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ContractPatch, Step 2: Understanding the power balance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2016 - 12:57am in

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Employment agreements are one of the things that I’m asked the most regularly about in the free and open source software world, almost rivaling questions about licenses. My responses have always been the usual lawyerly responses of This Is Not Legal Advice and while I Am A Lawyer, I Am Not Your Lawyer (I’m generally not acting as a lawyer on behalf of Conservancy as its Executive Director either). But even from my early days of being involved with free software, I have seen that there’s a lack of understanding about employment agreements and the ability of employees to get their agreements modified. Last month, Fred announced a new initiative that we are working on together, called ContractPatch. With ContractPatch, our goal is to help provide knowledge to employees, along with sample language for better contract terms. The first step in this process is understanding the dynamics at work in employment arrangements. Step 1 is knowing that everything is negotiable and step 2 is knowing where you stand in the negotiation. Quite simply, you likely will never have as much power as you do the moment just before you sign your employment agreement.

At the point you are presented with a job offer, your prospective employer really wants to hire you. Chances are, they’ve screened and interviewed a number of candidates and put a lot of work into the process. Your manager has thought deeply about who they want in the position and has probably imagined how it will all work out with you in the role. Both you and the hiring decision-maker(s) are probably very optimistic about what you’ll accomplish in the role and how well you’ll get along working together. At this point, no one wants to go back to the drawing board and start the process over again. You will be excited to start the new job but it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate the unusual position you are in with your new employer.

As part of the hiring process, you’ll be expected to negotiate your salary (this can be complicated) and finalize all of the terms of your employment. Terms of employment can also be looked at through the lens of compensation, and asking for more favorable terms in your employment contract can be another kind of perk an employer can give you if they have a tight budget. A classic contract negotiation tactic (I even learned this in law school) is to make an agreement stronger in the first draft than you really need it to be, just so that you can give something away when pushed. This is certainly true of many company’s standard agreement templates. The only way to find out is to ask.

Once you take the job, it’s harder to change your terms of employment (though it’s possible, as we’ll cover later). Think hard about the long term impact of signing the agreement and whether things could happen down the road that would make you feel less comfortable with working under those terms. We’ll be giving you some examples of situations you want to be prepared for when we talk about specific contract provisions.

Asking for more favorable terms doesn’t have to be an adversarial process. You can ask for an agreement to be amended in a friendly way. Employers often respect workers more when they advocate for themselves.

So, we’ll help you think about how to engage with your employer while anticipating things that could go wrong down the road and how to ask for more favorable terms. You can sign up for our mailing list to be part of the conversation. While it may be easier to avoid negotiating your agreement, don’t trade short term comfort for your long term benefit.

SHANE MACGOWAN, CRONIN BROTHERS AND JOE ROONEY CREATE EURO 2016 ANTHEM FOR IRELAND

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/06/2016 - 1:48am in

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Shane MacGowan has teamed up with Les Cronins (brothers Johnny and Michael Cronin) and comedian Joe Rooney (Father Damo from Father Ted) to record the ultimate anthem for Ireland for this summer’s Euro 2016 tournament.

The song is a cover of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ given an Irish twist and renamed ‘Je t’aime Irland’.

Contributions from Rackhouse Pilfer, Biblecode Sundays, Brave Giant, Sean & Eabha Gavaghan, Shane Wearen, Eddie Reynolds, Flash Kennedy, Sugar Ray, Daire O Reilly, David Keenan and a 50 piece choir can also be heard on the track.

Listen to the song below:

The post SHANE MACGOWAN, CRONIN BROTHERS AND JOE ROONEY CREATE EURO 2016 ANTHEM FOR IRELAND appeared first on Shane MacGowan.

Labor moves on negative gearing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/06/2016 - 5:08pm in

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Negative gearing is a rort that saves the rich billions in tax each year. It allows those who can afford investment property to reduce the tax they pay on their earnings. It’s good Labor has announced that in government it will end negative gearing for existing property after 2017. With a reduction in the tax-gift for profiting on housing sales (Capital Gains Tax) $32 billion of tax owed by the rich will be bought into government coffers over the next decade.

