opinion - and regardless of whether it is correct, it still in no way guarantees you will keep your job after making such a statement on a govt or related site.

Re:Endorsement or Truth? (2, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530364)

Technically, if it is true ("you" are selecting free/open source software to save tax dollars, and there is a statement someplace in the govt documents indicating that is part of the reason for the choices made) then endorsement or not, it's public information, and I do not see why stating it, if worded correctly (to properly indicate the reason such choices were made) would run afoul of anything.

I'm willing to bet that there isn't anything in his job description about collecting and publishing information about the software that he uses. In fact he could even get in trouble for doing that instead of something else that he should probably be doing. It is kind of like the equivalent of any IT person in any other organization compiling a list of the software they use and publishing it. What is the purpose? How does creating the list help the organization?

Re:Endorsement or Truth? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530366)

I was considering the same. Ain't one of the big things this administration allegedly rides on is open, accessable and transparent government? So it's not an endorsement. It's informing the public! Informing them of what their public servants use to fulfill their needs, informing them of how their tax money is spent (or rather, that it's not).

You're not saying "we use X and it's great!", you just say "we use X". I cannot see the endorsement in this. It is information, nothing else. It's the transparent government that is so popular now.

Re:Endorsement or Truth? (1)

jmkaza (173878) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530442)

There's truth in the truth argument. As a gov't agency, you can't provide an endorsement of a commercial product, but you're required to provide transparency in what you do. The public has a right to know how their tax dollars are (or aren't) being spent, so an information page on the site should fly. I'd follow federal guidelines though, and make sure you don't use any logo images, keep it text based.

Re:Endorsement or Truth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530528)

Technically, if it is true ("you" are selecting free/open source software to save tax dollars, and there is a statement someplace in the govt documents indicating that is part of the reason for the choices made) then endorsement or not, it's public information, and I do not see why stating it, if worded correctly (to properly indicate the reason such choices were made) would run afoul of anything.

It most definitely would run afoul, being public knowledge is one thing, advertising it on a site is considered endorsement and has all sorts of nasty political ramifications which is a major no no for just about any government. Governments are supposed to be completely vendor neutral and not a body that endorses ANY company or product. Personally I don't want my government using their funds to actively promote ANYONE, not even open source.

lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530110)

How did this make main page?

Pick a great project and sponsor work. (2, Informative)

jk379 (734476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530118)

Pick a project like bacula (best backup software made to date). Use it adopt it spread the word. After that you can support the project, they have a bunch of items on the to do list ( http://www.bacula.org/misc/Vote-2009.html [bacula.org] ). If one of the items would help your work, sponsoring project would be a way to help open source software. -Jason

inform the developers, put it in a fiscal reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530126)

informing the software developers that your goverment agency is using their software is not an endorsement, its just a statement of fact
you might have to state "this is not an endorsement" so they don't get confused,
and then they can list it on their "companies that use our products" page,
and its not an endorsement.

since goverment agencies produce fiscal reports, if you estimate how much you saved on licenses or maintenance, and put that in the report, it becomes public record

something like that

Documentation? (4, Insightful)

UTF-8 (680134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530188)

First, ask the open source project where they need help. If all else fails, you could learn how to write documentation for the project. Helpful documentation is notoriously bad for projects that are too focused on the internals without an outside view.

Indeed (1)

marcus (1916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530394)

It's been a long time since I've seen grammar as good as yours in/on/around a /. FA.

By all means YES!, write documentation for your favorite project.

Just a few ideas (1)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530206)

1. Don't call it open source. Realize that the freedom aspect is as important for you as for the transparency of your "the people"-serving agency.
2. Always consider free software first when implementing a new feature or system. Use is contribution.
3. Learn to program and encourage others in your organization to do the same. It's not all about talent and can improve performance in nearly any job.
4. If you have written any scripts to help you use free software, release those under the (A)GPL.
5. Write, clarify, test and improve documentation. It's another important task that doesn't get enough attention in free software.
6. Submit bug reports and encourage others in your organization to do the same.

Potential Employees (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530238)

Do you have the software you use listed somewhere to aid job applicants or to steer people familiar with that software toward you?

Some ideas (5, Informative)

booch (4157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530316)

It's not directly aimed at your particular situation, but I created a list of ways for non-programmers to contribute:

  • Submit bug reports
  • Suggest new features and options
  • Make other comments on how to improve the the quality of the program
  • Help write good documentation
  • Translate the documentation (and program text) into another language
  • Read exisiting documentation, follow the examples, and make corrections
  • Correct spelling and grammar mistakes in documentation
  • Develop spelling and grammar style conventions for documentors
  • Build a glossary of technical terms
  • Convert documentation into more useful formats (i.e. DocBook)
  • Create templates to write documentation in a WYSIWYG word processor (AbiWord, KWord) and XSLT to transform it into DocBook
  • Create diagrams, screen-shots, and graphics for documentation
  • Submit graphics (icons, backgrounds) to use in the program
  • Help other people learn how to use the program (answer questions on mailing lists or IRC channels)
  • Write an email expressing your appreciation for the programs you use
  • Send the programmers post cards
  • Send the programmers a virtual beer
  • Write your legislators about the concerns that Open Source programmers have with recent and upcoming legislation
  • Write book reviews and critiques
  • Write a book
  • Maintain a FAQ or HOWTO document
  • Help organize LUG events, including InstallFests, BugFests, and DocFests
  • Help write articles for the LUG newsletter
  • Help update the LUG web site
  • Help maintain a web site for an Open Source project
  • Design a better user interface for your favorite program (GLADE and Qt Designer are great for mocking up a new UI)
  • Run usability studies
  • Create validation or regression test cases
  • See how a program handles streams of random data
  • Package the application for a particular Linux distro (or other OS)
  • Get the program to compile on a new platform
  • Create a Linux advocacy web site (probably not so easy to do right)
  • Provide training to new Linux users
  • Read relevant standards and make sure the program follows them
  • Convince people to chose Open Source products when possible
  • Write up case studies of successful Open Source implementations
  • Send the programmers some money

The original list can be found here [granneman.com] .

do what I do (5, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530318)

I support open source software by making fun of various open source packages on slashdot. That encourages the developers to create better software.

