Changelog Interviews – Episode #539
How companies are sponsoring OSS
with Alyssa Wright, Chad Whitacre & Duane O’Brien
This week we’re celebrating Maintainer Month along with our friends at GitHub. Open source runs the world, but who runs open source? Maintainers. Open source maintainers are behind the software we use everyday, but they don’t always have the community or support they need. That’s why we’re celebrating open source maintainers during the month of May. Today’s conversation features Alyssa Wright (Bloomberg), Chad Whitacre (Sentry), and Duane O’Brien (Creator of the FOSS Contributor Fund and framework). We get into all the details, the why, the hows, and the struggles involved for companies to support open source.
Sentry – Get to the root cause of an error or latency issue faster by seeing all the technical details related to that issue in one visual replay on your web application. Use the code
CHANGELOG and get the team plan free for three months.
Rocky Linux – Enterprise Linux, the open source community way.
DevCycle – Build better software with DevCycle. Feature flags, without the tech debt. DevCycle is a Feature Flag Management platform designed to help you build maintainable code at scale.
Fly.io – The home of Changelog.com — Deploy your apps and databases close to your users. In minutes you can run your Ruby, Go, Node, Deno, Python, or Elixir app (and databases!) all over the world. No ops required. Learn more at fly.io/changelog and check out the speedrun in their docs.
Notes & Links
We’re at Open Source Summit North America 2022 this week. If you’re there, come see us at the Maintainer Month booth in the expo area.
- FOSS Funders (fossfunders.com) - Working together to fund open source.
- Maintainer Month
- Bloomberg Launches FOSS Fund to Support Free and Open Source Projects
- Bloomberg Corporate Philanthropy
- Hire My Team
- Changelog Interviews #392: Indeed’s FOSS Contributor Fund with Duane O’Brien
- Sovereign Tech Fund
- Changelog Interviews #490: Schneier on security for tomorrow’s software
- Investing in Open Source: The FOSS Contributor Fund by Duane O’Brien, Mandy Grover
- Changelog Interviews #515: ANTHOLOGY — Advocating for and supporting open source
|3||03:53||Start the show!|
|4||07:46||We're DevRel for the software community|
|5||10:30||The FOSS Contributor Fund|
|6||14:01||$2k per engineer to open source|
|7||16:05||Bloomberg's FOSS Fund|
|8||19:12||Corporate philanthropy at Bloomberg|
|9||21:41||The unique advantage to fund OSS|
|10||23:22||Sponsor: Rocky Linux|
|11||25:59||It's common sense, not philanthropy|
|12||30:21||Something over nothing|
|13||33:51||Chad, "stir up that pot."|
|14||37:19||By and for the people|
|17||51:48||It begins with people who care|
|18||1:00:12||We appreciate maintainers!|
|19||1:06:48||This is an ongoing conversation|
|20||1:08:25||Up next week...|
Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
So we’re here, talking about companies sponsoring open source software. And Jerod and I today - Jerod, we’re joined by some awesome people; not just you and I have one guest, but three guests.
Not one, not two… Three.
Three for the price of one.
So they say. And we’re all here celebrating maintainer month along with GitHub and a bunch of other companies supporting open source. May is Maintainer month. I believe it’s maintainermonth.github.com is the URL, if I got it correctly… The link will be in the show notes, of course, but we’ve got Alyssa Wright here from Bloomberg, Chad Whitacre here from Sentry, and Duane O’Brien from – I don’t know, Duane, is there a question mark behind your name now?
There is a question mark behind my name now, yeah. I’m a freelance jumpsuit wizard at the moment.
Okay. A free agent.
Yeah, I was actually watching the draft recently for football, and I was thinking “Software should have a draft. Software should have a version of that. That’d be kind of cool. “Free agents - we already move around a lot, so why not put some drama and some showtimeability around that situation…?
That could go a couple different ways, yeah… [laughter]
Well, we’re not the NFL, but it would be fun. And we do move around, and I thought, “Well, hey. A draft.”
Duane, you’re a free agent. Alyssa, you’re hailing from Bloomberg, you’ve done some awesome work there, launching a recent fund inspired by some of Duane’s past work. And Chad, you’ve been a friend of ours for a very long time. We love the work you’re doing at Sentry. Obviously, we’re using Sentry, we’re fans of Sentry, and we love that you’ve found a way to support open source through Sentry’s profits and what you all use. So really, the topic at hand today is, at large, how can we – and I guess Jerod and I, we’re a small company, but how can we as companies support open source software? So let’s open up. Who wants to go first? Who wants to kind of introduce where you’re from and what you do?
Well, you’ve put this thought in my mind, Adam… You guys are a small company. Are you guys on GitHub Sponsors? Are you out there? Are you sponsoring anybody?
Can we give you guys a chance to share your…?
Jerod, tell them what we’re doing there.
We are sponsoring people. I don’t remember who at this point. We can pause and look things up. A lot of our sponsorships come through Open Collective more than GitHub Sponsors, just because that’s where the people are that we’re sponsoring. A lot of our panelists on our shows - JS Party, Go Time etc, they get paid per appearance, and a lot of them will opt to just take those payments that we would pay them directly to appear, and just funnel those right into whatever projects they’re currently using. So that’s really cool.
Are there any big frameworks that you guys are using for your website or anything, that –
Yes, we’re using the Phoenix framework from Chris McCord and others, and the Elixir community. We’re built on Elixir, and Phoenix. I don’t think we spend any money their way though. We’re just kind of using it. We do talk about it prominently, which is somewhat helpful, but… we don’t have huge revenues to send in different directions, just being a two-person shop.
But I think Chad raises a good point, right? We all come from large organizations, who have gotten involved in funding open source projects, people, foundations, events, and so on, in different ways… But it’s not just a big company problem, and it’s not just a big company responsibility. It’s something that is accessible to anyone, no matter the size of their organization. You all have picked some specific ways that you show up and sponsor the projects that you depend on, and we should try to find paths that help to pave paths for everyone, regardless of the size of their organization.
I always think about us too, not that this gives us a reason to not sponsor by any means, but I kind of feel like we’re a DevRel for the entire software community, in a way. We really try to pay attention, we’re in the trenches, we’re obviously going to conferences, we’re participating in Maintainer Month, we’ve been around for 14 years, we’ve put out – I don’t even how many hours of my life I’ve spent behind this microphone, talking to folks like you, caring about and delivering great communities, great software, great methodologies, great frameworks to follow…
[08:15] Sustainability means different things.
