Codethink is sponsoring Akademy 2018 and I am attending.

Back in July 2017 I wrote a blog post, published by Codethink, explaining why is a good business to support community driven FOSS events. This post is related to that one.

akademyLogo4Dot

I will be attending to Akademy 2018. It will take place in Vienna, Austria, from August 11th to 17th. I will be there representing Codethink, which is a proud sponsor of this 2018 edition.

I attend regularly to Akademy since, as most of you know, I have been an active contributor, a user of the software, a supporter of some of their activities and/or a KDE e.V. member for some time now. I learn a lot during this event, and not just about KDE related topics.

This edition has several specific points of interest to me:

  • I am involved in a project called BuildStream, a FOSS integration tool for declarative systems and applications. Currently its main user are the GNOME integration team and the Freedesktop SDK project. We would like to expand our user base among communities like KDE.
  • Freedesktop SDK are a platform and a SDK runtimes for flatpak apps and runtimes based on freedesktop modules. Several colleagues of mine are behind this project that is about to release a new version.
  • A year ago, during an Akademy BoF, some KDE contributors decided we wanted to put some effort towards enabling KDE software on automotive. This year the first modest results will be presented to the wider KDE community. I have been preaching about this move for some time now so it is exciting for me to see others involved and making progress.
  • I will attend to the KDE e.V. Annual General Assembly. KDE e.V. is the orga34f05-logo_kdenization that supports the KDE community which is an important activity.
  • I will update my working laptop from openSUSE Leap 42.3 to Leap 15, taking advantage of the presence at the event of a couple of former colleagues from the extinct openSUSE Team at SUSE, and Slimbook, the guys I bought my laptop from. Make sense, right?
  • Codethink is always looking for talent willing to move to Manchester, UK, or exceptionally, work remotely. Come talk to me if you might be interested.

It will be, as usual, a great event. See you all there.

Sponsored vs supported

Probably the most relevant non technical action that a community executes is events. Most mature communities organize one or several big events in different part of the world with different goals, but one of them is common in every single case: engagement needs face to face relations. We are humans….after all.

In order to organize these events, sooner or later you need a legal organization that provides financial support to these actions. You might not know that, in words of the founders, this was the main reason behind the foundation of KDE e.V. .

And when you want to bring contributors together, most organizations end up having as goal to financially support some of them since they cannot afford it:
  • The trip is expensive since they come from the other side of the world.
  • They come from countries where the cost of the trip or accommodation represent the salary of a year.
  • They are students, so they have little income.
  • They have family and they cannot afford the expenses derived from being a week far from home.
There are many more use cases.
So one way or the other, most organization that support FLOSS communities dedicate resources for supporting contributors to attend to its main event(s). But if we look closer, there are small differences among different organizations.

Some differences among organizations.

Since resources are limited, organizations try to make sure they support those who have made significant contributions to the project throughout the year. Being supported/sponsored though, have frequently attached an expectation of being heavily involved in the event itself. Giving a talk or helping the organizers are the more obvious expected actions.

The difference comes when making these variables a plus or a requirement for being sponsored.

The process for being sponsored is also different. The tools used to manage the request/reimbursement process and the “amount of support” too. I will not get into those.
There is a “motivational” difference that do not have much impact but that I have always found interesting. Some organizations support their contributors “as a reward” and some do it “as a duty“.

The first case means that some kind of “thank you” is expected/required, linked to that support, as usual when you receive a prize. This act of gratitude might come in different forms but usually tend to publicly reflect that support. The basic idea behind it is to justify the investment in order to increase the level of sponsorship the organization gets from donors. It is a very popular approach in other industries/areas and there are a good number of FLOSS organizations that follow this model.

The other approach, the “support as duty“, is based on the principle that if you have made a significant contribution, that is, you are part of the community, and since the organization is there to support the community , it is its duty to support you. So the support comes with no recognition as requirement.  No “public thank you” is expected.

Some refer to this as the difference between being sponsored versus being supported.
My view on this last topic

In different countries/cultures, the sense and consequences of “thank you” are different. Also, the reasons that can “invite” you to ask for support might not be fun to talk, or being being questioned about. You might not feel comfortable by being identify as “sponsored“. It also might generate some undesired debate about who is being sponsored or why among people that do not have all the information.

Over the years I have changed my mind. Lately I identify myself more with the second approach, which do not mean I am against the first one. It has a point too.

In any case, what matters is that FLOSS organizations has supporting contributors to attend to the community event as one of their main goals.

A request

If you are not very familiar with how Free Software is developed, all this might sound strange. Investing money in paying trips and accommodation to go to an event to have fun with no or very little deliverables in return?

When thinking about donating to a community project or sponsoring it, ask for this particular topic to the Board of the organization behind it or the coordinators of the travel support program. You will be surprised by how important is this topic for them. They will provide reasons that, I am sure, will satisfy you.

For me, and many others, is one of the main reasons why these organizations deserve to be sponsored. Face to face meetings are essential to build a healthy community or ecosystem and many people have no way to attend if third parties do not sponsor/support them.

