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Proposal to Fund Debian Sparks Debate

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the much-ado-about-something dept.

162

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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162 comments

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look at me now (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16158960)

I'm fucking a dog as I type this

long live /. faggotry! first fucking psot

Re:look at me now (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16160031)

they could probably make more money by applying for a job with Google -- or Microsoft

I don't think companies are all too interested in anal-retentive incompetent Debian-pussies.

the office (2, Interesting)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158970)

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.

Re:the office (1)

g4sy (694060) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158992)

Not always the case: I just got back from 7 hours of volunteer work putting in ice at the local (small) ice rink. I just found out that for every hour a volunteer puts in at the beginning of the season to get everything going, he will get 5$ of credit. Meaning that if I volunteer as much as I had planned, I will not have to pay anything for my locker room. Am I paid? yes, kinda. Am I an employee? Certainly not. Would I have volunteered anyhow? Of course! Did the quality of my work decrease because you declared that I was now an employee? Nope. What you learned in an office does not hold true everywhere in life.

Re:the office (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159002)

There's also something about knowing you're not really doing it for money. One of our school's pep band's songs has a line making fun of the rival school's band because they get paid to play.

generalities and specificity (5, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159017)

Nope. What you learned in an office does not hold true everywhere in life.

Just like your specificity does not disprove the truthiness of my generality.

Re:the office (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159053)

Increased motivation and, subsequently, productivity?

Nonsense (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159069)

You speak of things you don't understand.

Highly motivated people can often not devote as much time as they would like to OSS because they have to go to a regular job to pay for food etc.

There are a lot of key Linux developers who provide huge benefit to the community, but would like to make it pay so that they can make a fulltime job of it. Go look at what some people like Hans Reiser have to say http://kerneltrap.org/node/5654 [kerneltrap.org] "Doing GPL work is doing charity work in our current legal and economic framework. That should be and could be changed, but for now it is so. I have done my share of charity, and I would not have a problem doing proprietary work.", and http://www.namesys.com/ [namesys.com] "For free software based on support revenues to be viable, people have to be more inclined to use our support service than they are to use the support services of persons who bundle our software with what they sell. Frankly, they are not, and this is why providing service on free software is failing as a business model for producing free software."

For my own part, I write OSS that saves people literally millions of dollars per year, yet I can only treat it as a hobby because it can't pay my bills.

Hopefully at some stage people start **paying** for stuff that is valuable to them. Unfortunately people grab what they can get for free.

Having good roads is very valuable, and you would not have those if they were not paid for. They are typically paid for by taxes because most people would not voluntarily dip into their pockets to pay for roads etc.

I think any methods that help get money into the hands of **key** OSS developers is a good thing.

Re:Nonsense (4, Insightful)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159116)

You are right, but I would like to add a management perspective (although I am not a manager), I have worked on at least one very large OSS project. When you bring money into the equation -- you have to make a judgement call about who is most important, and who deserves money the most, and that inevitably pisses people off. There really is no fair way to distribute money in an OS project. So you loose people, and the project goes slower.

Re:Nonsense (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159132)

Or people don't have the time to devote to the project, so the project goes slower anyway....

I don't think payment is a solution to all developer problems, but it would allow some **key** developers to be able to do their OSS stuff fulltime instead of just part time. If you have a full-time job + family, then you can only spend x hours per week on OSS before you get fired or the wife kicks you out or whatever.

Re:Nonsense (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159236)

Look, if it aint interesting to you, you shouldn't be working on it. This whole "I'm coding on FOSS to make the world a better place" bullshit is the problem. Suggesting that you should be paid because other people find your playing around valuable is just pretentious, not to mention pernicious. Working on FOSS should be fun. If it aint fun anymore, go work on something else. So long as you are motivated to work on X, you shall never be paid to do X. If you are, think yourself lucky and shut up about it, otherwise the sucker who is paying you will figure out he doesn't have to.

Re:Nonsense (3, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159561)

I'm not sure you get the OP's point. Take me, for example - I have a 9-5:30 job, an hour long commute either way, and a family. Between that and the need to eat, sleep and do chores, etc, I get maybe 2 hours per night to myself. That I have to split between everything I want to do - code, watch TV, socialise, etc. I imagine that most working family people are in the same position.