In 2013-2014 60 per cent of investment properties made a loss for their owners. This means the rent was less than the interest on the mortgage, costs for rates and utilities and other similar expenses. The average loss was roughly $10,000.

Under negative gearing that loss is 100% covered by Australian taxpayers and taken off the person’s income tax bill. So someone earning $170,000 would only pay tax on $160,000. $11 billion in losses were claimed through negative gearing in 2013-14.

The Australian housing market shoots away from income growth

The Australian housing market shoots away from income growth

Turnbull has tried to paint negative gearing as something essential to average people by noting that the majority of those who access it have taxable earnings below $80,000. This is pure trickery. Firstly, while average full-time earnings are approaching this amount, in reality most Australians live on less than $50,000. Second, when Turnbull stresses “taxable” income, this already factors in the effect of negative gearing. You could earn $110,000, take $30,000 off it through negative gearing losses (on average surgeons reduced their tax bill by this much) and have a taxable income below $80,000. The Grattan Institute have found that half of the tax saved goes to the richest 10%.

Labor will keep negative gearing for newly-built properties, arguing that this will create an incentive to boost construction of new houses. But lowering the tax bill of the rich is no way to ensure housing supply. Much better to tax the rich and fund public housing.

In 1999 Howard’s Treasurer, Peter Costello changed the tax paid on the profits made from selling an investment property (Capital Gains Tax) so that half the profit is tax-free. This costs taxpayers $6 billion every year. Labor has pledged to reduce the tax-free portion rental properties (purchased after July 1st 2017) from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. They should go further and tax capital gains just like our wages and other income is taxed – in full.

Impacts

After themselves considering changes to negative gearing, the Liberals now claim that Labor’s policy will crash the housing market. Two-thirds of Australians either own their home outright or have a mortgage. This means many people are susceptible to fears that their house might devalue. With the government also claiming rents will increase under Labor’s plan, the third of the population that rents are also being told they will lose out.

Both claims are overblown. When Hawke and Keating suspended negative gearing from 1985-1987 rents rose in Perth and Sydney, but they either fell or remained constant in all other cities.

The ratio of Australian house prices to incomes in Australian cities are now some of the world’s highest, and prices in Sydney and Melbourne have grown by nearly 13% in the last year. Negative gearing has helped push prices up by encouraging more investors to buy a second, third or fourth home, competing with people trying to buy a home to live in.

Housing costs for renters and owners are increasingly unaffordable.

To cope with the mortgage on a median house in Sydney you need to earn $106,000 a year. That is unless you have children, or interest-rates go above 5% in which case you will need a higher salary! While interest-rates remain at historic lows it is the growing size of deposits needed for a mortgage that is locking younger people out of homeownership, even if they have reasonable earning capacity. If your family has wealth to lend you the deposit you can get into the market. Steadily homeownership in the major cities is becoming the domain of those with family wealth.

Debt is also a major problem, even if disguised by low interest-rates. If Australia’s mortgage debt is divided between everyone equally it comes to $80,000 per person. Interest-rates only have to increase a couple of points from their current historic lows for much of this debt to become unmanageable.

Negative gearing is not the key driver of housing investment. Globally over the last 20 years huge amounts of capital have flowed into housing because of the lack of profitability in productive sectors. Low interest-rates, even more so since the GFC, make credit virtually free. With demand in some capital cities outstripping supply, the rise and rise of Australia’s housing market is taken by investors as an article of faith.

For these reasons Labor’s negative gearing changes are unlikely to impact much on house prices. Some modelling shows price growth would slow from a 3.09% to 2.09%. Labor cites these figures against the Liberal’s scare campaign. But Labor also wants to promote its changes as promoting affordability. You can’t have it both ways. A 1% reduction in the growth of prices, while wages remain flat, will not help teachers and nurses afford houses in Sydney.

