Hague Grant Application: Perl Ecosystem Development Group

46 Comments

We have received the following Hague Grant application from Gabor Szabo.

Before the Board votes on this proposal we would like to have a period of community consultation. Please leave feedback in the comments or if you prefer send email with your comments to karen at perlfoundation.org.

Grant title:

Perl Ecosystem development group

Name:

Gabor Szabo

Amount requested: $25,000

Synopsis:

One of the objectives of the Ian Hague donation of 2008 was to allow The Perl Foundation to develop its own organizational capabilities that will allow The Perl Foundation to pursue additional funding opportunities.

I would like part of this donation to be used to fund me for approximately six months to devote 2/3 of my time setting up an Ecosystem Development group and enhancing the already existing Events group.

The grant is only the initial amount requested, as when considering the grant
I would like The Perl Foundation (TPF) to approve the continuation of the project until
its cancellation by either side. (See later: Beyond the grant)

Benefits to the Perl Community:

The events group will continue to participate at non-Perl events and turn it into an ongoing activity of the Perl Community. It will provide a platform for the Perl community to interact with thousands of developers who are not (yet) attending YAPCs, Perl Workshops,
or Perl Monger meetings.

Members of the Ecosystem Development group will provide ongoing financing to the activities of TPF. This should provide funding for promotional activities such as the Events group and TPF's development grants process.

Deliverables:

While some of the deliverables are easy to identify their impact will only be felt in the long term.

During the 6 months of the grant period the Events group will participate at 15 events, which means about 5,000 people will visit the Perl stands.

By the end of the first 6 months the Ecosystem Development Group will have 18 members paying a total of 72,500 USD to the TPF in annual fees which will leave the project with about 33,000 in the bank.

During the first 6 months the group will deliver at least 6 Press Releases of various Perl related open source projects.

While these deliverables are quite easy to measure it will still be important, due to the size of the grant, to closely monitor my progress (see below in the Plans).

Project details and schedule:

The Events group, before the grant

Since the organization of the events group we have setup Perl booths at two major events in Europe FOSDEM in Brussels, Belgium in February, CeBIT in Hannover, Germany in March 2010.

and there is a third coming soon: LinuxTag in Berlin, Germany in June 2010.

For all 3 we got financial help from TPF and from YEF to cover the costs of the conference swag.

There was also serious Perl participation on the Russian DevConf 2010 but I was not involved in that.

Regardless of the approval I plan to participate at the German Perl Workshop, YAPC::NA and the Belgian Perl Workshop where I will talk about both the Perl Events group and the Perl Ecosystem group.

The Perl Ecosystem group, before the grant

Over the past few months I have had discussions with several people in the open source Perl community and several people from companies using Perl about the possibility of setting up a separate organization with the aims that now manifest in this proposal. The issue most people raised was that it would be better to do this within TPF.

Plans:

While the grant is planned for a 6 month period the work on both the Ecosystem Development group and the Perl Events group must continue beyond the time frame of the grant. In order to provide better control for TPF it might be beneficial to have two project managers monitoring my progress.

In order to provide visibility and to make the financial issues transparent I am going to provide weekly reports about my activities via my blog.

This frequent feedback would allow the grant managers and active members of the community to observe whether time spent bears any relation to actual activity and results, and thus allow early flagging of any concerns.

Missing two weekly reports in a row without prior notice would be grounds for terminating the project.

During the grant period I plan to allocate about 110 hours each month to the project not including travel time to the various events. That would amount to 110 * 50 = 5500 USD / month compensation to me. In addition there will be travel expenses, costs of the conference swag and costs of participating on the various events.

In order to allow the $25,000 grant to cover 6 months and to reduce the risk of running out of money the payment will be structured differently. I will only receive 1,500 USD base compensation plus expenses I paid out of my pocket. The rest of my compensation will come in the form of a bonus up to 50% of the membership fees paid and up to 5500/month. That will ensure that I need to work very hard to find and sign up the members.

At the end of every month I'll update the budget and the financial reports and claim the fee and any expenses I paid out of my pocket.
(See separate spreadsheet for initial budget).

Plan for July-September:

There is a whole list of potential events to attend and there are many more events that are not yet listed. One of the first things to do will be to update that list and to determine the
events for October-December where we want to participate.

Planned participation at the following events:

2010.07.19-23 OSCON, Portland, USA, Oregon at the TPF booth (Gabor Szabo)

2010.07.21-24 FISL, Porto Alegre, Brazil, RS (Nelson Ferraz)

2010.08.4-6 YAPC::EU, Pisa, Italy (Gabor on personal expense)

2010.08.21-22 FrOSCon, St. Augustin, Germany (Renee Baecker)

2010.09.2-3 WebGUI Users Conference, Madison, USA, Wisconsin (Gabor Szabo)

2010.09.10-12 Ohio LinuxFest Columbus, USA, Ohio (local Perl mongers)

2010.09.17-18 FrOSCamp, Zurich, Switzerland (Renee Baecker)

Before the events, in addition to planning the event, finding people to be at the booth and preparing the materials, I plan to contact companies that are going to be present at the event. I would invite them to our booth and try to setup meeting at CTO/CIO/VP RnD or CEO level to introduce the work of The Perl Foundation and the Perl Ecosystem group. In some cases this will lead to signing them up to the group.

While not at the conferences I'll use the contacts of the Perl community to find companies that could be interested in joining the Ecosystem Development group.

Proposed annual fee levels:

Individual or SMB member (1-4 employees): $1,250

Small Companies (5-50 employees): $6,000

Large Companies (51- employees): $12,000

Membership advantages:

A few words about why companies will want to become members:

1) They will mentioned on the web site of the Ecosystem group on the web site of TPF

2) They will be mentioned (up to one A4 page) in the materials we hand out during the various events

3) They will show the appreciation to Perl and in general help the Perl community

4) They will be provided an exclusive forum where they can raise suggestions on how to spend the money collected from the members. (e.g. suggestions for grants for the development of Perl 5, Perl 6, CPAN, etc.)

5) They will be provided with a platform to reach the Perl community that will make it easier for them to find new employees
( in addition to jobs.perl.org )

6) They will have an exclusive forum for their managers to discuss their successes and issues with Perl development.

Beyond the grant:

Both the Ecosystem Development group and the Events group need long term committed work. Preparations for events need to be started several months before the event so I'll have to be sure I can continue the effort even after successfully finishing of the grant.

Therefore the effort will continue until either side cancels the arrangement. After the initial 6 months grant phase the payment structure will change. For the second 6 months I will receive $3,000 base compensation and the other 2,500 will come as bonus from the payments of members in excess of the first $72,500. After the first year the base compensation will be $5,500 and we will work out a bonus mechanism.

The objectives for these periods will be decided together with the board of TPF but to give ballpark numbers: In the second 6 months I'd like to get additional members with annual fee between $70,000-$100,000 bringing the total annual income of TPF to $140,000-170,000. A part of that money can already go to finance development grants as well.

In the second year I'd like reach a total budget of $240,000.

During the period of the grant the membership fees will automatically become part of the budget of the Ecosystem and Events groups.

After the grant period, in consultation with the member companies, the TPF board will decide a new allocation of the funds to allow the group to grow further but allowing any additional income to be part of the general budget of TPF. The same process will be repeated after completing the first year and then annually.

Bio:

I was born in Hungary and currently live in Israel.

I have been using Perl since 1995, teaching Perl since 2000 and have been involved in the Perl community since 2001.

I've (re)organized the Israeli Perl community and was the main organizer of YAPC::Israel::2003, 2004, 2005, OSDC::Israel::2006 and the Israeli Perl Workshop in 2007. I've attended and spoke at numerous YAPCs, Perl Workshops
and QA Hackathons. I was also the co-organizer of the three Hungarian Perl Workshops between 2003-2005.

In the development area I started Padre, the Perl IDE, and have participated in a number of Perl projects in both Perl 5 and Perl 6.

For my community involvement I received the White Camel Award in 2008. In 2009 I received the community award of HaMakor, the Israeli NPO for the advancement of Free and Open Source Software.

In the last year I've been one of the advocates of the "marketing" of Perl and organized the Perl events group.

46 Comments

Gabor Szabo has been doing great work for Perl PR. This sort of thing will probably end up paying for itself, and is well worth trying.

Numerous other free software organizations have a PR/fundraising team whose efforts fund themselves. It would be great if TPF could transition to that.

Gabor's Ecosystem concept is a very good idea. He has managed to put into words some concepts that would significantly benefit some aspects of the Perl community, including the business aspect.

I've known Gabor for several years and he has a great track record for making things happen.

I'm a freelance developer/consultant and I intend to join the Ecosystem as an individual member

I had several discussions with other people about Perl PR and we all agreed that it would be great if we can gain more awareness for Perl.

So I fully support this proposal (by writing this comment and organizing some booths at non-Perl events). I've been at CeBIT with Gabor where we talked about this idea and I really like it.

I'm the publisher of the german Perl magazine and I offer Perl programming and I intend to join the Ecosystem as an SMB member...