If I were coding on an OSS project, they'd get maybe a handful of hours per week out of me. Perhaps that's enough, perhaps it isn't. If I were being paid to work on it, and paid enough to do it full time, suddenly that goes from maybe 10 hours/week to 40 or 50.

It's not a question of interest, it's a question of time - there are only a certain number of hours available, and when you have a fulltime job and a family, you "lose" almost all of them to those commitments.

He's not saying that any given person should be paid because they deserve it, just that if people were to be paid, they could devote much more time to it.

Re:Nonsense (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159594)

Thing is, if I'm going to pay someone to work on something full time, I can get a lot better value for my money than giving it to a random open source developer. For one, I can hire someone and claim 100% rights over their work. Also, I can hire someone who I know will take orders and do what I want. If you're suggesting that whoever is paying the bills shouldn't demand these two things, I gotta wonder why they would do it. Surely they'd expect to pay the developer less, at least. In which case, the developer is opting to receive less money than they could receive by working somewhere else solely because they're working on open source.. which is just another thing they'll complain about in 6 months time. Another alternative is that I could pay for half a developer and you could pay for the other half. If that was the case I'd expect to pay less than 0.5 of the cost of hiring a whole open source developer because I now don't have exclusivity.. so the only way the developer can make enough money to compete doing open source development is to keep the number of contributors to his pay secret. Knowing all this, I would feel my contribution to his pay was more of a donation than hiring, and as such I'd feel that he'd keep doing this work even if I wasn't paying, so why would I continuing supporting him?

You don't get it (3, Insightful)

xeno-cat (147219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159945)

"For one, I can hire someone and claim 100% rights over their work."

And not gain any of the benefits of open source. The reason to use open source on a project is to gain the benefits of that approach. If your gaining benefits than it should not be such a stretch for you to pay to maintain those benefits as long as the cost/benefit ratio is in your favor.

You could hire an in house tech to work on some secret version of Debian for you alone or you could just pay the foundation to get things done quicker in the trunk. It should be readily apparent why the latter option would be preferable.

Re:Nonsense (3, Interesting)

tacocat (527354) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Nonsense (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159851)

Suggesting that you should be paid because other people find your playing around valuable is just pretentious, not to mention pernicious. ... So long as you are motivated to work on X, you shall never be paid to do X.

What are you, some kinda communist?? Why the hell shouldn't I get paid for my time and efforts?

If you are, think yourself lucky and shut up about it, otherwise the sucker who is paying you will figure out he doesn't have to.

Maybe the person that isn't getting paid should shut up and not while when they find out someone else is getting paid for the same work. For as you say, they are doing the work for the pure joy of it, so knowing someone else is getting paid should not reduce their happiness or will to work on the project.

Re:Nonsense (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 7 years ago | (#16160044)

What are you, some kinda communist?? Why the hell shouldn't I get paid for my time and efforts?

Get paid for your time and effort, not the quality of and demand for your work? What are you, some kinda communist?

"loose" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159309)

lose: "I'm gonna lose my mind if one more person spells lose wrong."
loose: "You're mom's twat is loose."

you're (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159329)

Your: "Your grammar skills leave much to be desired."
You're: "You're a dumb-ass for not checking your post for grammatical errors when correcting someones spelling."

Re:you're (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159597)

You're a dumbass for correcting someone's grammar when not checking your own.

Re:you're (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159772)

His grammar was fine, it's his punctuation he needs to check.

Re:Nonsense (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159813)

You are right, but I would like to add a management perspective (although I am not a manager), I have worked on at least one very large OSS project. When you bring money into the equation -- you have to make a judgement call about who is most important, and who deserves money the most, and that inevitably pisses people off. There really is no fair way to distribute money in an OS project. So you loose people, and the project goes slower.
Sure but that is true in every company of every industry. If you pay people different salaries for the same work then you will get people complaining that they are getting screwed compared to someone else. If you pay everyone the same then the complaints will be that one person puts in much more effort than another so they should be compensated for that (or that Joe Airhead is a slacker and gets paid the same as me so why should I put in any extra effort?). Even if you manage to get salaries handed out fairly in an organization, invariably someone will compare their salary to one of their friends and wonder why they get paid more.