In fact the environment for housing investment is so good that most economic commentators and the Reserve Bank are worried. Last year for the first time in Australia’s history there were more people buying housing as an investment than to live in themselves. This makes the housing market less stable because unlike owner-occupiers, investors are more likely to cut and run if house prices fall. This would add weight to a downward spiral of houses on the market that would send shockwaves through the banks, the construction industry, and inevitably the economy as a whole.

Housing is too important to be left to the market. Public and social housing has been decimated since the 1980s. This must be reversed. Rather than attempting to induce investors to provide affordable housing through negative gearing for new builds, Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments, and attempts to slowly deflate the housing boom, Labor should pledge build new public housing stock and invest in maintaining the existing supply. This would not only provide downward pressure on property prices, it would also ensure that good quality housing is provided to those that need it.

Reporting on OSCON 2016

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 29/05/2016 - 1:21am in

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Last week was OSCON 2016, and the first year that the conference was held in Austin, Texas. OSCON has always been an important conference for Conservancy and for me personally. In 2011, it was the first conference I ever keynoted (I was also on a keynote panel in 2008, which was the closest I’d gotten before then), and where I really started talking about my heart condition and medical devices. OSCON was also the conference where we had the first Conservancy booth and debuted Conservancy t-shirts and stickers.

Austin seems to really suit OSCON. The feel of the conference was comparable to Portland, but there seemed to be a lot of new local participation resulting in a much more diverse conference. I met a lot of great people for whom it was their first time at the conference and made a lot of good connections. Conferences, and OSCON in particular, are always short on time and often I was in a dead run from one thing to the next.

I participated in two sessions on Thursday. One was a talk I gave on employment agreements. I outlined basic issues to look for in signing an employment agreement but my main point was that employment agreements can often be negotiated. Companies have standard contracts that they use for all employees, but in many areas they may be prepared to edit the agreement as part of an onboarding negotiation. After you receive your offer, but before you sign the employment agreement, you are likely to have more power in the relationship than you will again. The company has expended resources in recruiting and interviewing you, and has come to the decision that you’re the best person for the job. Just as you negotiate your salary and other important terms of employment, some of the contractual provisions are also likely to be flexible. I’ve seen a lot of agreements over the years, and every time I’ve talked to someone about this issue they’ve been able to get *some* change.

Because of this, and because it’s so hard to know what to ask for if you’re not a lawyer like me, Conservancy is working on a project of standard employment agreement provisions that could be worth asking for. If many prospective employees ask for this, some companies may start to give this as a perk to attract top talent.

The second session was a panel about free and open software foundations. Moderated by Deb Bryant, the panel discussed issues around foundation formation, fiscal sponsorship and revenue models. I was really excited that multiple people in the session recommended Conservancy as a nonprofit home, and also encouraged audience members to become Supporters of Conservancy! There are a lot of great organizations in free and open source software and it was so interesting to see how many roles the panelists serve in them.

Conservancy had a booth, so I spent most of the rest of the time there. It was great to be in one of the nonprofit areas with so many other awesome nonprofits in our field. It was also the first time we had multiple stickers, including the very first Outreachy stickers.
KarenBooth

stickers
I was also able to catch a panel on patents that Bradley was a part of, eloquently reminding everyone how deeply problematic software patents are.

Lastly, it was great to meet with other Outreachy organizers! We don’t have a chance to meet in person very often and we always have so much to discuss.

outreachy-team

After the conference ended on Thursday, we had a chance to relax and talk about the conference with Conservancy Supporters at our pool party. I’m always struck by how impressive our Supporters are. While walking around the party, I caught conversations about the future of free software, copyleft, enforcement, patents, conferences and even one where we recruited someone great to apply for the GNOME Executive Director job! I was so excited by the enthusiasm of our Supporters. Aside from the financial aspect, which is critical for us, with such a small staff it would otherwise be impossible to do all of our work and tell people about it without their help. While it’s taken me all week to recover from the conference and try to catch up on the backlog of work that piled up, I feel reinvigorated and recharged!

