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. 

Last months

Last four months have gone fast, really fast:

  • Akademy-es in Zaragoza
  • Flying to Berling to work on KDE eV economic report and LinuxTag
  • Moving to Nuremebrg
  • Begin to work as openSUSE Team Lead at SUSE
  • Prepare my Akademy keynote and my talk about KDE Connect
  • Develop and present the economic report during KDE eV AGM plus Board elections
  • Complete the administrative work derived from relocation
  • Flying to GUADEC
  • Looking for a flat and moving.

and working, of course. All of them time consuming, but specially, vital energy consuming. So this August I’ve been trying to cool down a little and go back to routine, now that I have my flat (how important is this step, right?).

Meanwhile, at SUSE…..

the openSUSE Release team, together with the community, have managed to release 12.2 RC2 on time. This could be no news for openSUSE users and supporters. But for us means that we are delivering even tough we are in a transition phase, and despite the fact that we are reducing the pressure over the Release Team instead of increasing it. Delivering on time is always a good sign.

12.2 RC2 is usable so, if you are a developer or an openSUSE power user, consider installing it and giving us feedback. No major bugs should be expected but your reports are very valuable to us. I already have it in my laptop and, except for little details, it works as expected. If you prefer to wait until September 5th, you will be able to install the fresh 12.2. openSUSE Team at SUSE is finishing these days the last few tasks, specially related with generating the Gold Master and creating marketing material.

This month of August openSUSE Team is also putting energy into the openSUSE Conference organization. As you probably know, this is not a normal event. We host four events in one

  • Future Media
  • openSUSE Conference
  • Gentoo Conference
  • Linux Days

so there is a lot to do, as you can imagine. Organizing Free Software events is something that follows me in every job I take, no matter where that is. I’m kind of getting used to it. Don’t know if that is a good sign though.

openSUSE community in America has an important milestone in September at openSUSE Summit, the community conference organized right after the SUSE Conference in Orlando, Florida, USA. So if you live in South, Central or North America and like openSUSE, don’t miss it. More than 50 people have registered already so it looks like is going to be a good opportunity to give a push to our community in North America.

So September and October are going to be busy months for me and the Team.

Berlin as Free Culture innovation pole: an idea

In November 2011 I wrote a project for Saragossa city council to create there an innovation pole of Spanish Free software Communities. Two basic ideas were behind this project:
  • Hosting in Saragossa the legalized communities that are established in Spain, so they could:
    • Share facilities and services for to reduce expenses
    • Increase the collaboration between them
    • Develop a continuous program of activities in one place that could create enough energy to ignite local impact (a pole) collecting synergies from local organizations.
    • Work together on attracting sponsors to cover expenses.
  • Helping other non structured or legalized movements and communities to do so by giving them basic services needed at the beginning. After a fixed period, these new communities would become part of the initiative and contribute like normal members.

You can read details about that idea in the following blog post (there are links to other articles It is not 100% finished due to…..oh dear, as usual, lack of time)

I talked to Presidents and Boards from several local communities and initially liked the idea. Now the city Council, like every Public Administration in Spain, are concentrating in cutting down expenses so it seems the initiative will have to wait.
Last week I spent a few days in Berlin. KDE shares office there with FSFE. Other relevant foundations like Wikimedia, LibreOffice, etc. are placed there, know each other and have relations already. 
I was wondering if it would be possible to push such an initiative there. It makes sense to me. What do you think?
Creating an incubator of Free Culture organizations would be possible if the already existing ones join efforts and a local entity provide them (us) the facilities and initial support. We have the resources and contacts to make it sustainable and it would be easier to get sponsors to partially finance the structure needed.
Together we can go much further.

KDE Connect: becoming an official KDE eV program for organizations

During the last 3-4 weeks we have been testing if KDE Connect attract attention from different organizations. To do so, we have done the following:
  • Make a presentation during  Akademy-es in Saragossa
  • Talk to different organization representatives and KDE people at LinuxTag about the project to get feedback.
Both experience has been positive so we think we are now prepare for the following step, getting the ok from KDE eV to the Action Plan.
Back in February, I presented the project general design to KDE eV and we agree on keep pushing it,  creating a team and developing an Action Plan. After some work, it is time to discuss it. So within the Board of Directors first and then within the eV, we will discuss the proposal made by KDE Connect team to make sure KDE networking program for organizations is a success.
To reinforce the project, along with Akademy team, we have decided to organize a networking session during Akademy 2012, on Monday 2nd, during the afternoon, so organizations attending to our event can participate and get a clear idea of what KDE Connect pretend and how they can take advantage out of it.
If you are interested in attending please stay tuned to this blog or Akademy website. Participation will be free (of cost) but you’ll need to register.

Thank you for your monetary contribution to KDE

This post is dedicated to everyone of you who contributes (or did) to KDE with donations, sponsorship or participating in any of our corporate programs we are currently running.
KDE publish a quarterly report where we include the major activities we do thanks to the money we receive from you. We also publish some numbers so we give you some information about how we are doing in terms of income/expenses. During the AGM, the Treasurer presents the report from the previous year and some numbers to give KDE eV members an idea of how the current financial year is going. To that AGM we invite Patrons and supportive members, so they can also have direct information and can ask questions.
But I would like to go beyond numbers and actions, reports or cold analysis. I would like to point out how important is that money for many young students from countries that do not offer the opportunities we are used to in Europe or North America, for example.
For many of them, the economic support we offer them to participate in our activities allow them to become part of KDE. Attending to Akademy or any sprint means much more than just the opportunity to meet KDE developers. For many of them, the economic support we provide them allows them to access to a future avoided for most of their friends, impossible to provide by their families or educational system. It means a passport to a deserving future.
I’ve seen in the past as a KDE member first, as a Desktop Summit organizer later and now as KDE eV Treasurer, how relevant is that help we provide, how much they deserve it, how good use of it they do in general and how that benefits to KDE. But above all, I’ve seen how their lives have changed, how many opportunities brings for them collaborating with a Free Software project like KDE and what a great role we play as opportunity providers.
I’m very proud of participating in a project that really change people’s life, specially to those that, because of where the live, they have very few opportunities to get what me and many others can get. And it is possible because of your support.
Thank you.