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.

A champion instead of a leader.

I am one of those who actively supported Canonical in the past. Mark Shuttleworth succeed in linking his success to our success in Ubuntu’s early years. I believe that customers/users are smart. Ubuntu became, still is, the number one distribution for good reasons.

In his journey toward success, Mark played hard, too hard sometimes. Not many put attention on it because the results were spectacular. Some did. KDE did and we suffered attacks for not following the trend. What some didn’t understand back then is that there was a price to pay for Canonical’s success. Mark made that price unaffordable for KDE. We have being around for over 15 years also for good reasons. We survived the early attacks to Qt, Nokia’s disaster…  and obviously we were confident we would survive the explosion of Ubuntu and Mark’s particular way of understanding leadership. We had our own roadmap. We still do and put quiet some effort on explaining it.

But we as a community were not blind or insensitive to what Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical were doing. The fact that Kubuntu is the number one distro among KDE developers and that Mark has been in several Akademy is just a reflection of the way most people in KDE appreciated what he represented. Canonical’s effort, Ubuntu success, has been good for all of us, including KDE. I have no doubt about it. There were more things we shared than those that separated us. I still think this is the case nowadays.

I use an Android based phone. I am becoming more and more concerned about the embedded space. Linux based devices are becoming more and more popular but our freedom has not increased significantly. We need a strong action towards freedom, focusing not just in software but also in data and services. At this point I think that the problem has been identified. Now it is more about taking action. This is why in KDE we have been working on it for some time. And this is why, once more, KDE and Ubuntu might share a vision. We have another opportunity to work together to achieve it.

The situation today is different from the one in which Mark’s leadership was born though. Today he has a history that can be evaluated and the battle ahead of us in the embedded space has very little to do with the desktop one. Mark’s action will need to leave a greater room for other players, for other opinions, for other technologies. He cannot expect to be followed this time just because his vision is shared, just because his success is good for all of us. He still don’t seem to understand that, for many, it is very important how success is reached.

But to me there is something else he needs to demostrate. Mark needs to create a profitable project, compatible with the Free Software spirit, so he can sustain his effort long enough, unlike he did in the past. The battle we need to fight in the embedded world will be long and expensive. Mark has demonstrated he is not persistent enough. I don’t know if it was because he did not want to or he simply couldn’t. He failed explaining his “turns”.

Instead of avoiding the mistakes he made in previous years, he is digging into them. Instead of searching for allies in his new effort, he moves toward isolation. Instead of concentrating more on making his project sustainable, he is increasing costs by creating new technologies on his own and increasing the barrier to adopt them. Instead of leading us toward a solution, he is dividing those who should fight by his side.

He works toward becoming a champion, not a leader.

Most of my colleagues has nothing against Canonical becoming a champion of freedom in the embedded space. He is putting his own money and reputation in place. All my respect for that. But many of us do not understand the motivations and reasons behind Canonical decisions (Unity, Mir… ). We are not stupid. Mark simply failed in explaining them. So it is hard for me to digest his irritation when KDE colleagues do not support him as he expected.

Mark Shuttleworth has done and will do many relevant actions for increasing our freedom. He has created a great company full of talent and positive energy, capable of achieving a remarkable success once again. Ubuntu is still a great community, of course. I wish them nothing but luck in this trip through the embedded world. I just hope Mark understands AND assumes the consequences of the choice he made some time ago: becoming a champion instead of a leader.

Meanwhile, I would like to see no more of this “Tea Party” game, that hurts us all so badly. My colleagues at KDE do not deserve it. Ubuntu community and Canonical employees either. Even Mark Shuttleworth’s reputation deserves better than what he is receiving lately. It is in his hands to revert this situation that he has created. I encourage him to, at least, not making it worse. We all have enough challenges already.

Libre Software Communities and Universities: talk at La Laguna University

On September 19th I planned to give a talk in La Laguna College, Tenerife, Canary Islands. The idea was to promote involvement in Free Software Community projects, like KDE, among students and teachers.
Due to a problem on my trip to Tenerife from La Palma (my mom’s car decided to stay in La Palma instead of taking the ship to Tenerife with me) I had to cancel the talk the day before.
Since I visiting my family for Christmas in the Canary Islands, I will be able to give the talk next Monday, December 19th, at 18:00 hours (local time), at the ETSIIT of La Laguna College. Once again, the Libre Software Office of La Laguna College organices it.
You can check the slides of this talk, which I also did in Malaga’s college a few weeks ago.

Link to the official announcement done by the ULL Free Software Office.

Remember that this college have about one thousand KDE desktops deployed in their computer labs for students. Their maintenance is done by the Free Software Office (ULL’s OSL).
OpePyME (OpenSME) is the most relevant Free Software applications catalog for companies published in Spanish. It is also a OSL project. Their technicians receive the requests, test the applications, categorize and publish them in the catalaog. They also have a Linkedin group (OpenPyME) with almost 800 members to answer questions.

Conviértete en desarrollador/colaborador del proyecto Kubuntu

Si sabes programar y quieres pasar a formar parte del equipo de desarrollo de Kubuntu, ya no tienes que pedir permiso ni viajar.

El próximo 13 de diciembre, a la 15 horas (UTC) puedes conectarte al canal de IRC #kubuntu-devel, en Freenode, y asistir a 5 sesiones de una hora en la que se tratarán los principales temas y herramientas necesarias para empezar a colaborar.

Si tienes interés y sabes inglés (no hace falta saber mucho), pincha aquí y obtiene información adicional.

El programa básico es el siguiente:

  • De 15 a 16: Empaquetado
  • De 16 a 17: Testeo y reporte de bugs
  • De 17 a 18: Utilización de la herramienta de control y notificación de cambios Bazaar
  • De 18 a 19: Programación con PyKDE4
  • A partir de las 19: coloquio con desarrolladores de Kubuntu/KDE

Una oportunidad única de aprender, de primera mano, de los desarrolladores de esta genial distro.

Kubuntu days…productive days

These last four or five days it have been Kubuntu days for me. For different reasons, I’ve have installed or upgraded Kubuntu in four PCs and used the Kubuntu Live CD to configure a graphic card of a computer with debian sarge installed.

Installing Kubuntu from scratch is a great sensation. It’s fast and easy most of the times. My parents had at home a debian, then switched to Kubuntu Breezy and, during this weekend, I’ve changed their old PC by a newer one with Kubuntu Gutsy on it. They are happy because it was easy to configure the HP Laserjet 1018 (with breezy it was a nightmare for me). Everything works fine with no extra configurations. My mother not just use it, also promote it, which is something I’ve never expected. My father is getting into it, not 100% convinced yet

I also took a friend’s PC and changed her old unupdated Kubuntu Dapper by a brand new Kubuntu Gutsy. After installation, everything worked fine, specially her usb-wifi stick, something she could not get working with the old distro.

I upgraded my office’s PC from Kubuntu Feisty to Gutsy with the distribution upgrade tool. Everything worked fine except cups. I didn’t have a backup copy of the configuration archive. Does anybody knows if it does one before changing cups by the new packet?

I also installed a Kubuntu in a quite old computer after adding some RAM memory (it has xubuntu). Now it has dual boot. It works quiet well although xubuntu works faster.

So, what is the point? It is that, for non technical users, as I am, Kubuntu have reached a point where I’m able to do with linux everything I used to be able to do in windows, install it, make partitions, configure a network, install apps, share printers and directories, configure wifi devices, create users, etc. very easily. In fact, I can do more things now that I could in windows.

We can improve a lot though, but it has been a confirmation of what I already knew (we all know). With linux I’m more productive, even in tedious actions like the ones I’ve done these days.