It does. And I mean, I think we all play a role. I mean, obviously, this conversation is about how you can actually fund it. And I think the way we fund it is less than maybe ideal, but we do find ways through – I know we’re sponsoring Homebrew and a couple others on GitHub. I’m not sure the exact list, but there’s definitely some we’re using. We could be doing more; everybody could be doing. That might even be the angst here, is like we could all be doing a little more. What is that more? How does it shape out and play out for some organizations? I know the FOSS Contributor Fund is one way, and how that’s designed is one way. Chad, you’ve found a way – I don’t know if you call it a FOSS Contributor Fund or not… I mean, how do you term that?
Well, that term is trademarked by Indeed, so we’re not allowed to use the exact term.
It is not trademarked by Indeed. That term is not trademarked by anyone. [laughter]
Nah, I’m pulling your chain. No, what I like to do with Sentry -my goal is to use the exact same blog post title every year. So we just gave X number of dollars to open source maintainers; that x hopefully goes up every year. And then put that out. Now, what happened though…I want to see that – we actually got modded by Hacker News this past year, when I put… I published the blog post, we just gave $260,000 to open source… I put it up on Hacker News, it started going up, started having conversation, and then we got modded. And I actually emailed – I don’t remember his name; the mod for Hacker News. I was like “Hey, did we get modded?” And he was like “Yeah.” He’s like “There’s nothing to talk about here. It’s just like patting you on the back.” And I was like “Did you look at the comments? We were having like –” Anyway. So that kind of threw a wrench in my plan of like branding it as like “We just gave, we just gave, we just gave…”
But no, we were definitely inspired by Duane, what he did at Indeed. I mean, we can kind of maybe go over some of that history, if you want to. A lot of folks probably heard this story before, but some maybe haven’t. It might be worth sharing.
Well, on that note, we did have Duane on way back. Duane you and I talked, actually, about this exact subject - Indeed’s FOSS Contributor Fund, back in episode 392. So listeners, you can go back and listen to that. But I would love to give that precursor to what that is, so we can kind of open the conversation. Because Alyssa, this informs your work there; maybe not exactly, but it certainly influenced the direction y’all took. So Duane, give us a two-minute version of the FOSS Contributor Fund and what it is.
Sure. So back in 2019 Indeed launched this thing that we built called the FOSS Contributor Fund, and it was a framework for helping everyone at the organization decide which open source projects Indeed was going to sponsor. Every month we held a round of voting; the projects that were eligible were projects that were used at Indeed, and had open source licenses, and had some way to pay them. And if you wanted to vote, you needed to make open source contributions of your own. We took a very broad view of what that meant. And whoever carried the most votes in that month got a $10,000 one-time donation from Indeed.
We released the framework as a Creative Commons licensed blueprint. It’s been followed by organizations such as Bloomberg, and that’s sort of what Alyssa is building over there. And early in the history of the FOSS fund, back prior to Sentry’s relicensing the business source license, they were nominated and carried the vote for a project that Indeed should be supporting, and it opened up this conversation between us and Sentry about what to do with that $10,000. Sentry decided to pass it on down to their dependencies, and it was the genesis of this program now that Chad has built there. We had a conversation about whether what Sentry is doing is a FOSS contributor fund, or a FOSS fund, or what. That seemed maybe meaningful a year or two ago; it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Like, they’re funding FOSS. What else matters? So…
Yeah, yeah. Some differences in the details, but the big picture is definitely the same. And then Alyssa, you launched your program - when?
[12:10] I mean, we were inspired by the work that Indeed had started, and I was actually working at Open Source Collective at the time. For transparency - you brought up Open Collective earlier. Both Duane and I are on the board of Open Source Collective, and so we care about the sustainability of open source projects, from various perspectives.
And inspired by the FOSS Contributor Fund work, we started the process of building our own Bloomberg Foss Contributor Fund about a year and a half ago, building a relationship with Open Source Collective and the grant framework internally, with corporate philanthropy, which is a powerful ally and colleague in this work, with the ASBO team.
So we launched our first FOSS Contributor Fund, which runs on like a quarterly schedule, in January, and just about to launch - tomorrow, actually, so this will be May 3rd - our second round of elections and nominations. I was thinking earlier, Chad because, when they open up questions… one thing that I thought is why companies of all sizes, perspectives, have a place in like the sustainability of open source. I’m thinking a lot about your blog post where you talked about the value of open source, and how each – I forgot what your actual equation was, but like that each technologist can contribute back X amount of money to the open source that we rely on. Maybe you can speak to that equation that you put down; because I feel like maybe that’s a way that we can set where our standard should be, or could be.
I do have a question for you about Bloomberg, but we can come back to it… Or I don’t know, Adam, Jerod, where do you gonna go next? The post you’re referring to, Alyssa, is I think the one from years ago where I said something like “Every company should be paying $2,000 per person for open source. Your company should be paying $2,000 per person for open source.”
Yeah. Per engineer is what I ended up with. Yes. Yeah, and the exercise was kind of like – I don’t know, we could decide whether the conversation has moved on or not, because this was published in 2017. So before Open Source Collective, before Open Collective, there was another platform called Gittip, that was then called Gratipay… I didn’t have anything to do with it, but I was – just kidding. That was a startup that I was doing.
I was gonna say, it sounds familiar.
You know - gosh, 10 years ago now, around this. In 2017 I did this exercise where – we’re talking about like there’s this whole like feeling of fairness, that’s sort of like if it’s not explicit, it’s like right below the surface, of like “Hey, I’m doing all this work in open source, and I’m giving away this work, and I’m kind of motivated by generosity and giving away all this code, and at some point maybe I start to feel a little resentful that giant corporations are using my work, and not contributing anything back.”
So there’s this like this whole dynamic of fairness and what’s fair. Yeah, so that was an exercise in trying to pause and say, “Okay, so what is fair? What would be fair?” And I tried to kind of reason from first principles, to be like, “Well –” I’m trying to get the post up here to remind myself, but it was basically like trying to come up with some estimates about what does the open source community contribute to the global economy? What’s the total value that the open source community contributes to the global economy, and then divide that by the number of software developers in the world. I think I came up with some number - there’s like 20 million software developers in the world, and open source contributes like a trillion dollars, or whatever. Does that math come out right? So it came out to like, long story short, $2,000 per engineer at a company. That’s kind of like the value that the company gets out of having this open source smorgasbord that they can pick from.