"Selling Perl" to big companies (meaning telling them that you'll use Perl for their project) is really hard because even if many of them use Perl, few of them know.
Gabor's ecosystem could change this and should pay pack the money within a short time frame, so this grant should be approved.

Gabor has the experience, motivation and connections to really get something big going, so I'm in favor of accepting the grant.

It sure looks like a good idea, and it's something that's still missing in the Perl community.

If there ever was a PR project worth investing this much in it, it is this one. This could leverage the community and provide a adequate service for it.

Being able to find a job while programming your favorite language not only helps people continue using Perl, but dissipates newcomers' fear of not being able to secure their livelihood using Perl.

I reckon Gabor is a perfect candidate to do the work on this end since he has already done such PR and marketing work successfully for a very long time now. He's developed and ripened ideas and understandings on how to manage and approach these issues first hand. He has also taken initiative in going to non-Perl events, starting the Perl::Staff, and showcasing Perl (successfully) to the public.

Outlining a fiscal-smart plan to a great detail shows his understanding of the complexity and responsibilities of such a position.

Sounds like a very useful endeavour, pursued by a worthy individual, that constantly invests time, thought and effort about the advancement and marketing of perl.

I admire the ambition of this proposal. Still, I have concerns on a number of levels. In summary I believe this proposal represents universally unattainable expectations of Gabor, The Perl Foundation, and the Perl Community at-large.

First, there's a very vague notion of a "membership" with annual fees. This appears to be the primary source of income for TPF and Gabor. Trying to understand the motivations for companies to become members I have some questions to clarify my understanding:

  1. What exactly are members joining? It sounds like this is the Ecosystem Development Group. So is it the case that companies will pay to join the Ecosystem Development Group, a committee of The Perl Foundation?
  2. What are the practical advantages for a company to join this group instead of directly fund Perl events, Perl development, TPF Grants, or hire Perl Programmers? The proposal reads to me like a donation to the TPF through the Ecosystem Development Group is diluted because a portion of it is paid in commission to the committee chair. Is that right?
  3. There's a notion of exclusive forums to discuss Perl development and use of the membership dues to the Ecosystem Group. What are the advantages of this over donating directly to TPF with a mandate attached to the funds, such as the Hague Grant has? As for discussing Perl successes and issues, what are the advantages of this group over filing a bug report or writing a blog post?
  4. The enumerated advantages of joining the Ecosystem Group seem to be disadvantages instead. Through this committee: donated funds to the TPF are taxed to pay the chair person's salary, members join several forums with no authority or responsibility, and use of donations by a single member can't be directed by that member alone. Donating directly to The Perl Community will not carry these penalties. Am I missing something?

Second, I have concerns about The Perl Foundation's ability to administer a grant of this scale. Only two other grants in The Perl Foundation's history were for $25,000 or more[0]. The third highest grant comes in at $11,000. All other grants were for $5,000 or less. From available data and conversations with TPF board members we know that 50-75% of accepted grants have failed. To date, failed grants have been for small sums of money.

Given the track record of The Perl Foundation and the substantial size of of this grant, both money and ambition, I consider this to be a very high risk proposal and do not support its acceptance in current form.

I do encourage Gabor to break this proposal up into much smaller grants which can be considered independently. Ideally, keeping them within the bounds of experience for The Perl Foundation's grants team. This seems to be between $1000-$3500.

Cheers,

[0] Source Data: http://github.com/rjbs/tpf-grant-history

Firstly, I hugely appreciate the enthusiasm and hard work Gabor has put into promoting Perl recently and I welcome a structured proposal to build on this. However, I have some concerns with the proposal so far.

I approve of having measurable targets for all the project's deliverables, but I would like to see these aims expressed in more detail:

How widely should we expect to see the press releases reported on elsewhere? I see little point in issuing press releases that the press do not report on.

If the events group does talk to 5000 people at 15 events, what should this achieve?

I appreciate the difficulty of quantifying aims such as these, but I believe that the amount of money requested deserves more detail.

Some of the earlier replies to this proposal note intentions to join the ecosystem as Individual or SMB members. Have any large companies committed to join? Have any been approached? How were the prices determined? Did potential members determine the offerings listed under Membership Advantages and did they ask for anything else not listed?

Finally, I don't understand why Perl needs yet another fund raising organisation. Having several organisations (TPF, Ecosystem, Enlightened Perl) asking those outside the community for money to improve Perl will cause confusion. Effective marketing requires a coherent message. For those of us inside the community, why does Perl need a separate Ecosystem group and how will it differentiate its activities from existing organisations?

Summarizing my thoughts from some conversations:

Companies have distributors or else they have sales people. Very few products stand entirely on their own. It's remarkable that Perl has, but it's reputation doesn't need to stand entirely on word of mouth between technical people.

CTOs and decision making managers are used to being advertised to in glossy trade magazines and having vendors call on them and take them to dinner. They're used to having a human being to directly brain storm with and to get questions directly answered from (even if they have to get back to them). In business culture, it's a necessary token for a vendor to do this. To do otherwise would be antisocial and disrespectful.

Sure, they could participate in p5p discussions but they don't. It isn't targeted to them. Companies pay a lot of money more direct access to the Java Community Process than the general community gets. Again, decision makers are busy and require being treated as such.

This is meant as encouragement of the idea in general. I can't comment approval of the actual proposal, not having read it.

-scott

I'm really excited by the ambitiousness of this proposal. It's bold, and I think the time is right for an initiative of this scale.

I don't think you could do this sort of thing nearly as successfully with mini-grants as it requires longer-term vision, planning and commitment.

It helps that Gabor has visibly demonstrated his capacity to reach out beyond the walls of the Perl community over the past 12 months. Talking to him at YAPC::NA it's clear just how committed he is to this cause.

I think it's also worthwhile pointing at the Padre project as an example of Gabor managing to catalyse a huge amount of enthusiasm and tangible progress in an area where previously people were put off by the enormity of the task.

I think people are right to be sceptical - $25k is a lot of money, and there's no guarantee that Gabor's plan for the project to recoup the seed money will succeed. But the potential benefits to the community are massive, so I think we should seriously consider this proposal.

Hi Tom,

let me try to address your concerns:

Press Releases by their nature cannot commit to any level of interest by journalists and journals. After the release of perl 5.12 we collected the major places where it was mentioned.
Basically there were two sources of information, the release mail sent out by Jesse and the Press Release of ActiveState
http://www.socialtext.net/perl5/index.cgi?news_perl_5_12
Getting a similar reach would be a great success but it cannot be promised.

What should the reach of 5000 people achieve? I expect that several of them will be interested in the various job offers of our member companies. Some will become interested in the Perl based projects we showcase. Either Perl 5 or Perl 6. It will be very hard to measure this as most of the people won't tell us the immediate trigger that caused them to join a project. Going to those events will also increase our capability to raise further money.

Anyway, I'd put the answer in the other way. At each one of the 3 non-perl events I have been there were many PHP and Python related booth. If we are not there people will be further reinforced of PHP and Python being in game while Perl not.

Amount of money requested Actually the budget shows that the plan is that by the end of the 6 month period the TPF will have more than 30,000 left from the activity. Therefore while this is a grant it actually works as an investment that is fully recovered within 6 months.

commitments:
In the past 6 months a number of companies have been approached both in Europe and in the US. Their feedback helped form the grant. The level of payments seemed to be reasonable to at least some of them. (In comparison the GNOME foundation charges 10-20,000 USD from its member companies.)
We have not received any commitment yet. This is of course not surprising as it was not clear if the TPF board will be ready to publicly discuss the proposal let alone accept it. Now that it became public I can talk to companies more openly and hope to get some more serious indication from them but I cannot expect them to give a commitment before they see the TPF accepting the proposal and deciding to commit to the initial investment.

The Ecosystem development group as it is called in the grant proposal is not a separate organization. It is part of the TPF. It just has a name to make it easy to identify.


Tom, please, let me know if this answers your concerns or if you have further questions.

This proposal seems appropriate, because Gabor is not only focusing on his direct actions, but is establishing a sustainable community of supporters and revenue stream to continue the work.

Certainly, not every company is going to be interested in joining this ecosystem, but some companies will. With a large portion of the grant based on a performance bonus, the risk of losing the investment is significantly reduced.

Because of Gabor's experience, talents, and motivation, TPF has a unique opportunity to do something great here, and should take advantage while the opportunity exists.

Some people asked me privately to clarify the financial numbers a bit further. Let me try to do so:

The grant: 25K the TPF allocates to the ecosystem group (but the money stays in the accounts of TPF)

Companies pay annual fees to the TPF to be member of the Ecosystem development group, within the TPF the money is automatically allocated to the ecosystem group (but stays in the account of TPF).

So the total budget of the group is 25K grant+membership fees.

The budget of the ecosystem group is used for
1) the expenses of attending (mostly non-perl) events
2) writing and distributing Press releases via channels specialized for that
3) I get paid a monthly fee of 1,500-5,500 USD based on my performance in the fund-raising

Based on the plan after 6 months the money in the TPF bank account that is allocated to the events group will be 32,800 USD.