I’m Running for the Linux Foundation Board of Directors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2016 - 4:23pm in

As we begin a new year, I’m super excited that Conservancy has almost reached our initial target of 750 Supporters (we’re just 4 Supporters away from this goal! If you haven’t signed up, you can push us past this first milestone!). We launched our Supporter program over a year ago and more recently, in November, we asked you all to become Supporters now so that Conservancy can survive. Conservancy is moving toward a funding model primarily from individuals rather than larger corporate sponsors. While we are about to reach our minimal target, we still have a long way to go to our final goal of 2,500 Supporters — which will allow us to continue all of Conservancy’s critical programs, including copyleft enforcement. Many individuals have come forward to donate, and we hope that many more of you do so too! I was really excited about the statement of support published last week by the GNOME Foundation, and in particular their point that enforcement is necessary and benefits GNOME and free software as a whole.

Of course, we’re still excited about our for-profit sponsors, and list them at the top of our sponsors page. We’d like to draw particular attention to Private Internet Access, which gave a generous match so that individuals who join this month will double their donations via the match. We have only two weeks left to take advantage of this, so if you are considering donating, please do it soon!

Conservancy is focusing on individual giving via our Supporter campaign because our organization has a very special and unique status, called 501(c)(3) charity status here in the US. That means that Conservancy’s constituency is the general public. We do the jobs in the software freedom community that maximize the rights of the general public in the use and development of their software.

We’re glad that so many support us in doing those jobs for public good. But Conservancy doesn’t imagine that we can do all the jobs in our community. In fact, there’s a definite need for companies to have an organization that specifically represents their interests in the software freedom community. In my view, the organization that does the job best is the Linux Foundation. Linux Foundation is a 501(c)(6) trade association, so they advocate ultimately for the common business interest of their members. I’ve been impressed at Linux Foundation’s growth and their increasing ability to market Linux and related free software technologies to new companies; no organization does more to encourage companies to adopt Linux than Linux Foundation.

While trade associations like Linux Foundation usually represent only companies, Linux Foundation seeks to do even more. I’ve talked a lot, including just a few days ago, with Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin. He often points out how, while there is no public-good mandate for trade associations, nothing stops trade associations from doing work in the public good, since that often does align with the needs of their corporate members. In particular, Linux Foundation did something great to deliver on that idea — unlike most other trade associations, Linux Foundation by laws allow for two Board Seats elected
by individuals
.1. This gives individuals a minority voice on their Board of Directors, so that companies that control Linux Foundation’s board has a direct path to hear for the community.

I signed up last year as an Individual Affiliate of Linux Foundation and nominated myself as a candidate for Linux Foundation’s Board of Directors. At my Linaro Connect keynote in late September, I publicly announced my candidacy for the 2016 Linux Foundation Board of Directors. If elected, I look forward to the opportunity to give feedback and help directly with Jim’s commitment to help Linux Foundation do good things not just for its corporate members, but for all individuals, too. While Linux Foundation has not yet announced when this years’ elections will occur, I hope all Individual LF Affiliates will watch for the election and vote for me. I’ll of course update the community here on when I know more about the
details.

While the focus of my work is at Conservancy, I really believe that all of us should give time to other organizations in the community to make all of them better. Conservancy announced in the last two years multiple collaborations (such as our GPL enforcement principles and copyleft.org) with the Free Software Foundation, and I have long provided pro-bono legal counsel to both the FSF, GNOME Foundation and Question Copyright, in addition to my job at Conservancy. I also try to contribute whenever I can to the GNOME engagement team. While I do believe prioritizing volunteer work for charities is ideal, I also see an opportunity here, as I said in my Linaro keynote, to help companies understand the needs and mindset of community and non-commercial developers who also collaborate on key software freedom projects. I hope that platform will find resonance with Linux Foundation’s Individual Affiliates, and I ask for their votes.

1 This link on Linux Foundation’s website broke a few days after I
posted this blog post. The link in the main post is to the Google
Cached version
for now.