Contibute tempaltes, examples, help files, etc (1)

MountainLogic (92466) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530360)

Some of your non-programming products that you do for an agency may be of values to others. Even well supported programs like OpenOffice could use more examples, templates, artwork, tutorials, help files, etc.

Do not underestimate the value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530372)

of well written bug reports and RFEs for the projects/products you find useful.

Perhaps you can collect small bits of usability data from your end users and present cases for improvement.

While "Nothing says thank you like cash(tm)" it isn't the only option.

amusing captcha "sharing"

one idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30530388)

You could always send naked pictures of your wife to the developers, I'm sure they would appreciate that.

Using is helping (1)

bornefearless (1060142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530390)

Just by the act of using OSS in government operations is helpful to the community in ways that are indirect but powerful. First, you're helping to preserve the open nature of the government through using technology that can be reviewed on demand by anyone, without having to get permission from a corporation with private interests. Second, by using OSS, you are saving money for your taxpayers by not exhorbitantly paying for upgrades and fixes to remain current. Third, you are representing a model of successful OSS deployment to other government agencies, which may lead to those agencies to switch to OSS in tight budget conditions. Through a long-term leaching effect, as more and more agencies use OSS, more money is freed up for other activities, including social services and projects that affect developers and the larger population alike, and technology grants may be made available over the long term that will benefit OSS projects. These arguments have been made before, time and time again, but reminders serve a purpose to express gratis for past efforts, and reinforce the drive to continue producing great works.

Sponsor it (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530414)

You may not be allowed to directly simply give money to OSS. Many OSS projects offer prefered "development direction" for donors, though. If you want a feature in a certain tool, get into contact with the maker and see whether the project offers this option.

You're not simply giving money away. You are buying a feature. A feature that will be publically available and not exclusive to you, that's a given, but then again, I thought government spending was supposed to be done to make the public benefit from it.

Speak at a conference (5, Insightful)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530452)

Go to a government agency conference and do a presentation. Talk about how open source has saved you money, eliminated licensing headaches, etc etc. Show some charts.

free software does not imply price=0 (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530548)

From http://www.gnu.org/ [gnu.org] :

“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”.

Ask the software creator what is his suggested price is, and mark it as "payment for software", not as "donation" in the books. It's that simple.

Attend a conference (1)

tyroneking (258793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530590)

Attend a conference for your organisation - maybe a local govt conference or such like and evangelise for FOSS; people will believe your experiences much more than that of vendors and often local govt managers like to see proof from other similar organisations of FOSS success.

Also, donate to the FOSS projects you use - get your manager to do so.

Internal advocacy (1)

Black Sabbath (118110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530608)

The best thing you can do is internal advocacy. Keep reminding people how this "open source stuff" has helped deliver projects on time and under-budget (if it has). Keep reminding managers how well they've done to save taxpayers' money. By helping to change attitudes of management and raising the visibility of OSS to other stakeholders, you're making it easier for the next project for which OSS could be considered.

Always remember though that the business case trumps all. Just make sure that your business case includes all the relevant factors (TCO, maintainability, flexibility, ...) in which OSS often shines. If your business case for OSS doesn't stack up for a particular project - then don't push it. You are an advocate for doing your own job for your own company the best way possible - this may often mean using OSS. You are (most probably) NOT paid to be an OSS zealot or fanboi.

Software isn't just programming... (3, Insightful)

jafo (11982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530618)

This is a common mistake people make -- I can't program therefore I can't contribute to open source.

There are so many other things involved in getting software out: project management, graphic design, testing, training, documentation, advocacy, support, system administration, bug triage, design, architecture, translation (from *AND TO* your language), releases, etc...

Surely there's something you can do to help...

Pick some of your favorite projects, pick what you like to do that could help them, and look for opportunities to help out. Chances are it will be very well received.

Sean

Help support users (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530666)

Here's the single biggest way you can help most open source projects, especially the relatively small ones: be active on the forums and help to answer questions from less experienced users. I run several open source projects, and user support can really cut into the time I have for developing them. Every time a user posts a helpful answer to another user's question, it means I don't have to do it myself, which means I can spend that time coding instead.

Bug reports and feature requests are also useful. Learn to write good bug reports: the more precise and detailed, the better. A report that says, "Feature X doesn't work," is much less useful than a report that says, "Load the attached data file, select the 'Vaporize' command, and note the lack of an earth-shattering kaboom when you click OK."

Website idea is good... avoid endorsement by... (1)

riprjak (158717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30530726)

Simply listing ALL software that is used, the vendor and the cost. This is then not an endorsement, simply informing the public.

If it happens that alot of the software is open source and cheap, then that is just fact; not endorsement.

Just my $0.02
err!
jak.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...