After 12 months the money in the TPF bank account that is allocated to the events group will be 40-70K USD.
That will already allow either enlarging what the Ecosystem group does or moving some of its budget back to the general pool of money of the TPF.

@Tom: I do not see the Ecosystem group as a "yet another fund raising organisation", I see it as a good idea to do fund raising at all. Who donates to TPF currently? Just a few companies/persons. Ok, some donate lots of money (thanks to booking.com for the 50,000 USD donation and thanks to Ian Hague for the 200,000 USD donation), but these are just two donators. And they can't afford such donations every year... So I think it's good to have some income every year.

And currently there is one big problem: Who knows TPF? I were at the CeBIT in March and with Gabor I've spoken to lots of visitors and companies. They just don't know anything about the Perl community or TPF. So it would be great to have one person who gets in contact with all the Perl programmers and the companies using Perl.

And in my opinion many companies prefer to pay an annual fee over just donating.

@Casey: "What are the advantages of this over donating directly to TPF with a mandate attached to the funds...?" I think it's better to coordinate these things. If every company donates many with a mandate it may lead to the situation where company A donates 1,000 USD for X and company B donates 500 USD for Y. You can't get much for 1,000 USD or 500 USD. So coordinating the things via the Ecosystem group (where the companies can discuss the things they want the money used for) would mean that for X or Y there are 1,500 USD available...

And if TPF approves this grant and the grant fails, it does not mean that TPF looses 25k USD. In the proposal Gabor mentions that TPF pays 1,500 USD per month. So the total loss would be 9,000 USD. The other part of the money Gabor would get is payed by the membership fees (up to 50% of the fees and up to 5,500 USD in total per month). So the more money Gabor gets, the less is a loss.

As I am one of the persons who have already mentioned that they would join the group, I may say something about what I expect to get:

* I can't attend all events (even in Germany) and if the Ecosystem group can organize a booth at all events where they give away some brochures or flyers with all the logos of the members, I get some advertising.

* I can talk to other companies that use Perl. Maybe some of them want to subscribe to $foo or they want to hire me... Or I can get some articles for the magazine.

* It's hard to get in contact with all the other companies on your own.

* If the Ecosystem group organizes lots of Perl booths, I expect that the awareness of Perl in the IT world raises. I don't expect that all people become Perl freaks or fans, but I expect that they see that Perl is a great language that might be a solution for a problem they have.

Hi,

i think this is a great way to support the community and i hope this will really succeed.

At some conferences i can go too if they are near Hamburg or Cuxhaven(North German Area).

Hi Stephan,

what does "near" mean? We are searching for people who want to run a Perl booth at "Kieler Linux und Open Source Tage".

Cheers,
Renee

- http://mail.pm.org/pipermail/hamburg/2010-June/000436.html
- http://www.kieler-linuxtage.de/
- http://www.socialtext.net/perl5/index.cgi?events

I'm a business owner. Most of my businesses use Perl in one way or another to make their money. We support the Perl ecosystem by promoting it every chance we get, open sourcing much of our code, sponsoring YAPC, and sponsoring Perl Mongers. However, we have never donated to TPF. After reading this proposal, I'm strongly considering it.

In general I think that marketing outside the Perl community is exactly what needs to be done. There's too much preaching to the choir in the Perl community. I've said as much on my last blog post [1], before I even saw this grant post.

Whether or not this is the right way to go about it, I'm not sure. Trade show booths and press releases have only been of limited utility to the various businesses that I own, but promoting a community like Perl is a different animal. So maybe it will be useful here. However, Gabor is also saying he will speak at these shows wherever possible, and that is huge. Every time I've spoken at a convention, trade show, or even a group meeting, whether inside or outside of the Perl community, it's gotten us new clients. I'm certain that will have the desired effect here as well.

My biggest concern about the proposal is that none of the "member benefits" are useful or interesting to me in the least. I don't have a recommendation to make them better, they just don't entice me to want to donate. The thing that makes me consider donating is the cause itself "marketing outside the Perl community".

My second concern is the bonus structure. If it is truly a performance based bonus then there has to be hard measurable objectives to gain that bonus. For example there's a 5% bonus for each trade show or speaking engagement attended within a quarter (up to 6). There's a 50% bonus if funding objectives are met for the quarter, and a 70% bonus if the funding objectives are exceeded by at least 25% for a quarter.

Assuming the concerns above could be worked out, I would support this proposal, and probably commit some amount of money to it.

[1] http://blogs.perl.org/users/jt_smith/2010/06/with-webgui-its-in-there.html

Hi Renee,

Kiel will be a bit far away especially at second of october i will have school(like always in next year).

But i can see if i can do something about it. Maybe i can get a freeday from School/Employer :)

This is a great idea to improve Perl in the long term, by connecting better between the hackers of the community, and the people who use it for business.

There is no forum for the companies using Perl to talk about it. There is no mechanism for donating money to help Perl from companies- nothing to remind a company to send some money to the TPF this year, and convince them each year again and again. Organizations which have something like Gabor's proposed infrastructure, will find it much easier to get a subscription from a company.

Hiring help would be nice for companies, and advertisement would probably be very important for some companies, but the biggest benefits here are long term- strengthening the Perl meme by increasing its visibility and it's connection to the business world.

Hi Stephan,

that would be great. Maybe we should move this discussion to the events mailinglist ( events (at) lists.perlfoundation.org , see also http://perl-nachrichten.de/index.cgi/details/617 ).

I'm looking forward to hear from you.

- Renee

I have been told that there is an issue with comments - so just want to check this out.

I have a number of concerns with this grant, although I like the general ideas.

First, when I was at YAPC I participated in some discussions with TPF folks, and the issue was raised of whether or not TPF should be in the business of promoting Perl.

This is a reasonable question. Bizarrely, the Perl Foundation does not seem to have a publicly stated mission! This would be very helpful in figuring out whether or not this grant is relevant to TPF.

Personally, if I were to come up with a mission for TPF off the cuff, I might come up with something like ...

"TPF furthers Perl development, supports the Perl community, and promotes the use of the Perl languages."

However, it's quite plausible that the last part could be left off. This is something the TPF board really needs to address.

Second, as Casey pointed out, this is a really big grant, and so far TPF hasn't had much experience adminstering big grants. And not only is this grant big, it is complicated too.

The grant also conflates two largely unrelated things, fundraising and promotions. I'm all for both, but I'm not sure why they need to be combined like this.

On the fundraising side, I think TPF needs to get its house a bit more in order before it can fundraise effectively. TPF needs to do a much better job of communicating what it already does, and what it plans to do with future money. Otherwise, why would anyone donate?

Gabor's proposal seeks to offer a set of benefits to donors, some of which are way too nebulous. I know that he has further clarified in a recent blog posting, but I don't think that's sufficient. In particular, I think several of these proposed benefits just aren't reasonable.

The idea of a forum for suggestions on spending money seems problematic. I think this could easily turn into an echo chamber. There is no reason to think that any suggestion a member company comes up with can be followed through on, which could be frustrating. TPF can't really make anything happen with Perl development, and that's the fundamental problem here.

Similarly, an exclusive forum for managers to discuss issues with Perl seems pointless. If these people are interested in constructive discussion, why limit it to just donors? If they want a forum to complain, I don't think keeping it private will benefit Perl as a whole. I also doubt whether there is any demand for this whatsoever. The people in a position to donate money will be busy, and the last thing they want is another mailing list of web forum.

As far as a new platform for reaching employees, that's incredibly vague. What platform is TPF going to come up with that's better than the existing Perl jobs site? Obviously, that site could be greatly improved, but I don't see how TPF can promise anything that will make hiring easier.

I think Gabor is greatly underestimating the difficulty of fundraising here. Fundraising, in my experience (and I have a lot of it from my animal rights work) is not about promised benefits. I think any fundraising proposal needs to focus on communication and relationship building. Fundraising is successful when donors embrace the organization's mission (see above!), and when donors have a connection to the nonprofit. I've seen this called "ability, belief, connection". In other words, donors need to have the ability to donate (they have enough money), belief in the mission, and a connection to the organization, through relationship building.

Then there's the question of "why Gabor?" If TPF is going to spend significant money on fundraising, why not hire a professional? Does Gabor have any fundraising experience?

Hiring Gabor also brings up the issue of paying a community member, which could lead to resentment. Other people in TPF, notable Karen Pauley, are putting in a lot of time for free. If they're not getting paid, why pay Gabor?

Personally, I think this last point brings up another problem, which is that TPF has no clear guidelines on what it should be spending money on. If it were simply accepted that there's a pool of money to pay for X, Y, and Z, then this would be much less of an issue. TPF desperately needs a budget.

Finally, let's tackle the outreach part of the grant. I think the general idea of having a booth at lots of events is great. The Perl community is very insular, and we could do with some outreach. However, I'm not sure we need to pay just one person to do this. Instead, we could have something like the grants program but for event attendance. People would organize a group to staff a booth, and apply for funds that would cover the cost of the booth and travel.

In fact, looking at Gabor's proposed list of events, I see several other people who plan to attend these events. Are they going to paid, or at least reimbursed for travel costs?