[16:04] For sure.
So Alyssa, when you’re having this conversation inside of Bloomberg, and you’re trying to figure out your guys’s FOSS fund, it looks like you landed on $10,000 for three projects quarterly, something like this? So…
I mean, it’s the same amount of award as Indeed FOSS contributor funds. So we do a $10,000 grant for
$10,000 per project, three projects, four quarters.
Yeah. Just that the actual vote is not held monthly, which I think is how you would set it up at Indeed, but rather it’s done quarterly.
Just as a reflection of our own capacity and attention span.
Sure. Absolutely. Well, I was just curious if this equation that Chad came up with - is it a talking point inside the company as you’re having these conversations? Because surely, lots of conversations and time go into a project like this; it doesn’t come out of thin air. We’ve heard in detail what Duane had to go through to get things going at Indeed, and other people there as well… And you’ve been working on this for a long time, and I’m sure at some point it’s like “Well, how much are we going to do?” And I guess you could just say, “Well, what did it Indeed do? We’re gonna do that.” But if that wasn’t there for you, would there be conversations of like “Well, what is fair, or what is right for us at Bloomberg?”
Yeah, I mean, this is a big question, and I think one thing that we have, historically, and continue to think a lot about is what is the value of open source that brings to Bloomberg and to the growth of our people, and products, and services, and what is the way to responsibly and authentically sustain that?
So the FOSS contributor fund - I mean, I think it’s important for us to recognize that it’s one thing that we do, and sort of like a full portfolio way is to support open source. I think historically one of the ways that we have continued to be supporting and sustaining open source projects is to like supporting and being part of foundations that do that on our behalf, and other organizations. Supporting – and with like the Python Software Foundation we’ve supported a community project manager, I think in 2020, and then just announced the support of a C-Python developer in residence at PyCon this past week, as like another example of how we hope to support and sustain open source projects, both through financial contribution, as well as real-time and effort and resources as well.
And it’s about equity and fairness, but also about being really engaged in these projects. It’s not just asking them to be – we’re not only consumers of these products, we want to be real participants, and engage in a collaborative way. And I think the FOSS Contributor Fund is one way to do that, but there are other ways for us to be fully engaged with these open source projects and maintainers.
Alyssa, I wanted to ask about - at Bloomberg, what I’ve heard you say a couple of times is this emphasis on corporate philanthropy. I love how this really takes a different flavor at each company. Is corporate philanthropy - is that like a big thing inside of Bloomberg bigger than FOSS, that you’re kind of plugging into? I’ve heard you mention that a couple times… How does that work inside of Bloomberg?
Thanks for that question. I think one of the things that I really appreciate about Bloomberg and being an employee at Bloomberg is its philanthropic mission. I mean, all of our profits go towards the corporate philanthropy and Bloomberg philanthropy impact. And so I think our business objectives and our commitment to do good in the world are priorities, I think, for many of the people, both at like a high level and like at the day to day level of people’s experience at Bloomberg. And so –
So you’re saying it’s a big part of company culture.
[20:10] Yeah, exactly. That was a really nice way of saying it, than my long way. And it’s really interesting, because I have always – I don’t think open source as charity work. I don’t think that we are doing it just so that we’re gonna feel good when we go to bed at night. This has real economic impact, real business value. It is really the right thing to do for innovation, and for getting work done, is to collaborate in these spaces and work together.
So in my career, I’ve been a little hesitant to be like “Well, and this is charity work, too”, because it’s not just charity work. But it has been a learning to me – like, the strong presence of Bloomberg philanthropic efforts, and that they’re not divergent necessarily from business effort as well; that there can be a kind of convergence of the two when it comes to open source sustainability. And this is, I think, one space where doing good in the world, and doing good by a company can actually find places of overlap and intersection. And I think that would mean that we’re even more motivated to sustain this work, and more motivated to converge those efforts. And so I have been embracing the enthusiasm of corporate philanthropy to be our partner in this, and for the kind of enthusiasm and motivation of the people at Bloomberg to do good by their work, and by their impact.
What I think is unique about Alyssa’s situation at Bloomberg is that there is such a relationship between Bloomberg business and Bloomberg philanthropy. It’s the unique thing in your context that you’re able to take advantage of in order to get more involved in this subject of funding open source. When I started it at Indeed, the unique thing in that context was the executive sponsors who brought me in had giving back to the open source community as a core design principle of the open source program office. And so that was a thing I was able to take advantage of there.
For your own organization, I think it’s really important to think about what is your unique, special advantage in this organization that I can take and bring those forces to bear when it comes to funding open source.
The other thing I want to talk about is this notion between charity and involvement in these projects. And if all we think about for open source funding is this idea of charity, it’s like we’re throwing money over the fence and to another community. It’s probably better than nothing, but that’s not being a member of the community. And every person in every organization who wants to get involved in funding has to think beyond charity, and beyond this idea that it is something you’re doing for someone else, and instead start thinking about it as a way that you are showing up for the community that you are a part of, in order to help ensure that community is sustainable and healthy.
This announcement post for your FOSS fund, Alyssa - I liked this quote from you. You said “This isn’t philanthropy, it’s common sense.” You say it’s “An investment in our shared infrastructure. It’s infrastructure we all rely upon, and it needs to be taken care of.” That’s kind of what you’re saying there, Duane; it’s like “We’re all here, we’re playing on this playground together. The things are in disrepair. Let’s come together and find a way to not just fund it or just throw checks at it, but also show up with a shovel, or a pick, or whatever it might be… Or a wrench, or a screwdriver, to help play a role in that.”