From a lawyer who hates litigation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 31/12/2015 - 1:23am in

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Before I started working in free and open source software, before I found out I had a heart condition and became passionate about software freedom, I was a corporate lawyer at a law firm. I worked on various financial transactions. There were ups and downs to this kind of work but throughout I was always extremely vocal about how happy I was that I didn’t do any litigation.

Litigation is expensive and it is exhausting. As a lawyer you’re dealing with unhappy people who can’t resolve their problems in a professional manner, whose relationships, however rosy they may have been, have completely broken down. When I started working in free and open source software, I started out primarily as a nonprofits lawyer. As I did more in copyright and trademark, I continued to avoid GPL ligation. I wasn’t really convinced that it was needed and I was sure I wanted no part of the actual work. I also was pretty license agnostic. X.Org, Apache Foundation and other permissively licensed projects were my clients and their passion for free software was very inspiring. I did think that the legal mechanisms in copyleft were fascinating.

Like Keith Packard, my view has changed considerably over the years. I became frustrated seeing companies wrest control of permissively licensed projects, or more often, engineer that from the outset. I’ve seen developers convinced that the only way a new project will gain adoption is through a lax permissive license only to find down the road that so much of their code had been proprietarized. I think there are times that a permissive license may be the right choice, but I’m now thoroughly convinced about the benefits of copyleft. Seeing the exceptional collaboration in the Linux kernel, for example, has sold me.

But as Bradley put it in our oggcast, “The GPL is not magic pixie dust.” Just choosing a license is not enough. As you surely have too, I’ve seen companies abuse rights granted to them under the GPL over and over again. As the years pass, it seems that more and more of them want to walk as close to the edge of infringement as they can, and some flagrantly adopt a catch-me-if-you-can attitude.

As a controntation-adverse person who has always hated litigation, I was certain that I would be able to help with the situation and convince companies to do the right thing. I really thought that some plucky upbeat bridge building would make the difference and that I was just the woman to do it. But what I found is that these attempts are futile if there are no consequences to violating the license. You can talk about compliance until you are blue in the face, run webinars, publish educational materials, form working groups and discussion lists but you cannot take the first step of asking for compliance if at some point someone isn’t willing to take that last step of a lawsuit. We at Conservancy are committed to doing this in the ways that are best for long-term free software adoption. This is hard work. And because it’s adversarial, no matter how nicely we try to do it, no matter how much time we give to companies to come into compliance and no matter how much help we try to give, we can’t count on corporate donors to support it (though many of the individuals working at those companies privately tell me they support it and that it helps them be able to establish budgets around compliance internally).

Conservancy is a public charity, not a for profit company or trade association. We serve the public’s interest. I am deeply convinced that GPL enforcement is necessary and good for the free software ecosystem. Bradley is too. So are the members of our Copyleft Compliance Projects. But that’s simply not enough. It’s not enough from a financial perspective and it’s not enough from an ideological one either. What matters is what the public thinks. What matters is what you think. This fundraiser is not a ploy to raise more money with an empty threat. If we can’t establish support for enforcement then we just shouldn’t be doing it.

Despite the fact that I am an employee of the organization, I am myself signing up as a Conservancy Supporter (in addition to my FSF associate membership). I hope you will join me now too. GPL enforcement is too important to hibernate.

SHANE DOCUMENTARY SKY ARTS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/12/2015 - 2:56am in

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Sky Arts have made a documentary, following Shane as he gets his new dental implants.  The documentary, entitled Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn, features interviews with family and friends and will be shown on Sky Arts on Sunday 20th December at 10pm (GMT).

https://www.sky.com/watch/channel/sky-arts/shane-macgowan-a-wreck-reborn/

The post SHANE DOCUMENTARY SKY ARTS appeared first on Shane MacGowan.

Linaro Connect, Volkswagen and Developer Ethics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/10/2015 - 7:40am in

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Last week I had the privilege of delivering Friday’s keynote address at Linaro Connect. I was so excited and pleased that I had been asked to speak about compliance there. As Linaro is a consortium for Linux kernel related initiatives on ARM, I was excited and curious as to what the conference was like and thrilled to be given the chance to talk about why copyleft and GPL compliance are so fundamental to the success of collaborative engineering initiatives like Linaro. The fact that the conference is so developer focused was a huge bonus.