The proposed budget also seems to be missing any mention of booth costs! This can be quite expensive.

Finally, I don't think TPF is ready for this level of outreach. TPF needs to figure out what it wants to say about itself and Perl, prepare promotional materials like leaflets, cards, videos, etc., and generally have a solid plan. Without that, paying for a booth will be a waste of money. Gabor's cards and tuit chips at YAPC were cute, but that's not nearly enough for a professional looking booth.

In summary, I think this grant proposal has some good ideas, but is too complicated, missing some key pieces, and just wrong on others.

I would propose the following steps ...

TPF needs to clarify their mission. If that mission doesn't include promoting the use of Perl in the world at large, much of this is moot.

TPF needs to get their promotional story together. This would be a set of written materials (blog posts, annual report, future plans, etc.) that answers the question "why should I support TPF?" This is the first step towards successful fundraising. Donors need to know what they're supporting.

Once this story is clear, TPF can work on a corporate membership plan of some sort. This needs to include clearly described benefits that TPF can actually execute on. TPF also needs to figure out how it wants to handle earmarked funds, since that may come up. I would suggest that any amount less than something very large ($30k, $50k?) cannot be earmarked. Anything else leads to accounting madness. Ultimately, the fundraising goal must be to sell donors on the mission and effectiveness of TPF, not on a particular project. Anything else makes it very difficult to grow the nonprofit itself.

Once all this is done, I'd love to see separate grant proposals for outreach and fundraising. The outreach grant should be much more specific about costs, including booth fees, specific printing costs, etc.

The first part of an outreach grant, rather than attending events, should be material development. This would include developing written materials, videos, and probably coming up with some sort of training program for booth staff so that they are prepared to represent TPF and Perl. Once that's done, it makes sense to start attending events.

The fundraising grant could be structured as an incentive program, like Gabor says, or instead TPF could simply hire a fundraising professional. Personally, I think the latter might be more useful. I'd also caution TPF to have reasonable goals here. I'd say that expecting the professional to turn a profit in six months is entirely unreasonable. A better goal might be to break even the first year, and make a significant profit the second year (salary + 50%).

So overall, I don't think this grant is viable as is, and I think TPF has to get some of its internal stuff together before embarking on these programs.

As a business owner who uses Perl in his business, I don't see any tangible benefits from spending over $1k a year on a membership like this. I already sponsor SF.pm to the tune of about that much each year, which is an amount that is not sustainable in the long term for me. Trying to get other companies to sponsor food and drinks for Perl Monger meetings (usually ~$100 per meeting) has been difficult - they don't see much value return for their investment there.

I like the overall idea, but I don't see this becoming self sustaining with the current plan. I think more work needs to go into what is being offered to the members to get them to open their checkbooks. Has anything like this been done with other languages such as Ruby or Python? What needs are being filled for member companies? I know that hiring good Perl programmers is a pain point for most companies, but how does this proposal answer that pain point?

I think Gabor has the credentials to take this on, but this grant needs to be more flushed out in how it will be attractive to member companies.

This is the third time I am writing this response. The first two have somehow disappeared after I submitted them. The interesting thing is that I've heard from at least one other person who have submitted a comment that was never seen (and thus never approved) by Karen.


Casey, I have to say that some of the words you used were very offending (diluted, taxed). Did you really want to paint me as someone who is trying to extract money from The Perl Foundation or from the Perl community? If so then probably the fact that I paid out of my own pocket my flights to the various non-perl events and for the T-shirts I used for fund-raising for TPF might give some indication to the contrary. Anyway, I am happy we could actually sit down and talk a bit about this during YAPC::NA. I hope we managed to clear up some of your concerns. Still let me try to respond to them in public.


What do companies join?

I don't think the word "committee" describes correctly what I have in mind. "Group" might be better word and "Advisory board" even better. Members of this group won't have decision making power in TPF - though we might allow them to have voting power on some fund allocations.

Direct funding or via TPF?

Companies can directly fund any Perl related event, grant or development. This whole thing is to make it smoother. Someone needs to go out an encourage companies to fund the various things. Sponsors of Perl events are usually contacted by the organizers a short time prior to the event and they get one-off sponsorships. I am talking about on-going funding of TPF and its activities.

Just to clarify. The money the companies pay will go into the bank account of TPF. The only difference is that at the beginning it will be automatically be allocated back to the ecosystem group and the events group to make its work sustainable.

Volunteers

It all could be done by volunteers of course but I have not seen that happening. We had a number of large sponsorships received by TPF but as I understand they were mostly the fruits of labor of people close to the sponsor and not activities by TPF fundraisers. While I very much appreciate their work and I hope similar sponsorships will happen later on as well, I also think TPF needs a regular income so it can have plans on giving out grants. The reason we hardly saw anyone doing fund-raising or promotional work I think is because we are all busy with regular paid work and in our spare time we prefer to work on some code than to talk to managers at various companies.

Pay someone

The only way I can see overcoming this is to pay someone to do fund-raising and pay someone to do promotional work. We could hire someone from outside the Perl community but so far every such attempt lead to people who clearly "don't get" the Perl community. I hope I have a slightly better grasp on what is the Perl community.

Marketing consultant

For example every marketing consultant so far immediately wanted to create "the message" of the Perl and the Perl community neglecting the fact that we are just a bunch of individuals with slightly more opinions than heads. The only cohesive "one message" I can imagine for Perl is the fact that we don't have a single message and a single voice. The good thing about this is that many in the Perl community will disagree with me :)

That's the reason I want to get paid. So I can do this in my paid time and can still spend lots of volunteer hours on organizing my local Perl Monger group, coding Padre and being involved in other development projects.

Maybe someone else?

With that said I don't think I am the only choice of the Perl community nor the best choice for this. If someone else would want to do this I'd be happy to hand the whole thing over. BUT I that person needs to believe in the cause, be enthusiastic about it and we should not wait for 6 more months to find that person.


As for discussing Perl successes and issues, what are the advantages of this group over filing a bug report or writing a blog post?
Companies usually don't have time to do these things. They are short on developers and even shorter on bloggers. Many of them would rather pay some money to "outsource" some of their issues than to spend their valuable time on learning how to file a bug report.

Smaller steps

As I mentioned you during YAPC I don't think this can be broken down into small steps. For one, attending an event usually needs some planning. The Call for presentations usually closes a couple of months before and organizing a booth also needs preparations. Fund-raising can also be done only on a long-term base. It takes a lot of time to get companies interested and then signing them up to the group. The only things that could sort-of be done a bit ahead of time is creating a list of prospects and updating the list of events to participate on. I am addressing both of them in my recent blog entry: Grant request for fund-raising and promotional activities

I hope this helped clarifying some of the issues and you'd be ready to revise your stand on the grant. In any case I'll try to answer if you have any further concerns.

While I agree with most of the criticism by autarch above I am afraid that his proposed plan would be throwing the baby with the bath. I think that Gabor's enthusiasm is not something that could be easily replaced with careful planning and red tape. I do agree he needs to come with an answer to all the mentioned points - and especially for the point about generating resentment (personally I would rather see his salary as at some 'subsistence level' to make this truly a community service and not a way to make profit), but dampening his enthusiasm would not be a good example for the rest of the community either.

One more point - I would like to see some analysis of how this is done for other languages - especially about the benefits for companies of joining the club. The point autarch makes above that people are more motivated by their values than perceived benefits is a valid one and focusing on benefits can be counter-productive and can even offend people. But there might be difference when this is done by companies rather then individual people and also there might be difference between animal rights campaigns which are clearly about moral issues and this more utilitarian project.

I am also skeptical that the commission on membership fees part of the renumeration plan would generate any additional motivation for Gabor.

I agree with the posters above who indicate there's other work we need to do.  For example, I think one of the things we need to fix is to have our discussion, collaboration, design, and code sharing websites do proper SSL: Logins should be over SSL; there should be a user setting which allows one to toggle between having their session tied to their IP but unencrypted (default) , having their session locked to SSL and not tied to IP, or having their session locked to SSL and tied to IP.  Our perl advocacy websites and blogs should not make gratuitous use of javascript, nor rely on its presence for proper functionality.  I could go on.  However, we have many people in the community, and each has their own capabilities.  To not make use of one person's capabilities because we need something more that the one person cannot provide is insanity.

The current proposal seems structured to reduce the dependency on success as time goes on.  Also, I agree with the comment above that it seems to be a bit too quickly expecting success.  I'm thinking that the proposed pay plan should be inverted.  For example, something on the order of:

For the first six months, the position pays $5_500 per month, plus a 10% bonus of member dues acquired.  (Note: Signing up one large company at $12_000 per year would count as $1_000 per month for that purpose, so that if the company changed its mind and decided to withdraw its money before the end of that time, we don't have a big financial mess.  Also, this stabilizes the cash flow to an extent.)

For the next 10 six month periods, the position pays $500 less per six months, but still has a bonus of 10% of member dues acquired.  After the end of the last six month period, the position is paid entirely out of the member dues at the 10% of member dues bonus rate.  All member dues are counted for this purpose - even those from member companies that signed up the first year and have been faithful ever since.