The hard thing, I think, potentially, for the community at large is “How?” You might say “Let’s do this”, but then I think one thing you did, Duane - and Alyssa, you followed this up, and Chad, you’ve done it as well - is provided a framework. And that’s just one of the many ways you can. Of course, you have Open Collective, and you have the Open Source Collective on Open Collective, and you’ve got many, many ways you can give. And sometimes you get that choice of paradoxes. Like, “There’s just so many choices out there, so many roads to this place. How and when do we do it?” That’s the challenge, I think, for some companies. Bloomberg is quite big, so maybe somebody might say, “Well, of course you’re so big, Alyssa. Of course Bloomberg is so big. You should be doing those things.” And yeah, that might be the right answer. But it’s like, “What are the right frameworks that we all can adopt?” As you said before, Chad, to make it fair, how can my company give back in a way that’s fair, based upon what we use, based upon what our people vote against or for? And then find a way to financially make that repeatable, so we can sustain. And it’s no question they’re necessary, but more just like a thought process of how we think about funding at large.
What’s the book, Duane? Where’s the book? What is it and where is it?
Did you guys know about this? Duane wrote a book with O’Reilly.
There’s a book?!
Well, I’m extremely disappointed that not everyone here has read the tiny thing that we did with O’Reilly. [laughter] I had a great colleague at Indeed named Mandy Grover, where we sort of spread out the idea of the FOSS Contributor Fund, and the levers, and the different pieces of it that make it work. That report is still available if you go to Indeed’s GitHub and look for the FOSS Contributor Fund; there’s links out to a PDF of it. It’s no longer O’Reilly-branded, but the materials are Creative Commons-licensed. And it was meant to be a playbook for how to think about building a FOSS fund in your own organization.
Now, to come back to something Jerod was tiptoeing up to earlier, “Is $120,000 or $160,000 a fair amount, every year, for a company the size of Bloomberg, or the size of Indeed, or the size of some of our big players?” And “fair” can be a contentious term. Let’s just use the word “reasonable”, and we can get into fair later, right? Is it a reasonable term?
No, I don’t think so. But it was anchored by some of the decisions I made in building out the first FOSS fund at Indeed… And I didn’t ask for what was reasonable, I asked for what I thought I could get away with. And I asked for twice as much as what I thought I could get away with, and was delighted to see that it came back. Now, in order for that to grow to the point that it becomes reasonable, I either have to grow in my career to the point that what I can get away with is a lot bigger, or I have to go to a different kind of framework, that starts from a more reasonable position. And this is one of the things I like about Chad’s approach. The formula that you came up with, that led to the $2,000 per engineer in your company - I love the formula. I think every piece of the math is wrong, but you had a framework, right? Like, you had a process for doing it.
Exactly. Oh, it’s napkin math, for sure. A lot of squinting required.
But that’s not the point. The point is you started from “Think about it per developer, assign an amount per developer, and if $2,000 sounds high to you - great. Go back to your own organization, look at how much you’re spending on developer tooling, and say, “Okay, what do I think is reasonable to invest in the open source infrastructure that we depend on?” and think about it from that perspective. So I love the idea that you had a framework, even if I disagreed with the math on the napkin, yeah.
Well, Duane, how would you do the math then? Redo the math for us. What would you think?
Oh, gosh. Put me on the spot. I love it.
Alyssa’s got an answer…
Well, I just want us to be aware that we’re not just – I mean, sustaining open source is not just about writing a check either. And so this fairness, this equity is not just a financial equation.
Jerod, I’m not ducking your question, but I’ll let Alyssa and Chad say anything they want to, and then I’ll come back to you.
It’s not a math equation, I’m gonna add in here, but it’s something that my friend and co-host on Brain Science said. She says, “I love to do the some-thing over the no-thing.” And I think that’s what we have to equip companies out there to do. And I would say it starts with, in many ways, bottoms up. And developers aren’t on the bottom, but that’s where this conversation begins. It doesn’t begin at the executive level necessarily, but it has to begin at developers saying, “Hey, we use this open source. We are profiting from this open source. Can we do something?” And begin to ask that question of “How can we contribute? Let’s do this some-thing versus the no-thing.” And I think that’s kind of what you did here even, Alyssa. Like, just because that’s not reasonable, or the most you can ever give, as gigantic as Bloomberg is, it’s some-thing over no-thing, and it begins. And what happens is when - Duane you do it at Indeed, and Chad, you do it at Sentry, and Alyssa, you do it a Bloomberg - these people say “That makes sense. I trust those people. I respect this community. How can I do something similar?” And it may not be a FOSS Contributor Fund, it may be back of the napkin math like Chad did, which - you know, that’s what we need to influence others to do. Those listening to the show, saying, “How can I adopt a version of this, that is reasonable for my company to contribute to in open source? What makes sense for us?”
I want to stir the pot, but at the appropriate moment, I have a pot stirrer here.
Well, Duane just leaned back in. I think he’s ready. I think he’s done his math…
Alright, let’s get that, and then we’ll have the pot stirred.
He just opened up ChatGPT and was like “How much is fair?”
Yeah, yeah. “Dear ChatGPT, how much should I give to open source?”
Bingo. We got ChatGPT off the bingo card.
No, I love your callout to something over nothing. And if anybody came to me and said, “Where should I start?” I’d tell them to start with what you can get away with. If you can get away with $5,000 and you’re a massive organization, great. You’re on the path, and you’re starting from somewhere.
Somewhere early in that journey is you get a set amount that you have to do something with, or you get to do something with. Somewhere later in that journey is you might have the set amount that you can do on a monthly, or on a quarterly basis, or some kind of regular amount that you can do. I do think it’s reasonable to shift from that position to thinking about - the same way you think about developer seat licensing; like, how much are you paying for compliance tooling? How much are you paying for developer tooling? How much are you paying for these other things to support your development workflow? And set an amount relative to those, that you feel comfortable with within your own organization.
What I would love to see us drive to as an industry is for companies to think about investing in their open source infrastructure as a fraction of revenue, rather than per seat, or per month, or whatever they can get away with. I think we’re a ways away from that, but I think we’ll see it in the next 5 to 10 years, companies who are thinking about this from an equity out of revenue perspective.
That’d be awesome. Alright, Chad, stir up that pot. Let’s hear it.