One of the topics I touched on, given its newsworthiness was the situation with Volkswagen. Many people have talked about the implications of so-called dieselgate and its implications for free and open source software. In my talk I focused on another aspect of this – engineer and developer culture.

When I was in engineering school at The Cooper Union we had a mandatory course during our first year where we read the book To Engineer Is Human (which incidentally, if you buy you can sign up for Conservancy with Amazon Smile first). The book discusses prominent engineering failures (including the dramatic Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse “Galloping Gertie”), why they failed and how such failure is ultimately a part of successful societal engineering. In the class we talked about the culture of engineering ethics and how engineers ultimately have a special responsibility in society on behalf of the people who are impacted by the work they do.

In the recent case of Volkswagen, the failure of the company to behave ethically not only caused a negative impact on the environment and alienated VW’s customer base, but also had a massively negative effect on the company’s bottom line and financial outlook. How many engineers at the company felt horribly about what was happening and felt powerless to do anything about it? And in that case, the failure of Volkswagen to do the right thing was bad for the company in a number of levels.

As we see that copyleft and best security are linked (I talked about the Honeymoon Effect during the talk, and you can read my old paper on medical device safety plus many great discussions by folks like Matthew Garrett and even Bruce Schneier) and we embark upon an Internet of Things network, the ethical implications of software freedom become all the more poignant. In addition to the ethical aspects inherent in sharing code and the ethical considerations of following a license under which you received software for your use, there’s an additional ethics layer in the safety implications of keeping GPL’d code closed. Because software so often interacts in complex ways (as shown in the car vulnerability demonstrations that go through the wheel maintenance system to exploit the critical ignition and brake systems), it’s impossible to predict which software the next failure will be based on.

We need companies to understand that complying with the GPL isn’t just good community participation or a safeguard from lawsuits – that it is fundamental to their long-term financial success in a myriad of ways. Developers play a key role in that process. It’s not always easy to stand up for the right thing in a corporate context. Doing so can cause reprisal in the form of some penalty. Obviously, if an engineer had been able to take action at Volkswagen, they would have saved the company a lot of embarrassment and lost revenue but without the hindsight of seeing how that situation actually payed out it’s likely that there was a real fear of penalty for speaking up. Fortunately, where copylefted software is involved there are external mechanisms to help with some of these issues. Because companies must make good on providing source when they distribute, an outsider could determine that a company is not meeting its obligations. This is the main reason why having the option of participating anonymously in our coalition of developers who want to enforce the GPL is so important. In software development, coming out in favor of enforcement may not cause you any negative repercussions with your current employer but many developers rightly worry that other future employers may negatively view their participation in the coalition.

In the same vein as my ethical education in engineering school, developers should include the long term ethical considerations in their core technical analysis of what free and open source software licenses their companies should use and how they comply with it on a long term basis. While failures are terrible to have, they’re essential to learn from and work towards better technical and ethical infrastructure.

Video of the full talk is available here. You can sign up to our GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers by emailing linux-services@sfconservancy.org.

FISL16

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2015 - 4:32am in

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I’m back from Brazil where I attended FISL. I had the honor of presenting three talks! And they were three of my favorite topics: the importance of compliance and the suit against VMware, bringing more women to free and open source software and why I care so much about software freedom in the first place. It was a very fun conference. Besides doing the talks I was able to do a few press interviews too. And of course I loved meeting Brazilian hackers and software freedom activists.

Attendees seemed very interested in enforcement and the VMware suit. I was happy to see support for this work, and there was discussion about local copyright holders signing up to the coalition. It really seems that folks are starting to see the downsides of noncopylefted projects and are frustrated by the pervasiveness of GPL violations.