If it eventually becomes a problem that the chairman is making too much money from this position, TPF may set a threshold at which the chairman gets a smaller portion (say, 5%) of the member dues.  There should be no point at which the chair is cut off entirely, unless the chair is no longer the primary sales person for these memberships.

Also, I think there should be some distinction made between an individual and a small business.  As an individual, I may not be able to afford $1k per year.  As an individual, I would expect no 'promotion' benefits, because other than listings on job boards, the concept doesn't really apply.  I'd not expect a lot of forum participation for $50/year, but if that's all I can afford, I probably am too busy making ends meet to have forum participation.

(The numbers here were based somewhat on Szabgab's original suggestion that $72_500 was a reasonable goal for the first 6 months.  That works out to about $6_041.67 per month, so 5% is $600.  I don't know how attainable that goal is.  I think the position should have attainable goals, and should have some promise of reward for exceeding them.  Also, there's the realization that no charity should have too high of an overhead.  For example, there's a police family support charity that calls me for donations every year that has 85% of its funds consumed by administrative overhead.  I'm never going to donate to them so long as that much money is wasted administratively.)

(Yeah, I'm using _ as a place separator, instead of ',' or '.'.  We can't guarantee the locale this will be read in - but I'd expect anyone reading this to be familiar with Perl.)

Just to clarify a point Zbigniew made.

The point of the "Belief" part of Ability, Belief, Connection, is that the donor needs to believe in the mission of the organization. That says nothing about _why_ they believe.

In the case of TPF, that belief could well be motivated by enlightened self-interest. A company that makes use of Perl would want Perl to develop and the Perl community to grow, purely for reasons of self-interest.

What TPF needs to do is convince the company that it wants these things, and that TPF is the way to make them happen.

The grant proposal has some excellent ideas. However, a proposal like the one presented seems better suited for an organization like the W3C which actively pushes the development of it’s product(s). The TPF has shown little interest, or to be frank ability, in becoming such an organization. I see no benefit to them to move forward with this particular proposal, and lots of potential risks.

The Hague grant that this request is being made under specifically stipulates that it was to “allow The Perl Foundation to pursue additional funding opportunities to support Perl 6 development.” Arguably having a fund raising position as well as having a position for external marketing to non-TPF events both will help the TPF support Perl 6 but only the first will actively do so. This grant specifically ties the fund-raising dollars raise back to the efforts to raise it until a certain threshold, so even the direct correlation to the Hague Grant is limited. I’m not sure the TPF should even consider it considering the spirit if not the letter of the Hague Grant the money comes from.

Let’s ignore that argument for a second though. Having a self funding group, while attractive, limits the TPF’s ability to allocate the funds raised by that group. The TPF general funds wouldn’t really see money coming back from the fund-raising portion of this grant for anywhere from 12 to 24 months assuming it is as successful as Gabor expects. Providing $25K dollars to a project that can’t be measured “successful” for 24 months is a big risk, especially for an organization that is already having issues with it’s reputation in the area of “Successful Grants”.

The Marketing portion of this proposal is I think excellent. Gabor has a proven record of organizing people to attend non-Perl related events, and that is a more than worthy project to fund. I think a proposal for an Events Committee similar to the Conferences Committee and Grants Committee would make more sense. Such a committee would have an annual budget to allocate across proposals for attending events and creating SWAG to hand out. Gabor has the proven record to lead such a Committee and that members of Perl::Staff should be recruited to fill it out.

The fund-raising portion of this grant is more questionable. As Dave points out above, the TPF isn’t even officially in the market of general fund raising for Perl. Unlike the EPO, they have no structure for accepting memberships, corporate or otherwise, and no real clue what to do with them if they had them. So far the only two kinds of projects that have had some success are Workshops and Conferences, and development grants. We’ve already discussed their reputation for grants. The TPF needs to decide first if general fundraising is even something they want to be involved with, before jumping into the deep end of the pool.

Gabor makes an excellent point that the fundraising at the YAPC and workshop level is poorly organized. As a workshop organizer, and now a YAPC::NA organizer, it is one of the biggest sticking points to making an event happen. Simply having someone working as a liaison between the TPF, Event Organizers (like myself), and donors would be a huge benefit, with a much smaller cost than the proposal here. If Gabor has a strong track record doing this, I see no reason why he couldn’t perform this role as well.

Finally the messy issue of renumeration. I think that having a compensation scheme for the TPF changes a lot of things. Currently the TPF has no compensation (that I am aware of) for it’s officers. The money primarily goes to event coordination (they front the costs for YAPC and workshops), and to development grants. The renumeration scheme proposed here is I think something that deserves far more consideration and consultation than the grant proposal process allows. A quick glance at the rest of the comments in this thread gives an inkling of how messy it can be.

As a member of the community I’m not opposed to seeing people who are much more active than I am be compensated for their time, but I would want to know things are on an appropriate scale for a non-profit there is solid value being returned. Gabor has prove he can deliver value coordinating our presence at external events, I’ve not seen his record as a fund-raiser, and I’m not sure the TPF is ready to deal with paid staff yet.

Thank you Gabor for getting this public discussion about Perl+Marketing+Businesses rolling like it is now! And thanks for all the good work at all that Perl and non-Perl events in the last few months! You have shown that you are really up to it and very very few others currently are willing or able to put their enthusiasm into practice like you do!

From my point of view the biggest benefit of the proposed effort is to get a significant outreach outside the Perl community. For that, potential member companies interested in the development of Perl and trying to hire Perl developers should be willing to pay for; at least in principle. My current company, a young start-up, would qualify for the 5-50 employees membership level. However, we are far from being able to spend $6000 per year - even if the membership advantages would be much more tangible than the hard to measure "outreach". I also understand that small, almost symbolic membership fees e.g. like $500 likely will not make sense, let alone from a practical point of view: With a large number of members paying small fees, the administrative overhead soon starts to outweigh the income. Also, what will a large number of members mean for their respective membership benefits? How can those benefits not be diluted in that case?

Regarding the membership benefits, let's do a walkthrough over the details:

"1) They will mentioned on the web site of the Ecosystem group on the web site of TPF"

That is nice to have, but not really tangible. Should not be listed first here in any case, I think.

"2) They will be mentioned (up to one A4 page) in the materials we hand out during the various events"

Some thoughts on the practicalibility of that: Will the SMB/Small companies/Large Companies members have the same level of representation there? Looking at the current budget plan there is a total of 18 members which would already imply 18 A4 pages. The more members are present there, the less interesting it will be for them to be part in a small but growing book of mixed promo-material.

"3) They will show the appreciation to Perl and in general help the Perl community "

Also nice to have, but again, not really tangible. Why don't I just fund TPF as I already could do today?

"4) They will be provided an exclusive forum where they can raise suggestions on how to spend the money collected from the members. (e.g. suggestions for grants for the development of Perl 5, Perl 6, CPAN, etc.)"

We should really make clear what impact those "suggestions" could have! This potentially has a drastic impact on the TPF in general, as it may undermine it's community focus. And yes, as Dave pointed out before: A TPF mission statement would be really helpful there!

5) They will be provided with a platform to reach the Perl community that will make it easier for them to find new employees ( in addition to jobs.perl.org )

What *exactly* would it make better than jobs.perl.org?

6) They will have an exclusive forum for their managers to discuss their successes and issues with Perl development.

What benefit does the exclusivity aspect bring in there? Why not just set up something like a mailing list - either unmoderated or moderated by a - e.g. yearly appointed - TPF representative?

Those membership benefits are not the only part of the proposal where additional flesh is needed. It might be a chicken and egg problem: The current budget plan will only work out if memberships will be paid by e.g. at least one large, two small and six SMB members. That sounds possible but challenging to me. Knowing that Gabor was already quite busy negotiating with some companies, it might work out, but still won't finance the time after the kick-start grant, where about double the members will be needed.

I can understand earlier commenters having doubts about the size of the grant. While I do not know the detailed history of past grants or people involved, this should still be a manageable sum, I think.

Splitting up the grant into smaller pieces would make the whole undertaking not feasible any longer. It might be worthwhile to discuss using the outreach-to-non-Perl-community or professional-Perl-marketing parts from that proposal and create new separate ones for those instead though.

What the current "Perl marketing situation" shows is that an effort like this, which includes ongoing professional non-volunteer promotional and marketing work by a paid person only can have a better prospect than the current one.

@Fred Moyer

What needs are being filled for member companies?
Are there any needs in your company that the TPF could fill?

I know that hiring good Perl programmers is a pain point for most companies, but how does this proposal answer that pain point?

In the short term: Make the name of the companies better known as companies looking for Perl developers in the Perl community. (The same reason some of the sponsor YAPCs). Make them better know in the much larger Perl community that does not attend YAPCs or Perl Monger meetings.

In the long term: Get more people learn Perl and thus have more Perl developers available to hire.

One more point (and I'll shut up, I think).

Gabor proposes up to $5,500 a month in compensation. That works out to a salary of around $66,000 per year.

Based on some quick research, and my own personal experience with nonprofits, that's a lot more than an entry level fundraiser would expect to get.