Re:Nonsense (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159162)

Hopefully at some stage people start **paying** for stuff that is valuable to them. Unfortunately people grab what they can get for free. Having good roads is very valuable, and you would not have those if they were not paid for. They are typically paid for by taxes because most people would not voluntarily dip into their pockets to pay for roads etc.

For the most part, I agree with you, especially that the solution to the problem may not be intuitive. Maybe key developers (at least) of free, open-source software ahould be paid by some means. I've paid for software in the past and been largely disappointed by much of it, though I've donated little (some, but not much) to FOSS projects. I suspect the same is true for most linux, Firefox, Open Office, etc. users. We need a system to encourage continued and increased development.

But your analogy to roads and taxes is a bit lacking for me, as I live in Akron, Ohio, where we pay especially hefty taxes (some of the highest in the US, all taxation considered) but still don't have roads so much as vast expanses of pot holes with occasional stretches of reworked pavement, and our horrible public schools are still funded in a manner that has been declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Re:Nonsense (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159242)

Hopefully at some stage people start **paying** for stuff that is valuable to them. Unfortunately people grab what they can get for free.

You're the one handing it out for free, what do you expect?

Re:Nonsense (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159537)

You're the one handing it out for free, what do you expect?

Imagine for a moment, that you were working on an extremely specialized OSS project that only one company could profit from (absurd, I know). Since the code is free, they needn't pay you anything. However, you tell them that you need to put food on the table, and that to do any future work he will need pay. What can you expect of pay? If the expected value of having that developer work on that project is worth $X to the company, they should rationally be willing to donate up to $X voluntarily (ignoring some details like risk premiums). Why? Because the return on investment is good. Obviously in this case it'd be easier to hire him as an employee or contractor and make it an internal instead of OSS project, but that's not the point.

Now instead imagine that there's a million people who each would get $1 of value if that developer kept developing. For a modest $50k salary, that means a ROI on 1900%. Sure you could not pay, but it'd be stupid. However, here's where it breaks down: Imagine one person doesn't want to pay. You now have 999,999 people to share the costs, which means it's still profitable (expected value > investment), but it is far more profitable to the one not paying at all. Repeat that 950,000 times and it's no longer profitable. And the last 50,000 will go "Why should we be paying for everyone else?" and not pay either.

Basicly, it's the mass version of the prisoner's dilemma. They could have gotten a very good value for their money, but because everyone is acting egoistically, the result is that they don't.

Re:Nonsense (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159571)

Basicly, it's the mass version of the prisoner's dilemma.

It's called the Tragedy Of The Commons.

No, it's not (1)

xeno-cat (147219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159974)

"It's called the Tragedy Of The Commons."

Except that the scenario with OSS is a bit different in that the grazing lands of the commons were not covered under the GPL nor was there a vast array of individuals and businesses making boatloads of money off of a common resource that is not depleatable.

Re:Nonsense (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159273)

You pick a poor example: Reiser is a belligerent, arrogant twat, and if the lack of a rich financial reward keeps the likes of him away, then so much the better.

Re:the office (5, Insightful)

ex-geek (847495) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159230)

I think you misunderstood Nussbaum. I believe he was trying to say that once some volunteers are paid, the other volunteers lose interest. I've witnessed this first hand in an originally volunteer based NPO.

Paranoid mode on (1, Interesting)

Crayon Kid (700279) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

The odds are zero (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159319)

Well... so close that it doesn't matter.

I know some of the people behind dunc-tank and they are not the kind of person MS or any other puppet-master would have much success with.

Re:the office (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159868)

The best policy is to secretly fund the developers you value most.

As it is, some contributors have more spare time than others, due to external circumstances. Some may be independently wealthy, and thus all their time is to "scratch" the itches they want, or to engage in whatever altruism tickles their fancy. Others may have families to feed. The illusion of a distributed project like Debian is that everyone is equal and all things fair. Disrupting that illusion unleashes resentment. Better to keep the illusion intact and support the developers you like without raising attention.

