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[Gnu-arch-users] Arch funding models, again

From: Robin Green
Subject: [Gnu-arch-users] Arch funding models, again
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 22:22:52 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.4.1i

This turn of events again provoked me to think again about funding free software
maintenance, and gnu arch in particular.

Some people might be paid to do arch maintenance as a small proportion of their
job, but if that even happens now (I don't know if it does), it obviously is not
yet covering integration/review/release work associated with the official gnu
arch release.

Leaving aside donations and grants for now, how could the cost of paying a gnu
arch maintainer be shared (because evidently no-one yet wants to fund it
unilaterally), when the end-product of that work is effectively non-excludable
and therefore the end-product has exchange-value of zero (it can't be traded)?

The ideal solution in my opinion would be for one of the saner[0] commercial
free software vendors to hire someone to maintain arch full-time. Absent that
scenario, some form of cost-sharing between arch users (support/consulting
contracts or even, in the distant future, a user consortium[1]) seems to me to
be a path worth pursuing, albeit obviously not without risk. Not many success
stories to point to in other projects, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

There has been some talk of offering professional services before, but seemingly
no meaningful action. Is anyone in a position time-wise and expertise-wise to
offer such services?

And if so, wouldn't it be worth (for starters) cleaning up and
creating a (tasteful) ad section for such professional services. And linking it
from the wiki, and wherever else might be appropriate (docs, etc.). Not much
effort involved... potentially lucrative rewards. I understand that
advertisements aren't allowed on - but presumably that does not apply to

I'm just suggesting that - if there is anyone who could do it - perhaps the
services option needs to be given a fair shot at it before we conclude that it's
not viable. Time is money... the longer stays in a state of 
under construction, the higher the potential opportunity cost.


[0] i.e. not, for example, SCO

[1] OSDL is an example of an org funded by a (heavyweight, deep-pocketed)
user consortium. I don't know of any others in the free software world, which
suggests that EITHER (a) your project needs to grow really HUGE before this
becomes a viable means of funding, OR (b) simply that no-one is doing user
consortiums because no-one else is doing it, i.e. it's a counterintuitive idea
in the IT world (benefits are not all excludable yet very tangible) but it could
work at a level smaller than OSDL, it's just that the idea hasn't gone

I personally am *extremely* interested in the idea of non-for-profit sector user
consortiums for funding free software for the not-for-profit sector. (If anyone
wants to discuss that please email me.) Then there's also some *huge* potential
in government/educational user consortiums. (If it weren't for the little matter
of the proprietary software lobbyists, things would be so much easier.)

(By the way, I think we have to take Linus' statements that OSDL funders have no
influence over his tree with a very large pinch of salt. Even if there's no
direct influence on him at the top of the merge tree, which I don't believe,
they obviously have an indirect influence through what they fund at the leaves
of the merge tree.)

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