Looking around online, it looks like the average salary for someone with five+ years of experience is around $65-75k. And that's the _average_, which means it's including really big nonprofits like the Red Cross, American Cancer Society, and so on. These are places with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and they're able to pay higher salaries that no doubt skew the average upward.

$66,000 could easily represent over half of TPF's yearly income in a given year. It is generally considered a bad idea for a nonprofit to spend more than 20-25% of its expenses on fundraising and admin costs.

This is somewhat complicated with this grant proposal, since it includes both fundraising work and outreach work, with the latter presumably furthering TPF's mission.

By comparison, my animal rights group, with projected income of around $80,000, allocated around $12,000 in our most recent fiscal year to pay for a half time fundraising coordinator.

@autarch

Dave,
if I understand you correctly most of your comments were actually related to TPF. The lack of clear vision. The lack of communication. The lack of clear guidelines on what to spend money on. The lack of material to be used for fund-raising etc.

I understand you have issues with TPF but when I asked you about the "Perl Association" - that was supposed to do similar things but as a separate organization you too, along with many others, thought it should be part of TPF.

I think asking for all those issues you have with TPF to be fixed would take a lot of time and I don't know who would do that, why would they do that and when would that happen? I don't want to wait another 6-12 months or even more till something might happen in the TPF.

Separate Perl Association of within The Perl Foundation?

Earlier I proposed to do fund-raising and promotion separately from TPF without asking for a grant and taking all the financial risks. You, and many others suggested to do it within TPF. If it is part of The Perl Foundation then I think I can expect it to take some of the financial risks. Hence I am asking for a grant which is not even a real grant. It is effectively an investment. Of course it might fail but I built in enough fail safes in the proposal that will reduce the risks.

I know it would be much better if we already had promotional materials ready when we go to the events but I don't want to wait with the promotion till we manage to create enough materials. Frankly without going to the previous events (FOSDEM, CeBIT, LinuxTag Berlin) we would not even know what type of materials others use and how these things work. I could have asked for a grant for that from the TPF but I would have taken several months of consideration. So I paid my flights myself and the other participants (most notably Renee) have also invested quite some money.

Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I should have asked for a grant 9 months ago and then maybe it would be easier for the community and TPF to accept it now.


Regarding paying me and not others. Once we have enough money I hope we can start covering the expenses of others who participate at events. As it won't make much sense for me to participate on every event (e.g. flight costs and language barriers) I hope I can get others, locals participate on the events and cover some of their expenses. With that said I hope that most of the people at those events will be volunteers. Both for the spirit and for the lower cost. I might need to attend many events in the first year to help them started and in those cases I mostly spend my time at the booth. Working. The volunteers have much more freedom to go to the actual talks or in general to do other things than being at the booth. In addition there is some preparation you have to do. The volunteers hardly need to do anything, just show up and talk to visitors.


Regarding Karen, I am not sure what she is actually doing but I see she is very busy and I appreciate her work very much. (I just wish she would blog about it so we would know a bit more about the details and we might be able to help her more.) Maybe we should also pay her some money. Or maybe we should understand why does she need to do so many things? Are the other board members inactive? Does TPF need more board members to distribute the work load? Should some of her work actually done by a paid (!) administrator or even an executive director?


Who is represented by TPF ?

Indeed it would be nice if the TPF decided what it wants to do with itself, the money it has and if we knew who is represented by TPF? Does it represents its current board or does it represent the Perl Community or the greater Perl Ecosystem? If not only the board then it should somehow define who can be part of it.

I also think TPF should be involved in the promotion of the Perl programming language and I think many others think so as almost everyone I asked earlier about the "Perl Association" (that was supposed to do similar things as my current grant suggests) asked me "Why not in the TPF?".

I agree that it would be way easier if the TPF had its promotional materials for fund-raising ready and I think that was part of the grant of Richard Dice.
Instead of waiting for the TPF to formulate a better message I was trying to create one that might provide some direct benefit to some of the companies.
Most companies told me their primary concern is to "Get help in finding developers" and the "future of Perl". The "platform" is promoting perl, going to lots of events and showing the job offers to people. In generally get the names of the companies in the collective minds of the Perl developers. Both those 300-400 who attend YAPCs and the other 10,000 who attend other, non-Perl events.

Connecting the two parts of the grant

So the connection between the two parts of the grant is that IMHO the best way to start asking for money from the companies is to help solve their immediate needs.

I wonder where the deliverables are relevant for the Perl Community:

1. People passing by a stand: what is the goal? Also, there is no guarantee that the different conferences will accept a Perl stand.

2. Money to TPF: what for if we do not have relevant grants proposed?

3. 6 press releases: published where? For what? What will be the results?

Finally, two comments:

- I would like to remember that Gabor submitted a grant proposal to TPF that got approved and that was not completed. It was canceled a month after its start and, as far as I can recall, no good reason was given to TPF.

- Gabor is asking for about 4500 Eur per month. A good salary for a developer in Portugal (not in the capital) is about 1000 Eur. I get a few more being a teacher in an University, 100% of my time. I wonder if I should ask for some money for my work on grants' committee...

I do not have the extensive management, fundraising, or organizational experience of many of the above commentors. However, I do interact with many different clients, companies, and other software engineers who are beginning to dismiss perl as being a good, never-mind the best, choice for use in their business!

I have followed Gabor's blog posts and other community and development work and what I see is that he has spent a significant amount of his time and skill over the last few years looking for ways to reverse this trend.

Perl, as a community, is full of technically brilliant people. We also have loads of artistically brilliant people. We also have successful entrepreneurs, and even people who are clearly great at marketing.

What we don't have is a central place for businesses to go to get positive, cohesive marketing, to learn of the benefits of new developments in terms they will understand and want to hear and to express their support in the form of $$$ and actually choosing the tech, or voice their needs and concerns.

Businesses, especially large ones, need to receive a different sort of communication, a different sort of message, and a different sort of perception of a technology or tool before they will consider using and supporting it. Perl so very well suited to many more tasks than your typical PHB knows or believes. Sure, it's probably used by 90% of the sysadmins out there, but I doubt their managers know it, or even care - and when the next big project comes down the pike that same manager wants Java or Ruby or even PHP 'cause it's shiny and "everybody else is using it."

It's so frustrating to me that the management in so many companies seem to proudly know that they're using Java and PHP, yet have no clue how utterly dependent they are on the masses of Perl running underneath - until it breaks and then the problem is seen as the perl itself, not that they forgot about it over the years and fired all the decent perl hackers.

I know I am over-generalizing, but my own observations really do reflect this. I believe Gabor's proposal is aggressive, but I also trust his experience and ability to succeed.

If nothing else, I hope his proposal gets TPF and the community at large to finally move to action about how they want to approach the issues of Perl's public image (public meaning *non-perl* businesses and programmers), fundraising, and sustainability for the future.

I for one would like to continue getting paid to hack on Perl for a long, long time, and not be forced to seek out increasingly rare exceptions like our brothers in the Lisp community.

-- hercynium

Hi Gabor,

I'm sorry my word choice was offensive and for that I apologize.

I won't attempt to clarify my word choice because the net result will be distracting to this discussion. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. I'd like to follow Dave Rolsky's lead and separate the two objectives of your proposal, fundraising and marketing, and get to the point.

Fundraising

In your reply to me you say:

"Someone needs to go out an encourage companies to fund the various things."

Why? I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why The Perl Foundation must actively fundraise.

Marketing

I stand my suggestion in the TPF Marketing meeting at YAPC::NA. The Perl Foundation has financial resources to create promotional materials, write documentation on being a booth volunteer, and cover insurance and fees for volunteers at targeted events.

I suggested a series of smaller grants aimed at building a central TPF repository to support Perl Community Volunteers that choose to promote Perl at non-Perl events. Specific recommendations included:

  • The creation of "booth kits" (at least two) with the materials necessary to staff and stock a Perl booth at an expo or conference. Kits can be shipped to volunteers seeking support from the TPF.
  • Writing and production of slides, booklets, and related documentation to help volunteers confidently talk about Perl, the Perl Community, and The Perl Foundation at events.

Those two steps by The Perl Foundation will support our volunteer community and decentralize the knowledge and ability required to promote Perl. Further, they'll help to empower volunteers who would otherwise consider Perl's promotion an insurmountable task without help.

I think these two steps, with the inclusion of specific and detailed Perl 6 support, may satisfy the requirements of the Hague Grant. The definition of a successful outcome is pretty clear, too, and the financial risk of investing in supporting volunteers in this way is low. Small, clear, deliberate steps.

A final point on "marketing." Note I deliberately use the term "promote" here. That's what we're describing. Marketing the Perl Programming Language and the Perl Community is not a job for marketers. It's a job for programmers.

If the TPF were to go down the path of marketing Perl outside the Perl Community it would fail. There is nothing to market! As a community we are, by-and-large, a collection of software library authors. We write CPAN modules for use by other CPAN authors. Our most prized activity is insular and inward facing by nature!

If the Open Source Perl Community wants to market itself, do it with code. With software. With applications that people love. Not just libraries that Perl programmers love.