Re:the office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159464)

What does this have to do with Furries?

Re:the office (1)

Sqwubbsy (723014) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159683)

That's because when you pay volunteers, they become employees. And anyone who's ever worked in an office knows how that works.

How's it work with politicians?

Re:the office (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159956)

the problem is that you cannot pay everyone on such a large project. and the ones that would have worked for free will switch to another project.

Could they make more money? (0, Troll)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158972)

hey could probably make more money by applying for a job with Google or Microsoft.'"


Seriously could they? Whats so appealing to MS or google about developers who take their sweet ass time to deliver anything, innovate little and basically just bug fix. I think applying for the job is as far as most debian developers would get. Try Mr Shuttleworth, probably wont pay anywhere near as well but higher probability of success.

You are talking out of your rear end. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159596)

Actually, Andreas Barth and Steve Langasek are competent developers and release managers -- which is _why_ they deserve such grants.

Microsoft already stole the best Debian devs (5, Funny)

also-rr (980579) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158976)

Why do you think Vista's release cycle is so long already?

The Love Song of Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159221)

Sometimes I cry
While I masturbate
While up late

Sometimes I cry
While I masturbate
While up late

Everything so beautiful
Beautiful
I start to cry
Tears in my eyes

http://www.macjams.com/scripts/quicktime.php?type= song;type_id=2572;play=true [macjams.com]

Re:Microsoft already stole the best Debian devs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159627)

Then Vista becomes very stable?

No no no (1, Insightful)

1310nm (687270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158979)

Debian is one of a very few of the major staple distros that hasn't been taken over by greed (see RH (RH), Novell (SUSE)). 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.

Re:No no no (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159058)

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)?

Re:No no no (1)

1310nm (687270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159100)

You're being acerbic. The point is that I don't want to be considered part of a lower class of users because I didn't pay for a license.

Re:No no no (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159279)

Then you just don't get it.

Re:No no no (1)

Hobbled Grubs (651827) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159535)

Actually he never mentions Ubuntu or any other Debian based distro, he was talking about Debian itself. Debian has not been unfriendly to other distro's in the way RH have. Using specific, unreleased versions of gcc in RH when many vendors make drivers and applications with it is not very open, it seems a lot like making it hard for other "compeditor" distros. RH have put pressure on organisations like Dell to refuse support for other distributions. Their behavior is just like an unfriendly company. Giving developers a salary so they can work freely and live comfortably seems like a great idea, as long as it doesn't start a business like environment where salaries evolve to powerful and wealthy positions.

Do you have proof of that? (1)

RootWind (993172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159991)

I was under the impression that Dell only trains their employees for the distros they actually sell. Time = money, and with a company like Dell based on finding "innovative" ways to save money, Dell would probably not support any other distro (until it is economically viable, and it's not) regardless of any "pressure" from any other organization.

Re:No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159105)

Dude, you can't convince him that way. Debian fanatics are impervious to logic.

Re:No no no (1)

Rideak (180158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159208)

sorry I have to agree here. debian is debian is debian. what you get for free is the best version of debian there is. with fedora or suse the users are broken up into first and second class citizens. I personally can't bear to install a "second class" OS.

Re:No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159739)

Nope, I don't get this AT ALL. If you want the 'best' (commerical, stable) version of Red Hat's OS for free - i.e. RHEL - you install CENTOS or Whitebox; if you want the latest packages and ideas with maybe less stability you install Fedora. Nothing second class about this (unless you get hung up on the technicality that you can't actually download the binaries of RHEL from Red Hat themselves but have to put up with the unbranded but otherwise identical versions created from the same source as RHEL; personally I can't see why that matters in the least).

It's not as if Red Hat have done anything at all to stop Whitebox or Centos apart from insisting they are 'de-branded' - which is their right and entirely reasonable.

Re:No no no (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159253)

I was kinda of the opinion that taking something, altering it and using it as a base for something else was the point of FOSS.

Bingo! (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159328)

What may not be so obvious is the way they return the effort (Utnubu was pleasing to see).