[33:54] I’m ready to stir the pot. And actually, Duane, you kind of keyed it up. Alright, so here’s my question… Open source is, depending on how you look at it, either a public good, or a common pool resource. And historically, traditionally, normally, the way that public goods get funded is through tax dollars. Yes, we have toll roads, but even that is kind of like a pay-to-play thing. But all the infrastructure, all the real-world infrastructure, the roads and the bridges are funded through tax dollars. And with common pool resources, that’s where you get into the commons, and it essentially is like a quasi-governmental thing, where basically the players involved come together and all agree to contribute in a certain way to avoid being regulated by the actual government. So this is kind of my pot stirring question, is like “Will open source ever be truly sustainably funded without I’m either going to that kind of quasi-governmental”, some sort of like sweeps the industry, we all agree that – let’s say percentage of revenue, Duane. We’re all going to give some amount, and that’s going to be like the baseline. So either that like quasi-governmental thing, or the whole way to public good, tax dollars, and maybe some tax on corporations that goes to an open source sustainability fund. And we have the one in Germany. I just learned about this last week; we did a session last week together online and learned about the Sovereign Tech Fund, f I have the name right. Jerod, Adam, are you guys aware of this, the Sovereign Tech Fund?
News to me.
How does it work?
Alright, we’ve gotta bring this up. 11.5 million euro for open source projects. Is that for the year? Does anybody know?
I believe that’s for the year.
Yeah. That’s a lot of money.
It is. I gave $260,000 last year. This is 11.5 million euro. That’s a lot.
How does it get divvied out?
They’re working on that, is the answer. But it’s specifically targeted toward projects that are important to the government of Germany… Because it’s coming from the government of Germany that’s funding that.
Yeah, so that’s my pot-stirring question, “Is that the end game here for open source sustainability, is it just needs to be a tax, and the government takes care of it, because it’s a public good, and that’s how public goods get funded?”
I want to hear what Alyssa thinks.
I mean, as we sit at the brink of a debt ceiling crisis, and like the IRS funding coming out from us, it’s hard for me to imagine that we’re going to get more taxes on anything for public good. But that’s my perspective on the political context that we’re in, not necessarily the need for collective responsibility. So I continue to think that this will be a private entity, maybe collaboration. You know, like organizations, academic institutions… Maybe government is a player, but I can’t imagine that we’re gonna have a federal tax to help us figure out open source sustainability. I think it’s on us to figure it out as an individual organization.
I think my position is less political and more, I guess, common sense. So Jerod, you and I talked to Bruce Schneier a while back about security, and he’s involved in politics, and oversight, and stuff like that, from a “I know how technology works, so therefore I help guide it.” And I think that’s the position that I sit at here, which is I think – I don’t know if it gets to the government level; and that might be a political statement, to some degree… But I think that it needs to be guided by and supported by those who understand it. And that might just be the commons people who are involved in open source software, and involved in technology, and those who use it. And that might be where it begins.
I’m less inclined to put more into the government’s hands. Not because they can’t manage it, but because I think it might be better suited for the hands that understand it best. And that’s just generally not the government at large. It may be sectors of the government, it may be particular areas of the government that really use technology…
[38:16] Or different governments, right? The German government’s different than the US government, right?
Well, I suppose I’m thinking more specific to my situation, which - I live in the US, like you all do. And that’s my, I guess, lens. So if I zoomed out further, I think it might be better off and less abused if it’s by the people, and or the people, because we’re the ones who are impacted first and foremost by it. We see our friends fall down, or be lifted up, in the fight towards sustainable open source. We just see that every day. And I think it’s us who has empathy.
Okay, so that sounds to me like a vote for the - I’m calling it quasi-governmental. But it’s got to be a little more than where we’re at, or maybe a lot more than where we’re at right now. Because here’s the situation we’re at right now. Duane started the FOSS fund, there’s like half a dozen other companies doing the FOSS fund, Sentry’s got its own take on it, and there’s other companies doing stuff. So there’s some stuff going on right now, but - I mean, I kind of want to go back to where we started, which is Changelog is a part of the community, right? I feel like until we’ve solved it for you guys, we haven’t solved it, right? Until there’s an answer and it’s like “Hey, Changelog’s part of the community. You do all this community stuff. It’s great.” But if we’re all chipping in - obviously, the absolute amounts… Like, Changelog’s not gonna be given $10,000 grants every month to open source projects, right? That’s not what we’re talking about. But let’s figure out the formula, let’s figure out the thing. It’s like, for an organization your size, here’s what – I don’t know if we’re going with fair, or reasonable, or what, but here’s what sort of the community feels like is okay, right?
And it’s got to be a negotiation and a compromise, where it’s like you two, when you contribute this amount, you feel like “Yeah, I can feel good about it. I can come on a podcast and be like “Hey, here’s what we do. We give to these projects, we give this amount, and we feel good about it.” And there’s no sense that it’s like “Well, you should be giving more” or there’s no sense that it’s like “We’re giving too much”, or whatever. We want to find that balance between the needs of the community and what us in each of our organizations could do. And that to me is – if we’re not gonna go the whole way to like taxes and the government, we’ve got to find that middle ground of like as a community come together and express, “Here’s what is fair, or reasonable, or whatever”, and make it easy for folks who participate. Okay, let me get off my soapbox here…
So let’s zoom out from the Changelog and let’s talk about AWS. And we’re just going to name it.
Zoom the whole way out.
We’ve seen changes in the licensing landscape that are about AWS, even if they don’t say they’re about AWS; the SSPL license, the BSL license, some others… You know, AWS got and continues to get a lot of heat from the community because of unfairness, right? Are they giving back to the community commensurate with what they’re taking, right? Right now, that’s an academic question. We don’t have a way to measure or talk about what we think is fair. We don’t have a way to measure what they’re giving in terms of code, what they’re giving in terms of money… And even if we did, there’s no commonly-shared, understood frameworks amongst all of the community, that say, “This is what feels fair to everyone.” So it’s all coming from just a sense of how we feel about things. And that’s as true for AWS as it is for Indeed, or Sentry, or Bloomberg, or Changelog, or any anybody else. So we are having these conversations without the use of these frameworks that can guide us in them.
[41:55] But you also – like, you can’t have these conversations without being a part of the community. And AWS is not a part of the community; the people who work there are. The Changelog as a multinational faceless corporation, the giant behemoth that the Changelog is - they’re not a member of the community. Jerod and Adam, and the rest of your team are members of the community. Right?
Adam, when you said earlier “For the people, by the people” - we’re the people. Projects don’t burn out; maintainers burn out. And we put so much focus on funding and projects that we sometimes lose sight of the people aspect of that. Money is a terribly inefficient way to exchange support for an open source project. Somebody has to turn money into time, into labor, into code… Being involved in the community is just so much more impactful.