If you try to accomplish marketing Perl with empty words it won't get anywhere. The community isn't ready yet. Do it with code first.

@Alberto

I understand that you'd prefer to earn more money but have you complained the same way when Dave Mitchell or when Richard Dice asked for grants that would pay similar amounts of money to what I asked? If not, then why now?

I am not proud of the fact that I failed the grant but I think you should have pointed out that I have not taken any money from TPF (as opposed to many other grantees who have not finished their grants either) and I have not dragged the grant without any results for years (as opposed to many others who did). I got up and declared the failure of the grant. The fact that you are using it against me will just tell others that it has no value to admit failure, bail out, and let the allocated money to go back to the pool for other grants.


Let me link to the details of my previous grant from TPF:


And to your actual questions:

  1. People passing by a stand: what is the goal? Also, there is no guarantee that the different conferences will accept a Perl stand.
    telling people about Perl and various projects based on Perl. Reinforcing them that Perl is still around. Inviting them to Perl events. etc.
    There is no guarantee but so far we got them and we were even invited to a few other events.
  2. Money to TPF: what for if we do not have relevant grants proposed?
    I know there are several people who would be happy to work a lot more on Perl projects if they could get a grant that pays at levels that make it possible for them to survive at the cost of living where they happen to live. In many cases that's much higher than what you quoted for Portugal. Does TPF have that kind of money now? Will it have in a way to sustain the grants for 6-12 months?
  3. 6 press releases: published where? For what? What will be the results?
    Press Release will be sent via the PR channels (see the post of Dave Cross from December 2008) and directly to journalists (but we first will need to build the contacts). They are used to get formal interaction with journalists to raise awareness for Perl and Perl based projects outside the Perl echo chamber.

Gabor Szabo's grant proposal is a good use of the grant provided by Ian Hague. I have suggestions about the proposals in the grant and comments on feedback from the community.

Lets start with the original purposes of the grant. Here's what was in the press release accompanying the grant:

"The purpose of the donation is to support the development of Perl 6, the next generation of the Perl programming language. Roughly half of the funds will be used to support Perl 6 developers through grants and other means. The balance of the funds will be used by The Perl Foundation to develop its own organizational capabilities. This will allow The Perl Foundation to pursue additional funding opportunities to support Perl 6 development. Mr. Hague wants his contribution to be seed funding in that effort."

General.

Given all the proposals that have received Hague grants from The Perl Foundation, it seems to me that the first part of the grant terms is being complied with exceptionally well. Proposals are being made, accepted and funded that result in significant developments of perl6. The process is working well and the use of money is being monitored.

However, in order to comply with all the terms of the Hague grant, money must be spent to develop "organisational capabilities". My perception is that Ian Hague's intention to help The Perl Foundation create a sustainable source of funding has not been addressed.

Gabor's proposal is a step in the right direction.

About the Proposal.

The idea of a "Perl Ecosystem" and proving a means for companies to hook into that ecosystem is really quite brilliant!

The perl community is remarkably diverse and rich. The existence of resources such as CPAN, PerlMonks, YAPC, and the like are beyond compare. But at the moment they are available only to other perl programmers, who have hooked themselves in. They are available to companies only to the extent that their employees are 'hooked in' programmers.

By creating an "Ecosystem", companies can be helped as institutions to have their programmers get hooked in. Companies provide value in terms of sponsorship, they get value from being connected to valuable resources. An "Ecosystem" will not be a gross commercialisation of the perl community's resources, but a self-sustaining addition that can help to maximise the benefit of those resources.

As one of the feedback responses pointed out, there is already a job site. But I would suggest that there are few companies in need of programmers that utilise that resource. Most companies solve their recruiting needs through headhunters and recruitment agencies. There will be some that are not aware of the perl job site.

The same is true of CPAN and the problem-solving strength of the perl community. I would suggest that there are few companies aware of the richness of CPAN, or know how to tap in to the online knowledge base.

I think Gabor's proposal is weak where it comes to describing to companies the benefits membership in and sponsoring the Ecosystem will bring them. Since the focus is on generating sponsorship fees, this part of the proposal must be beefed up.

Companies see value in advertising, in solving their problems, in PR. These are each addressed in the proposal, but they are not described in the language that would be easily understood, or rather in terms that can be directly viewed as equivalent in value to the sponsorship fee.

The existing resources of the perl world need to be described in greater detail. Gabor also needs to show how these resources could be better utilised by companies, both inside and outside the perl world, to maximise their potential and value for the firm. The mechanism for this would be joining the Ecosystem.

Advertising is not just fliers, or materials at trade booths, but also sponsorship of The Perl Foundation web site, conventions, conferences, perl monger groups, and so on.

Interaction with the perl community is not just via Advisory Boards, but also the ability to find training resources for staff, to help staff to tap into perl mongers and Perl Monks.

Problem solving is about finding consultants who can help to fix existing problems, increase functionality in modules, or even simply locating modules that are appropriate in the wealth of software that already exists. For even some simple problems I have needed to solve, there are several alternatives. I have often wanted to ask what is the difference between alternative modules and which ones are the best balance of simplicity and speed for my problem.

PR is about being known for adding value to the community, not just in providing a product. Some companies get involved in PR because they 'believe' or are philanthropic; other companies see expense on PR as having an effect on the bottom line because brand recognition is increased.

So whilst I think that the initial activities of Gabor might be in attending and promoting the Ecosystem at trade fairs and conferences, I also think he needs to work on how to provide companies with an interface into perl resources. He would do this by meeting existing perl companies (eg., at fairs and conferences) and asking them what they need and how their needs can be met by the perl world.

In all of these activities, the systematic extension of the Perl Community to include companies via the "Perl Ecosystem" will benefit all concerned:
- Increased funding of The Perl Foundation will lead to improvements in centralised services to the community.
- Increased demand for perl-oriented consulting will lead to greater opportunities for professional programmers.
- A better company-oriented interface between the perl global programming resources and companies will increase the value of perl for companies.
- Sponsoring companies will get their value returned when urgent problems are quickly resolved.

Commentary on Feedback

"Paying a member of the community."

I have very little sympathy with the point of view that a person in the community should not be paid. It seems to me to be akin to self-flagellation - causing damage to oneself to acquire virtue. Some people think that whipping themselves, slapping their heads til they bleed, putting hooks into their flesh and pulling weights variously lead to heaven, sanctity, nirvana. I just dont see it.

If any person has demonstrated ability, enthusiasm and a clear vision to promote a community goal, then that person should be encouraged to do so, including paying the person and covering their costs. This is entirely democratic and inclusive, for it offers the same benefits to any member of the community who rises to the same level of achievement.

There are few people in the perl community who have demonstrated as much ability, enthusiasm and vision as Gabor Szabo.

"Professional / enthusiast"

The way the Perl Foundation process is set up at present (particularly in the manner the Hague grants are awarded), it does not seem to me to be possible that a "professional" will ever discover about the Ian Hague grants or will be in a position to propose a project that will accomplish the intentions of the grants, unless of course the "professional" is a member of the perl community. In which case, that person would be dismissed as an "enthusiast".

"Small goals / large goals"

Chopping everything into small tasks is theoretically a very sound idea. Except that to be effective all the results of the little tasks have to be coordinated and utilized. Writing all the documentation for booths seems a good idea. Except that in my experience, material constantly has to be rewritten. When the material is written, every show throws up a question that isnt answered, or it is clear that the material should be presented in another way.

Gabor's suggestion is a holistic one, in which the small tasks are consequences of the larger one. I think his 'larger' goal is a more effective means of using the funds.

Richard Hainsworth CFA
<finanalyst>

After some discussion with Gabor I would like to clarify that:

1) I do not have a problem with him getting money for a task while I do volunteer work with TPF. But that might be a problem with other people. Therefore, paying for this work might lead other people not to volunteer and help.

2) I am not happy with paying this value yet for this task. I am not sure if this would work, and, if it works, the problems that this might raise in the future, having companies involved with TPF.

3) Something that I ended up asking Gabor to do, was to clarify his intents. This proposal is too egocentric. He just talks about him, and the work and travels he might need to do. If this grant gets approved, Gabor should prepare a plan to reduce costs. He started writing about it already at his own blog. Basically, try to get more people in the project, reducing Gabor travel needs. If no one volunteers to help, this might mean that the community is not interested, meaning that we should not bother.

Summary: while not agreeing much with the idea and with the fund, if it gets running, further studying and planning should be done (for example, what kind of proposal will be signed by companies and TPF?)

I think that perl needs better PR and more funds. Gabor Szabo's grant proposal will help to promote perl to communities where it's presence is not recognized and raise funds. I think that the proposed 'Ecosystem development group' should have it's place with in TPF.

I support the general ideals of this grant, and would even support it being accepted in its current form, but I have a few specific points I would like to comment on:

I also think Gabor Szabo is the right person for this position. There may be others that could perform the task at hand as well as him, but his initiative to start his existing event group and Perl::Staff in addition to putting this proposal together is something that, to my knowledge, hasn't been attempted by others.