Re:Bingo! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159411)

When it is relevant yes. But often you want to take something in a completely different direction to the stated goals of the project. When that happens it's a good thing that the effort is not returned to the parent project.

Re:No no no (1)

houseofzeus (836938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159296)

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...?

No, he's saying that he likes using Debian because unlike say Fedora the development team aren't under an active mandate to break things and test them on users with the sole purpose of refining them for upstreaming to another project (which people, in the case of Fedora, actually pay for).

P.S. Yes another full stop in there somewhere would have been great, apologies to the grammar nazi's ;)

Re:No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159677)

That's "grammar nazis".

Re:No no no (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159060)

I don't understand the connection being implied here between getting paid for work and greed.

Re:No no no (1)

1310nm (687270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159079)

Look at RH. Can you get support from them for Fedora? From Novell for SuSE?

You have to pay them just to get into their package manager repositories. Forget talking to someone involved in development without a support contract.

The way I see it, RH and Novell walk a fine line between rejecting people who don't pay them, and maintaining a connection with "freeloaders".

Re:No no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159583)

not a development playground or redheaded stepchild money pit

What do you have against money pits? I *love* money pits, as long as they're other-peoples-money pits :D.
Seriously, how Novell or Mandriva plan to make money from their distros is none of my concern. All I care about is that I can download them for free.

How is this any different (5, Interesting)

aliscool (597862) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:How is this any different (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159037)

No-one actually collects those bounties. It's a failed experiment.

Re:How is this any different (3, Insightful)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159107)

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.

Some open-source projects have seemed to operate almost entirely on this principle. Take, for instance, LilyPond [lilypond.org] . Development for some time seemed to be done almost entirely by core developers who seemed to be getting paid for custom features. Spending time on these custom features, though, meant that other, more basic features were sometimes missing or lacking. (I wish I could give examples, but it has been a few months since I have used LilyPond.)

Now, the LilyPond site seems to emphasize the involvement of other developers, documentation writers, etc. [lilypond.org] There is a FAQ item that leads to a page about sponsoring features [lilypond.org] , but I wonder if the focus has shifted more toward getting other volunteer contributors. The "call-for-help" page cites these reasons for wanting help:

Hopefully, together we can address problems in the LilyPond development process, among others

* Stable releases don't happen often enough.
* Development is too much centralized.
* The learning curve is too steep.

I would say only the first reason really applies to Debian, but it is interesting that LilyPond seems to be taking the opposite approach to solving the problem.

Re:How is this any different (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159262)

I think musicians are used to paying for everything so they embrace the opportunity to hire a developer to implement their favourite features. I've walked out of many a book/music shop empty handed after seeing the prices that musicians pay. $80 for a book of 5 songs of sheet music? No thanks. It's no wonder so many kids learn to play by ear.

Re:How is this any different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159713)

The difference is, if I understood it right who the members of Dunc-Tank are, that they seem to be planning to start paying themselves.

Whatever angle you look at it from, it doesn't look good.
Some of the main Debian developers are going to decide which developers get paid. Not a good idea, guess who'll come first and get the most.
Developers who fall off the boat think "why them and not me". Motivation down, bad idea.
And all that just to get a new version out a bit sooner? I thought time pressure was how most bugs were born. Bad idea.

Re:How is this any different (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159916)

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.

More tension (1)

Odin The Ravager (980765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16158989)

Is this the sign of a major change in Debian's idealistic views?

Money isn't Everything... (4, Insightful)

denmarkw00t (892627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159044)

but is something, and that something is, well, money.

I've rarely seen a better motivator for getting something done - especially in a timely manner - than money. If I'm volunteering with children or for a good cause (no, I know - Debian is a good cause too, but you know what I mean) then I'm going to do my best regardless because I feel like I'm helping benefit people who are less fortunate than me. However, if I'm working a job to maintain myself (and possibly my family) and I'm volunteering to develop a large open-source project and not getting payed for that extra work I do when I get home or when I'm up late at night, then a little money can go a long way.

I don't think money would cause those being payed to work less at all, instead I think we'd see an increase in both the timeliness of development and the quality of code in the next Debian release.