2012 for KDE: the financial perspective

2012, a great year for KDE

2012 has been an important year for KDE from many perspectives. KDE e.V. turned 15 years old, Nokia finally quit Qt and a new ecosystem lead by Digia is laying on KDE to get mature. We have published our Manifesto, that is the result of long internal and very interesting conversations (I wouldn’t call them discussions) about who we are, how did we get here and what we want. ALERT, out first experience in EU R&D projects, is now a reality. KDE has broken every record in the GSoC program, our KDE 4 series is getting mature and attention is coming back little by little to our software since users are understanding that we are delivering what we promised. Plasma is way more than a crazy idea and now many people perceive how powerful can be, not in a few years, but in a few months.
Applications like Krita, Calligra, Dolphin, etc. are getting more and more popular and others, that lost track in the past, like Kontact, are recovering the favor of many users since improvements and better integration with Akonadi and Nepomuk (semantic desktop), are becoming obvious. We feel that more and more people recognize us as a key member of the Free Software ecosystem, not just for our software, but also for our commitment with freedom and our well desired reputation as serious and stable organization.

Financial situation

2012 has been the year in which Nokia showed us once again that corporations can become your best allies, but also that their commitment with freedom and specific technologies are strong only as far as they are compatible with their strategy, which  can vary quiet fast. Once again, KDE has shown others that strong principles are a great base for not just surviving, but digesting changes.
Our economic model, like many other FLOSS community projects, was based on the support of big corporations that invested in us as R&D environments (they were interested in our technologies), as cheap talent ecosystems (recruiting well formed young developers) and as branding feeders (investing in community projects has positive effects in company reputation).
But that support to upstream project, specially to desktops, from big corporations, has been reduced the last few years for different reasons. We are not the next year big thing in the desktop/mobile space anymore and that have a reflection in our financial situation. Many of those who have supported us in the past, link success to market share. That has never been our battle but, we did very little to fight against that wave. It was profitable.
So our past economic model, is drained and we need to adapt ourselves to a new field in which SMB (Small and Medium size Business) and individual support must become more relevant. Since previous Boards made a good job, we can face today those challenges with little risk, in financial terms, taking the required time to make the internal changes that, if we do them right, will define our future in this area the following five years. As simple as that.
This model change will take some time. This 2012 we have taken relevant decisions and some more are coming in 2013. Results must become clear in 2014. This is a very tough sector and it is very risky to make plans, but I have faith in the path initiated in 2012. Many Free Software projects around us are growing like hell. We have to catch up a little, yes, but we have been here long enough to understand that running is not always the fastest way to get to the finish line… and frequently not the healthiest.

2013 goals

Our major goal for 2013 is to get take more steps toward sustainability, in a very volatile environment.
How do we want to achieve this from the financial perspective?
There are two main work lines:
  1. Reducing our exposure to market changes.
  2. Becoming a more flexible organization.
In this journey, we will need everybody’s support. As a technical community, finances haven’t been a priority for our members. This do not have to change in the future since KDE e.V. is here to support KDE community. Just a little more collective focus will be needed. More communication effort from our side, as Board/Organization, and from those involved in this area, will speed up the process. We are already working on it.
I feel lucky of playing a key role in KDE these days. I am having fun and I am optimistic about our future in the financial area. If during 2013 we confirm the switch we began this year, we will have a good platform for growing healthy and strong the following years.

How can you help us?

If you are a KDE community member, please consider joining KDE e.V. If you are simply a KDE user or fan, you can get involved in our project as contributor or, if you do not have time to invest, please consider supporting us economically through our Join the Game program. KDE financial activity is summarized in our Quarterly Reports, you can download in .pdf format. 

KDE eV Sprint in Berlin

The KDE eV Sprint started yesterday for me, waking up early for preparing all my stuff. I had to unpacked my winter cloth since this autumn has been soft in Malaga and I haven’t traveled much lately. My plane to Madrid arrived so late that I had to run to take the one to Berlin, so obviously, my bag didn’t make it. So Berlin received me with 0ºC and I had no clothing. Not a good start.

On Friday night most of the attendees to the eV Sprint met the developers from the Mobile sprint. Albert, Aleix and Pau from KDE Spain were there. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it since I decided to buy some cloth for the following day. Thanks God my bag was waiting for me when I came back to the hotel on Saturday night.

Day 1 of the KDE e.V. Sprint was very productive. We pretty much accomplished every task planned. The second day (Sunday) we worked on more complicated tasks. As usual, we ordered pizza to finish everything on time. Both nights we ended up eating Arabic food (From a Syrian and a Persian restaurant). The overall Sprint went well. On Monday, Stuart Jarvis and myself worked during a few hours in the KDE office in Berlin. We had Italian food at lunch (no German food this time although we did had some German beer).We had the chance to talk to KDE Interns and also with a FSFe employer. As you probably know, we share the office with them. I liked the place, by the way.

On Monday afternoon I had a coffee with Gil Forcada, who just moved to Berlin. At night I had dinner with Pedro Jurado Maqueda, a long time KDE contributor from Seville, Spain, that is also working in Berlin as System Administrator. Thanks Pedro for your hospitality.

As expected, it was a busy and productive long weekend. I’m already looking forward to see many of the attendees again at FOSDEM 2012, in February.