Annual Fee Levels

The proposed annual fee levels seem like they could use at least another level for larger corporations that consider the $12,000 annual fee to be pocket change; perhaps something along the lines of $25,000 for companies with > 150 employees. This is minor but may seem a bit fairer to the SMB/Individual members that may consider $1,250 to be a significant amount of money.

Annual Fee Income

Some commenters also discussed the liquidity of received annual fees from companies. I think more people would feel okay with this grant if a certain percentage of the money received went immediately to the general fund during the initial grant period. Perhaps this could be achieved with some sort of mini-grant mechanism for quickly and easily transferring some of this money back for ecosystem group growth.

Outreach at Events

I like Chris Prather's suggestion of an events committee with a regular annual budget being formed that would take proposals from volunteers wishing to perform outreach at non-Perl events. This would coincide well with Casey West's suggestion regarding funding the creation of booth kits and training materials for volunteers interested in representing Perl at events. Combined with the existing proposal, a list of the largest must-attend events could be handled as the proposal states using community members interested in preforming outreach at smaller events geographically close to them who are able to submit proposals to cover booth fees and receive one of the booth kits.

Membership Advantages

I think the first two enumerated advantages are likely the most important to potential members. Michael Kröll makes some good points about dilution of value. Up to one A4 page in the materials could get unruly. Perhaps just a logo with URL for each company would be combined for the back of the handouts. With just a logo and URL, my employer would be willing to become a member at the small company level.

Another potential promotion avenue for member companies would be press interviews. With press releases and other activities from this grant hopefully increasing coverage of the Perl community, it is likely for journalists to contact The Perl Foundation for interviews/quotes for articles. The response to these could include something like "...and here is a list of companies and contacts that use Perl to stay competitive who are willing to talk to journalists about their use of Perl." This furthers both the idea of Perl not being dead as well as getting the companies' name out there in another avenue.

Gabor has written a very ambitious proposal. From what I know of him and his work I've no doubt that he will pursue his goal tenaciously. What that goal is, however, may need to be tightened up a bit.

The two objectives stated in this proposal are both very worthy and deserving of attention and financial support. However I believe that Gabor will have his hands full enough with getting the Ecosystem Development Group off the ground. The inclusion of the work to develop the Events group is too much. There's a risk of him over-extending himself should he try to accomplish everything set forth in this version of the grant proposal. It seems to me that this would be better suited as two grant proposals: one for increasing the outreach activity of the Events Group and one for the establishment of the Ecosystem Development Group. Gabor himself seems to subconsciously recognize this by suggesting two grant managers be assigned.

That said, I do understand why he has included the Events Group in this proposal. A healthy and active Events Group is a keystone in the plan to meet, greet and enlist members to the Ecosystem Development Group and therefore it's logical that the two should grow in concert. I would be interested in hearing more about how Gabor plans to accomplish both of these objectives on his own. Again, I do believe that if the grant is accepted he'll either deliver on his promises or die trying but, well, thanks to PJF you no longer need the "or die" so let's avoid that if at all possible. If splitting the objectives into two proposals, managed by separate people yet working symbiotically, is what that takes then so be it.

I'm also concerned about Ecosystem Development Group membership. First of all, the incentives for becoming a member are nebulous at best. It would be panaceic if companies contributed their fees because helping TPF warmed the cockles of their corporate hearts but, alas, businesses require some sort of return for their investment. Enlightened self-intered does exist on the corporate level but I question whether there is enough out there to meet Gabor's budget goals. I, for one, could not take this list of benefits to my CEO and expect him to cut TPF a check.

The concept of "membership" is a large part of the issue here. In what, really, are they members? It implies a body which provides counsel and guidance but how is that different from the current Perl community? For instance, I am not on a TPF committee yet here I am providing feedback on a proposal for a relatively large grant. How would this be fundamentally different if I were to pay $1250 and become a member of the Ecosystem Development Group? This needs to be clarified.

Autarch raises some very good points which are not directly related to this grant proposal (and which I'll not repeat here). The role and mission of the TPF needs to be better defined. Doing so will aid greatly in, among other things, Gabor's effort to bring on members for the new Ecosystem Development Group.

Overall I support the concepts in the grant proposal but think it may need another draft in order to clear up some of the concerns listed above. Regardless I believe that Gabor is someone who can be relied upon to follow through on an ambitious plan like this so I believe any eventual grant will be in good hands.

I respectfully support Gabor's proposal except for a few things.

I could write thousands of lines why this proposal is great and how Gabor will enable this, but I wouldn't bother as many other folks did it already.

So I will discuss mainly the compensation structure.

(1) No bonus if unsuccessful, more bonus if successful

As some people have written, the compensation proposed by Gabor is not a small amount. I don't think however, it is ridiculously high assuming Gabor is discussing the long term relationship between TPF and members. Engaging people in such membership is hard and Gabor promises he will do all the "dirty" work.

Gabor's proposal is already written so that it reduces the risk for TPF, but I would like to minimize TPF's risk by doing as: no bonus for small income, more bonus for bigger income.

For the first six month,

  • If $fee <= $18,000, Gabor will get $9,000 (no bonus)
  • If $18,000 < $fee <= $48,000, Gabor will get $9,000 + 80% * ($fee - $18,000)
  • If $48,000 < $fee, Gabor will get $33,000 + 10% * ($fee - 48,000)

(see the appendix below)

I don't see a reason not to apply the same structure to the second 6 months, though Gabor has a different opinion.

(2) Pay less to Gabor if members quit

There has to be a way to ensure the members have the long term relationship with TPF. TPF won't get much if a member quits after a year. Ideally Gabor's compensation should be paid for getting long term commitment from members. This leads me to believe that Gabor should pay "penalty" for leaving members.

That said, I have mixed feelings here; recruiting members is Gabor's job but retaining members is TPF's, or, Perl community's responsibility. I'd like to have Gabor's feedback on this.

Other comments

  • If TPF rejects this proposal, I request that TPF should come up with alternative plan - as autarch mentioned above, hiring fundraising professional sounds viable.
  • Even if TPF accepts proposal, we, along with TPF, should not make it Gabor's own challenge. Every one of us should be supportive and should work together with Gabor.
  • For the membership fee and benefits, we can learn a lot from Japan Perl Association and I don't have much to add to this article: http://mt.endeworks.jp/d-6/2010/07/how-jpa-works-what-jpa-does-in.html

(Appendix - modified compensation structure with actual numbers)

According to the proposal, Gabor's compensation in the first 6 months would be as follows:

  • For total fee of $10,000, Gabor will get $14,000 (6 * 1500 + 50% * 10k)
  • For total fee of $18,000, Gabor will get $18,000
  • For total fee of $30,000, Gabor will get $24,000
  • For total fee of $40,000, Gabor will get $29,000
  • For total fee of $48,000 or bigger, Gabor will get $33,000 / half year

# Fee: member fee which TPF is expected to collect from members

With my proposal above, the structure will be changed as below:

  • For the total fee of $10,000, Gabor will get $9,000 (base salary only)
  • For the total fee of $18,000, Gabor will get $9,000
  • For the total fee of $30,000, Gabor will get $18,600
  • For the total fee of $40,000, Gabor will get $24,400
  • For the total fee of $48,000, Gabor will get $33,000
  • For the total fee of $60,000, Gabor will get $34,200

Another question to consider: If the TPF does not approve the grant, what will it do with the money?

If I remember correctly the Hague grant is split 50:50 into supporting development, and into structural measures for finding more sponsors.

To the best of my knowledge, the only people who applied for portions of the second half of the money were Richard Dice and Gabor Szabo.

What happend to Richard's project?

And what is going to happen with the rest of the funds if Gabor's project were rejected? What kind of project would the TPF actually sign off?

I disagree on Details but as Moritz said, Gabor is currently the man I know of to do that.

I also started at the Froscon to attend Perl booths and know thatswhy some things we need like good educational material. Please no hot air PR. But as long as we stay true to the meaning education is a good thing and we should make ourselves make more visible for people outside the echo chamber.

About TPF

The Perl Foundation - supporting the Perl community since 2000. Find out more at www.perlfoundation.org.

Recent Comments

  • Herbert Breunung: I disagree on Details but as Moritz said, Gabor is read more
  • perlgeek.de: Another question to consider: If the TPF does not approve read more
  • Makoto: I respectfully support Gabor's proposal except for a few things. read more
  • https://creativecommons.net/VMBrasseur: Gabor has written a very ambitious proposal. From what I read more
  • Mike Greb: I support the general ideals of this grant, and would read more
  • Oded RESNIK: I think that perl needs better PR and more funds. read more
  • Alberto Simões: After some discussion with Gabor I would like to clarify read more
  • Richard Hainsworth: Gabor Szabo's grant proposal is a good use of the read more
  • Gabor Szabo: @Alberto I understand that you'd prefer to earn more money read more
  • Casey West: Hi Gabor, I'm sorry my word choice was offensive and read more

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen published on June 18, 2010 3:46 PM.

Donation made to Send-a-Newbie Program was the previous entry in this blog.

Perl 5 Wiki Upgraded to Socialtext Hosted is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 4.38