Re:Money isn't Everything... (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159251)

but is something, and that something is, well, money.

No, money is nothing real. It's a tool we use to get real things, but for people who know what they really want from life, pursuing money isn't always the best way to reach their real goals.

Re:Money isn't Everything... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159271)

Ya know what's a better motivator than both money and "social conscience"? Fun. And it's the primary motivator for most open source developers, beating out even need (scratching an itch) and conceit (look how many users I've got!). Developers who code for the fun of it tend to produce the best code too because they're not rushing to meet some deadline or hacking up the first thing that works so they can get the job they actually wanted to do done or adding arbitary features to attract users.

Re:Money isn't Everything... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159591)

Yes, paying developers to implement features allows said developers to spend more time on coding than on some alternate means of acquiring money in order to pay for food and shelter.

Re:Money isn't Everything... (1)

yankpop (931224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159845)

I don't think money would cause those being payed to work less

That is not the point of the argument. Rather, as I understand it, the concern is that once you introduce money into the reward scheme it serves as a disincentive to the vast majority of developers who are not paid. It effectively introduces a two-tiered system. Without money, everyone can believe that they are contributing equally, or at least according to their effort and ability. With money, the unpaid volunteers might be left feeling that their work is not valued as much as their paid peers. The resulting loss of morale may tip the balance in favour of other projects for some.

Whether this will come to pass or not I can't say, but it's definitely worth considering.

That said, I have a passing familiarity with the Israeli daycare study, and it is not a good analogy for the Debian developer community. It was an attempt to measure the effect of dis-incentives on the members of a client group, rather than the impact of incentives on a team of volunteers. The underlying principles may be related, but it's a bit of a stretch to compare the two directly.

yp

Re:Money isn't Everything... (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159887)

The code I write at home for my own enjoyment is far higher quality than what I write to satisfy the terms of my employment contract. End of anecdote.

What happened? (2, Insightful)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159047)

What has happened to Debian of late? I'm the first to admit that I don't follow the politics of the linux scene with anything more then a passing glance but the current Debian team appears to be disolving into a clusterfuck of massive egos clashing about trivial changes. Wost still it seems that they end up bitching and debating more then they actually spend doing something. The whole situation reminds me of the People's Front of Judea, fighting with the Judean Peoples Front. They just debate endlessly and end up doing nothing.

Re:What happened? (4, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159085)

There does seem to be a lot of actual development activity as well. I wonder if the people bitching and the people doing work are, as usual, different people?

Re:What happened? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159542)

I wonder if the people bitching and the people doing work are, as usual, different people?

That's something that tends to happen on all projects. As the amount of activity in the project increases, the project becomes more interesting, then all sorts of armchair experts drop in to offer an opinion. The current round of sniping's probably a good sign for Debian in the long run.

And as someone who's just had a bit of an install-fest to try out the current crop of distros, I'd have to say there's a lot going right with Debian right now. Etch will be the distro that stays on most of my machines. In fact, I'd say the quality and ease of use of Debian is going to push all those meta distros that are based on it pretty hard. They'll have to put in a big effort to justify their existence, which is great for us users.

Re:What happened? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159570)

Probably. But you should be relatively certain what the "people doing work" think about it, because you're right, they're not going to bitching about it. For one, that'd mean spending more time than they already do and secondly they're not the type to go bitching around. If they don't feel appriciated, they're a lot more likely to just silently cut down on work. I guess it all depends on who it is that's doing the bitching, I mean it rarely takes long time in a group to figure out when it's a "STFU whiner" situation and when it's a "OMG what were we thinking" situation.

New rule (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159077)

Ok, it's only considered news if a Debian-related matter doesn't spark debate.

(I do like and use debian the distro though)

Re:New rule (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159685)

I read the headline and thought DUH! "Proposal to ___________ Debian Sparks Debate"

Pay for the boring stuff (2, Insightful)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159103)


Paying selected developers could cause problems.

Instead, use the money to ensure that any developer who wants to contribute has a good experience, and to get the stuff done that no developers want to do. For example, you could pay people to do testing.