And that’s why I would like to – I mean, some of the sustainability efforts that we’re trying to really bring and surface at Bloomberg is about supporting people’s engagement in open source communities. So it is about like the FOSS Contributor Fund and writing checks and doing and foundational support, and all of these are really important, but also creating space for people to be engaged long-term in these projects and communities; that they’re not just things from afar, but really part of like us, people in the community.
Can you enumerate those things, those non-funding things? Creating space - what does that look like, or how does that manifest?
Well, we’ve been trying to support more like events, and like volunteer efforts in open source communities. We’ll be announcing something more structured soon, but - I mean, I can’t fully describe it right now.
But yeah, we’re hoping to really think about sustainability, both in terms of people, effort, time and money.
It may or may not be worth calling out, but pre-dating Alyssa’s work at Bloomberg, they did a lot of convening of projects, and maintainers, and people at Bloomberg who wanted to get involved in those projects… The pandemic kind of threw a lot of those plans out of whack as well, but they’ve been doing work in that area for a while, too.
How much are we seeing of the move where you just employ a full-time open source maintainer on your staff, who works on projects that you use? Or maybe just one. A lot of times it’s a big framework, like “Well, somebody who works on Rails - we just employ them.” That was going on somewhat…
Well, we’ve got React going from Facebook to Vercel, right? …for an example of company-backed projects.
Yeah, but I’m not even thinking of one that the company begins the project and supports it with the team. I’m thinking I deploy one of my engineers onto the team. Maybe they’ve earned it themselves already, or whatever, but I’m just paying them to work on it. I know Shopify did some of that with the Rails team for a while. Is that still a thing? Is that going on? Has that not worked out very well? I honestly don’t know.
It’s absolutely still a thing.
I think it’s a huge part of it. Yeah, absolutely.
Okay. Is it a growing thing? It seems like it’s like good – because that is a very high-impact way of doing it. Yes, you’re paying a salary, and benefits, and whatever you normally would pay, and you’re letting that person just do what they do… It’s long-term, it’s in the community, it’s supporting… It’s almost better than giving money to a group of people and then having them have to figure out how we’re going to deal with this, which is socially awkward as well…
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think if we tried to tally up each company’s kind of contribution to open source, it’s going to be line items. So there’s going to like “Here’s the amount that you give through an Open Collective or GitHub Sponsors. Here’s the amount that you give in-kind when you’re hosting events”, or whatever it is. And then sure, I think for a lot of companies, especially the bigger ones, I think that the FTE salary equivalent for people working on the Linux kernel, or whatever - that’s gonna be a huge proportion.
[46:04] What we need is the ultimate pricing page for supporting open source. Like, you go to any given SaaS and you’ve got a pricing page. You’ve got tiers. You’ve got the freemium model, you’ve got the free forever tier, you’ve got the individual plan, you’ve got the pro plan, you’ve got the enterprise plan… We need something like that, because I feel like what we need really is guides to onramps. Because we want everyone and every business to find a way to appreciate and support open source. And that sometimes means giving back people, that sometimes means giving back time, that might mean funding events, or supporting events, real individual people on core teams, it might be large donations, it might be grants, it might be the FOSS Contributor Fund… Is there one place, should we have one place? Maybe that’s where it begins, Chad, this quasi-government thing. Maybe it’s not even – I don’t want to use the word “government”. Can you just remove that from that? Because –
How about a webpage? It’s a webpage.
We just need something.
A broad-scale cross-organization collaboration.
Oh, my goodness.
Even better. Even better. Synergy.
I was just thinking a webpage. Can we just have a web page?
Just a web page, Jerod. I’m with you. Just a web page.
So I’m joking, but also - remember choosealicense.com?
Didn’t GitHub do that? That was a boon for choosing a license for a lot of people. You could have a chooseasupportingopensource.com, kind of thing.
I actually have a parked domain for this purpose, that Chad has been needling me to do something with, so…
What’s the domain? Tell us.
See, if I say, now people are gonna go there, and they’re gonna expect to be there… So I registered fossfunders.com, either last year or the year before, I don’t remember quite what it was.
And I just checked, and we don’t have anything up there right now.
We don’t have anything up there, no. But we have a working group that meets every other Tuesday, for people who make funding decisions within their own organizations, to share the blueprints and the models that they’re using, and kind of share and learn from each other.
And the intention of that working group is to produce the kind of on-ramps that you’re talking about. You’re right, there’s a clear need for it. It’s a weird time right now to try to provide those kinds of on-ramps, because everyone’s very spending-conscious; everyone is very spending-conscious right now.
But Adam, to your point, people will have different abilities to participate in these on-ramps, at different points in the year, or at different points in their programs. You might only be able to show up with a check and say “I don’t have time to figure out where this goes. Please make it go to the right place. I had a windfall of funds that I was able to leverage for this example.” And you can do something like that, and there should be an on-ramp for you. You might have gotten buy-in from your executives to build out a program focused on understanding your dependencies and giving back to them. And you should have an on-ramp for that. You might have sold the idea internally that now you can think about this as a per-seat licensing, and you need some kind of framework or some kind of blueprint for that. We don’t have these on-ramps for folks right now. You just sort of have to rely on talking to folks like Chad and Alyssa and myself and the others who are in the working group to get there.
It begins with people who care though, right? At the heart of all this you can have a framework, or you can have the ultimate pricing page for funding open source, but it begins with people who care, because… I agree, I think it should be buy-in for the people, and that begins with people who care… And you’ve got to care enough to show up and do some things. I don’t know how we move that ball forward, but I would love to support it however it works out, whether it’s a podcast coming back on here, or us contributing some ideas to it… I would play a role in that. I think the hardest part about supporting or doing something or doing change is to some degree the somewhat Easy button to do that change. Where can I go to learn what I need, given my circumstance, to put out that change? And that might be this simple on-ramp type site that you’ve got. What is it, Fossfunders? Is that right?
When does this episode go out?
May 10th. May 10th. I have eight days. [laughter]
Are we gonna get the page up in the next week? Yeah, you’ve got a week, Duane.
Yeah, like, okay. Sure. That’s what we’re gonna do between now and May 10th. By the time this episode releases, there will at the very least be a form that you can fill out to say “I want to be part of this conversation.” Right? And we’ll go from there.
I love it, I love it.