One of my favorite moments of the conference was the response to my talk about gender diversity. I admit that it’s disappointing that this talk is always attended disporportionately by women. As I sometimes say in the talk itself, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the burden of this work to fall only on women. There are so few women right now in free software (1-11% at most) that it would be impossible for us to do it on any meaningful scale alone. Plus it’s not fair to expect women to undertake this work on top of their other contributions to free software (many women understandably don’t want to think about gender issues at all). Men can make a tremendous impact on this area. Most of our Outreachy mentors are men, and as the dominant group in free and open surce software, it’s men who can fundamentally change the culture to be more welcoming to women and other underrepresented groups. Nonetheless, it was amazing that the “mob” after my talk was mostly women. It was great to meet so many women who are leaders in Latin America and to hear about their extraordinary work. I was interviewed after the talk and was askd to give some tips for women getting started in free software.

The conference had a very different feel to it than a lot of the other conferences I attend. It was a community run conference (along with that awesome community feeling, a lot of students, etc.) but it’s such a big conference that it has some things that community conferences often don’t have. Like GNU and Tux mascots (thanks to Deb Nicholson for the photo)!

karengnutux

I loved seeing schoolkids excited to be there and quite a number of really little kids with GNU and Freedo shirts and toys.

There was also a lot of love for GNOME, and it was great to meet up with people I don’t get to see very often, especially since I’m missing GUADEC this year. Plus we got to settle some outstanding Linux kernel/systemd issues.

FISL is an excellect conference – a wonderful alternative to the corporate trade association conference ciruit. I hope to be able to return some time in the future. Now to get ready for OSCON next week…

Thinking About the Importance of a Membership Base

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/12/2014 - 4:02pm in

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Recently I’ve been working with the rest of Conservancy’s staff on launching and promoting a Supporter Program, a way for individuals to support Conservancy though membership fees (we’re avoiding the term “member” because Conservancy’s members are our member projects).

We launched this program for a number of reasons. Part of this, of course, is financial. While we do receive a portion of the revenue donated to our projects, we keep that number low enough that it doesn’t even pay for a single staff member. We need to raise money in order to be able to keep the full support of our projects that we have in place now. I sometimes refer to our model as “fiscal sponsorship plus” because we do a lot more for our projects than many of the other organizations in free and open source software (by design – it’s useful to have different orgs doing different things!). But that level of support requires significant resources and we don’t want to pass that burden onto our member projects if we can possibly help it.

We do fundraise from companies (and if you think your company can sponsor Conservancy please get in touch!) but there can be trade offs with this as an overall model. Bradley wrote an excellent blogpost about this already. Because we are focused on what’s good for the community and not necessarily what’s good for companies (though our interests are often aligned), we need a strong membership base to help balance things out. Trade associations have a much easier time fundraising from companies for these reasons but we as a community get so much more out of a public facing org.

We also realized that we’ve really been focused on promoting our projects and not necessarily Conservancy as a whole. While everyone has heard of Git, Samba, Wine, and Inkscape (the list goes on, it’s very hard to chose projects to single out when they’re all so great) I think a lot of people don’t even know that we exist or what we do. By launching this program, we have a lot more excuses to tell people about our activities and why we matter. I had a great time writing our fundraising page, and distilling this into a short explanation.

That said a lot of people *do* already know about Conservancy and why it’s an important organization. I’ve been so excited at the sign ups we’ve had for Conservancy’s Supporter program so far and I realized something today that floored me – the list of Supporters to date is in large part comprised of experts in the field. I was looking at the list of Supporter names and it read like something of a “who’s who”. We could make a killer conference if we gathered those people to speak! It gave me confidence in our program and in our organization generally. If these people who I deeply respect think that Conservancy is worth contributing to, then we must be on to something good. I expect it will take us years to build up the membership base we want but it’s fitting to have so many leaders signing up and publicly acknowledging us. I’m hoping we will be able to grow the program a lot in the near future and we’ve got a lot of exciting stuff we’re working on that I can’t wait to talk about.

I hope you have a great holiday season! Please consider joining the ranks of Conservancy Supporters and generally supporting the charitable organizations in free software (specific props to GNOME and the FSF)!

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