'Bounties' (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159109)

I thought a more linuxy type idea would be to offer 'open bounties' to development teams for implementing particular applications or particular tasks, which would be paid upon successful testing by other users?

Be careful with bounties (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159119)

They can lead to competition which can get unhealthy. Instead of collaboration, you see people hiding info because the other bounty hunters might use it to get ahead.

Re:Be careful with bounties (2, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159160)

You commie pig! How dare you badmouth competition like that?! You'll hang for this!

Why pay? (2, Insightful)

dragonquest (1003473) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159161)

You could achieve the same level of motivation by a Karma system, works here doesn't it. :-), but seriously, people would be happy just to see some credit given even if its in terms of silly awards or fun titles.

Re:Why pay? (0, Troll)

Rideak (180158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159218)

man you would have been so pwned right now if this were digg. -10,000 for fluffy karma fantasy-land

Try eating karma (1, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159361)

Maybe RMS knows how to make a Karma sandwich, I sure don't.

Karma is overrated. Sure you can get a buzz to know your software is being used all over the world by hundreds of thousands of people, but it's far easier to get a buzz out of knowing that while you're driving around in a nifty new car paid for by your earnings.

No problem (2, Insightful)

atokata (872432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159181)

You've gotta pay people to work on deadlines sometimes. I've done volunteer work which has led to paying work, driven by nessecity. Most volunteers have day jobs, and aren't extremely wealthy. If they're being asked to put in a lot of hours, it's only fair to compensate them for the time they can't spend working at their normal job, be it freelancing, a normal desk job, or whatever.

I know how to settle this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159196)

Done. [googlefight.com]

Next question please.

Agile Vs Debian (2, Interesting)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159249)

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.

Re:Agile Vs Debian (2, Insightful)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159525)

I want the apps in debian stable to be bug fixed not updated to the latest versions. And debian does that already. I don't want a newer version to ship with modified configuration files and option and having all the debian servers require to edit the configuration files just because the new config has a different default value. There's nothing more agile than debian stable updates when it comes to upgrading. Security updates often run as a cron job if one is not concerned with testing them before deploying. If you want agility as in frequent updates go the debian unstable route, it's not like the box will crash often. I use unstable for a xen hosted server and it never went down unless the whole host did, so it's either very stable or is capable of taking down the host: both things seem very impressive to me :D. You need to know a lil about apt upgrade vs. dist-upgrade to do so. I also don't get how other distro which ship big updates like fedora and IIRC ubuntu, are more agile than an unstable distro which has 100 mb of updates a week to be kept current, and updating is painless 999 out of 1000 times.

Why take the money? (0, Troll)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159320)

Because I Ted Ts'o. Appologies in retreat.

Primary motivators (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159366)

If the primary motivators were money, than there would be no Debian. Businesses who spend money will eventually (at least on the long run) try to get more and more influence untill the point they explicitly want bang for their buck and slowly forget the power of the open source community. I think that open source is more about that people create what they think is missing in some piece of software. Most of the people who want to spent their free time don't like the idea of a business telling them something to do.

For the developers who spend so much time they have little time left to make a decent living for themselves: those precious people have forgot to set the priorities in life. Money is not the answer, personal basic priorities are. I think the success of a open source product is more related to the community than dependence on individuals or companies.

What would be realistic expectations when you spend some developtime in some product? Not money, only some functionalit and if lucky also a developer community. Expecting money is unrealistic for the open source developer, nor does it contribute to a better community. If people tease with cash ans start complaining about the slow development of Debian, they should start using another product.

Spark or Sparc? (-1, Offtopic)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159400)

Never mind this stuff, We want to know about Debian on Sparc

Funny but noone mentions that... (1)

ShakaZ (1002825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159641)

70 to 80% of OpenSource developpers are in fact paid to do so by the company they work for... that's according to an article i read yesterday (sorry, no time to retrieve the link but it should't be too hard to find it) So the issue would only be for a small percentage of the OSS developpers... Maybe the money should go only to those that have no alternate funding... Sure there's potential for abuse in such a system, but i'm not aware of any system that isn't prone to being abused. Money isn't (shouldn't be) the main incentive to write OSS programs & i don't think giving a bonus to those who already have a pay would really make any difference.