And we’ll gladly come back… And when that conversation gets more and more clear, we’ll gladly come back and announce whatever it might be for the next phase of that. Because we truly care. And Chad, you asked earlier on, at the top of the show - it’s kind of embarrassing we don’t have our list of our GitHub Sponsors. It’s kind of embarrassing. But at the same time, we’ve been in these trenches for so long, I feel like we’re just embedded.
And that needs to be part of it. Part of what happens in what we’re not calling the quasi-government - like, the way that commons pool resources are adequately governed, self-governed, is through a certain measure of social pressure. It’s like “Hey, person in the –”
Socially acceptable is a better term. Well, but there has to be some – like, it’s weird if your company doesn’t participate. And we can talk about what participate means. And for changelog - absolutely. All the stuff you guys are doing - like you said, you’re DevRel for the whole industry. That needs to be accounted for in your contribution to the community, you know what I mean? I hate to say it, but that’s really where the rubber meets the road. When it’s like “Oh, their company–” Drop Changelog here, but like “XYZ company isn’t giving–” But it’s very delicate, because we’re not trying to shame people. We’re trying to be like “Hey, come on. We’re all part of this.”
Well, you’re trying to establish a social norm.
Yeah, a social norm.
You’re trying to establish a social norm, which requires a little bit of pressure, because here’s an expectation that we all have, and we might ask you about it, or we might look at your company and say, “I don’t want to work there.” I mean, this is something that developers - we’ve kind of lost a little bit of our leverage in the last 18 months. But when we’re in super-high demand as software developers, we could take that and we can say “I’ve got a little bit of lever here. I can pull this lever. Oh, what do we–” You know, in your interview questionnaire, “How do you support open source? This is the place I want to work.” That’s one way that we’re kind of just establishing a social norm. We don’t want to be – I don’t want to say “Let’s create a website of people who don’t do it.” Let’s not have –
We don’t need a list.
Yeah, you need a list… “Are you on the list?!”
Like, let’s promote the positive, right? Let’s be like “Here’s the companies that are doing it.”
And I do think that what, Duane, you started with Indeed and the FOSS Contributor Fun has shifted the social norm in the past five years. I mean, this is –
…a totally different conversation than it looked like five years ago. So…
[55:48] Even open source program offices was less and less a thing. I think as open source program offices become more and more normal, or more and more needed, or legitimized in organizations as they grow, the need for a FOSS contributor fund inside that office grows as well. I mean, that’s just anecdotal feedback from myself; it’s why I see kind of happening through the tea leaves, not necessarily a headline I can point you to… But that’s how I see it happening. Like, these have become more and more popular. And it begins with someone who cares. And that’s you, Duane; you cared enough to use your leverage then.
Y’all are gonna make me verklempt over here, but thank you. [laughter]
I am very proud of the work that I did at Indeed.
You should be.
And things ended the way that they ended; I don’t bear any particular ill will. Everyone has gotten hit by layoffs, and you have to make hard decisions. I don’t think it was indicative of how my work was valued, or how the team’s work was valued, or anything. But we did great work in building out that program, and providing a blueprint, and it shows, I think, that there is hunger for other frameworks and blueprints to follow… Because someone mentioned earlier sort of the paralysis of choice. There are so many projects to support. How do you make any kind of decision?
I firmly believe that one of the strongest benefits of running a funding initiative that is focused on supporting your open source infrastructure is not the funding, it’s how much you come to understand this ecosystem for yourself. How much you begin to understand who are the important people at the heart of this ecosystem, who are the important foundations, and how do you show up as a member of this community? That analysis is so educational, it’s worth the money that you spent to fund the program in the first place. And so everything that gets you closer to that and gets you more in touch with that just helps you show up better for the community.
I think a principle to remember here too is iterative. We come as software developers to iterate. Duane, you and I had that conversation - I want to say like five years ago, when you first started that fund. I can’t remember the number, but–
I think I came on in – 2019 sounds about right.
Yeah, it was a little bit back then. And Chad, you started Gittip/Gratipay way back, 10 years plus deep in this adventure… Alyssa, I’m new to your history, I’m sorry; I know that you said you worked at Open Collective. I’m not familiar with your work as – because this is the first time you’re on the show. But now I’ll know. So I’m not sure of all of your history, but I’m sure you’ve been kicking the tires and doing lots of cool stuff out there for a while. At every level there’s a iteration. So we come to this conversation here today as part of maintainer month, and we were a part of it last year, and the year beforehand, and we have conversations each and every year around this, and it’s about iteration. So this is one rep. What will next year’s Maintainer Month conversations look like? We have one more show coming out as part of this, May 24th. So this is the May 10th episode, and that’s how we’re playing a role in this… But MaintainerMonth.github.com. It is a month of open source maintainer is to gather, share, and to be celebrated. As I mentioned, our show’s on May 10th. You’re listening to this already, because that’s already out there… And May 24th, look for that. We’re going to be at Open Source Summit North America. We’re there now basically, if you’re listening to this. We’re speaking in the future about the past. That’s how podcasts work.
But we’ve got to show up, we’ve got to keep iterating. We’ve got to keep, I suppose, having patience for the process, too. We can’t just imagine microwaving perfect open source; microwaving imperfect funding, and funding programs. We have to be patient, we have to be willing to keep showing up, and we have to keep providing these on-ramps.
And I’m a firm believer of setting clear expectations. So we can’t expect companies or people to show up and fund and support if we don’t give clarity around how to do so. And so I think this idea you have, Duane and Chad - I think that’s tremendous. I want to see what comes out before May 10th, and what’s out right now, because the show’s out there as part of that… And I would like to play a role in it however we can, because we need to provide on-ramps and clarity. How can you play a role? How can you give money? If you have questions on what’s the best way to begin to look at your dependencies, or how your company has benefited from open source, let’s give people that guide. Because we can’t expect them to do something if there’s no clarity in what to do.
[01:00:11.28] Adam, let’s give a shout-out here, since this is Maintainer Month. Thank you. Thank you, thank you to all the maintainers out there.
Community supported open source maintainers, we appreciate you very much. Thank you.
Very much appreciate you.