Re:Funny but noone mentions that... (1)

Simon (815) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159718)

70 to 80% of OpenSource developpers are in fact paid to do so by the company they work for...

People don't mention that for the simple reason that it isn't even remotely true. I wouldn't believe a figure of 20%-30% either.

Money isn't (shouldn't be) the main incentive to write OSS programs & i don't think giving a bonus to those who already have a pay would really make any difference.

It doesn't make sense to use money to motivate people to work on FOSS. People working on FOSS that you might want to sponsor, are already highly motivated. Money shouldn't be used for motivation, but instead as a way of freeing up more development time for a developer who, for example, has a day job because they like to eat. There are plenty of highly motivated FOSS developers who would want to spend more time hacking but simple don't have anymore hours in the day.

cheers,

--
Simon

Re:Funny but noone mentions that... (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159862)

People don't mention that for the simple reason that it isn't even remotely true. I wouldn't believe a figure of 20%-30% either.

Novell, Red Hat, Mandriva...All distribute versions of Linux. Many almost assuredly do some level of Open Source development. I will also guarantee that they pay their employees. Heck, even Ubuntu lists an employment section and the word employment generally implies payment. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if IBM has some Open Source devs. Oh, and we know Google [google.com] will pay too. Does the figure sound a bit more reasonable now? Even those who do not get paid by a company are often making money. Remember when the Windows build of X-Chat no longer became free? (Which was rectified by other people porting it.)

So, while his number might be a bit bloated, a lot of development is done for pay. People do finance this development for a variety of reasons.

Volunteering (3, Interesting)

gatzke (2977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159652)


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:Volunteering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159727)

Yeah that's a really good point, what real motivation does someone have to contribute to a project when other contributers will profit from that voluntry contribution?

Its bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159701)

Ok, so we have motivated Debian developers who have a job and as such can't spend the time Debian needs. And paying them will help to overcome this problem. I say bogus.

If I have a job and real-life business to deal with how will some instance who is willing to pay me - for a limited time - going to help speed this up? Depending on my job (it seems many have important ones) a manager really won't like to see someone saying "Gee Boss, I need to skip one day at work for the upcoming 4 weeks" since it'll take a lot of administration. Or do you expect them to take up a vacation? Once more: I know better things to do in my vacation then performing a paid job.

So, while "Paying them to overcome loss in pay from work" sounds nice but I think there is a lot more to it than most people are willing to realize.

Let the guys make a few bucks! (1, Redundant)

Skuggi (998859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159749)

They have to have real jobs to cover what they sit on so screw it if someone is a big enough fan of debian to DONATE money for them to make sure they get it out on time let them do it. Hell, might even get the best release yet as those programmers are doing nothing but focusing on debian.

Soap opera (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16159764)

I never noticed how much of a soap operah OSS is. They could make an ongoing tv show will all of these stories...

I bet commercial softare isn't nearly this interesting. :)

But everyone is doing it (2, Insightful)

Uteck (127534) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159802)

Even Linus accepts money in return for his contributions to OSS and I don't see kernel devlopment slowing down because he gets paid for it other kernel hackers don't. Debian sees their problem and have come up with a good solution for it, perhaps this is a sign that some of the other things at Debian that move at glacial speeds will be reworked and made more dynamic.

Change can be good people, and it's not like this will be a perminate paying job. It's just for the next 2 months.

The difference between Work and Play (4, Insightful)

Respect_my_Authority (967217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16159824)

Linus Torvalds started to build a Unix-like kernel "just for fun" and his fun project soon attracted contibutions even though Linus never offered any bounty or payment. So what's the difference between Work and Play? The former often sucks all the fun out of doing things while the latter usually encourages people to contribute simply because it's fun.

Raising funds to employ one or two release managers for a short period of time just before the "etch" release may actually be a very good idea but I hope that the people behind this "Dunc-Tank" idea keep in their mind that fun and play will always be much more powerful motivators than money in a volunteer project like Debian. A crash course into understanding why this should be so can be found in the second chapter of "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/74/74-h/p1.htm#c2 [gutenberg.org]
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