I would love to sort of bolt onto that and sort of challenge everyone on the call - and I’ll talk slowly and go first - to provide one tangible, specific recommendation that any of your listeners can do after listening to this episode to show their appreciation or to otherwise show up for a maintainer during maintainer month. My recommendation is going to be specifically for people who work in an organization, or who otherwise are sort of interfacing on behalf of their employer. You don’t have to find all the maintainers, you don’t have to understand all of your dependencies… Pick one. Find one maintainer, of one dependency that you use every day; if you don’t have any funds to give them a sponsorship, or if they’re not signed up for sponsors, just take the day, take a moment to say thank you to them for the thing that they built. Overwhelmingly, what maintainers hear is a negative feedback, bug issues, sort of constraints on their time. Just taking a moment to appreciate the work that they’re doing can go a very long way. If you are able to make a funding decision, great. Pick one maintainer, give them a little injection of cash. That’s my recommendation.
I don’t think I have anything better. Yeah, you guys…
That’s alright. You don’t have to have anything better. Pick a thing that’s yours, right? Not everybody will be able to do that.
To fill that out even further, one of the hardest things to do, to give money to open source projects from within a company, is honestly just the bureaucracy. So this Maintainer Month, one great thing you could do would be to go through your procurement process at your company for Open Collective and/or GitHub Sponsors. There’s some newer platforms out there, but let’s start with GitHub Sponsors, Open Collective. Go through the procurement process, get them in the system as a vendor. That’s honestly the biggest hurdle for most companies, one of the huge hurdles is just having them in the system. So even if you don’t have any budget yet, or you can’t dedicate a lot of budget to it, just go through that procurement process. That’ll be a huge win.
Adam, Jerod, I know that the procurement process is really onerous at the Changelog, and there’s a lot of bureaucracy there… [laughter]
Nah… I’m actually gonna call out just something actually Jerod put on Changelog News a while back. It was [unintelligible 01:02:55.27] on security. This is from 2018, and this was a tweet that said “Corporate purchasing and policies make funding open source literally impossible. Nothing’s going to change until you make them pay you. Someone found a bug? Support contract. Someone wants a feature? Support contract. It’s literally easy to pay you 1,500 bucks a year than $25 one time.” And that’s kind of still true. And I agree with what you’re saying. Like, get something in the mix, so that it’s just easier to put that dollar out into the known, trusted ways to fund open source. Big help.
I mean, if I can, something that I would challenge us to do for Maintainer month is really a bit akin to what Duane was saying, and it’s like to show up for projects and for the people that are there. And we have been really helping to support volunteer hours for people to take – you know, so much of open sources is on the backs of volunteer time, and really trying to recognize that that is like investment, and time, and give space and support for that as like an organization.
[01:04:00.24] So whether it is thank you, or I don’t know, a nice comment, or just a +1, I feel like showing up for each other positively is a really nice thing to do, for any month, but there’s something that we can all take on for Maintainer Month.
I will share something that Duane covered, but here’s a very tactical way of going about it… And I think this might be controversial for some, but I think they’re wrong.
Are you stirring the pot?
Yeah, I’m stirring the pot. This is tactical advice. If you disagree, you’re wrong. But feel free to. Find a project that you use, that you love, that you appreciate, go to their GitHub issues, open an issue that is just thanking them, and then close it for them. And here’s why it’s not wrong. Some people say “Stay out of my issues. I don’t want issues.” As maintainers, we are so anxious when every new issue comes in, because it’s almost always bad news. It’s a feature request that we don’t want to build, it’s a bug that we didn’t know existed… It’s something that we have to deal with, and there’s like this “Ughh!” every time. But if somebody opens an issue, and they just are expressing gratitude, and you didn’t know they existed prior; you didn’t know that you were helping this person, their life… You know, write them a little letter, let them know how this affected you. Or just open the issue and say, “I love this product. I use it every day. Thanks.” That’s all. Close it. That will make a maintainer’s day. And so I would say do that… Although it’s not as good as money, but it feels pretty stinking good.
Closing is key though, Jerod.
Yeah, close it for them. Don’t make them close it. Don’t add work to their plate.
That’s right, yeah. Now, it’d be cool to pair that up, Jerod, with a funding process potentially, where they may not have the money, but maybe Sentry or somebody like that comes and says “You know what - on the repos that matter to us, for every one of these we’ll give $1.” Or just some nominal amount that is just totally achievable. For every thanks to this – and maybe it’s just during Maintainers Month. Maybe it’s just a Maintainer Month thing, and that way it’s encapsulated, it’s not ongoing… But maybe that could be one of these challenges, or…
We might need to workshop that idea a little bit, because that could definitely – there’s two ways that could go, as Chad would say.
It will go both of them, if history is any indicator.
It will go both of them. Yeah, exactly.
It could go wrong, or it could go right. Either way. But this could be one of those ways just for this month. Like, just during this month, thank a maintainer.
Are we on like a public radio fund driver right now? Is that what we’re doing?
No, but we all care about it. And we all have ideas.
“If you want the mug AND the scarf…”
I do have some very attractive tote bags that I could put into the mix here…
Where’s my AWS open coin they gave me? That was pretty cool. I love that. Anything else? What was left unsaid? What did we not ask? I know we’re getting close on time here… What’s left unsaid? Anything left to be covered before we call this a Maintainer Month Extravaganza show, and call it done?
I just love that, like you said earlier, this is an ongoing conversation. We’re gonna come back next year and we’re gonna see a connection between where we are now, but we’re gonna be in a different place. I’m excited to see where we’re at next year with this. I love working on this with you all.
Yeah. Appreciation for the people that are helping to sustain open source.
I could go another hour. I’ve got all kinds of stuff. But that may have to be its own episode, right? Like, I –
Well, we are episodic. We do produce more than one show, a month or in a year. We produce a lot of podcasts, so there’s always room for more conversation, for sure. Y’all are welcome back here. But Chad, Alyssa, Duane, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for being in the trenches, thank you for caring enough to put your time, which is so – I mean, we don’t quantify how… We spend our time; we get a finite amount of times as individuals, and you all are spending it in this way, shape and form to push this forward, to iterate this forward, and that’s just so appreciated by me, and I’m sure Jerod feels the same way, and the entire open source community just really thanks you. So thanks for coming on the show today, sharing your perspectives and the things you’re doing, and for your time. We appreciate you.
Thank you, guys. We appreciate you, too.
Yeah, thanks for providing voice to the community, and a platform where we can share stories like this. We are all building together.
Happy to do it, thank you.
Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