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Re^2: The Perl 5 Conspiracy

by Ovid (Cardinal)
on Mar 01, 2006 at 00:16 UTC ( #533543=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: The Perl 5 Conspiracy
in thread The Perl 5 Conspiracy

While these ideas sound nice, we need implementation details. The one thing that many folks fail to appreciate is how incredibly difficult it is to get things done with volunteer labor and a shortage of such labor, at that. Good ideas are often scrapped as impractical. Let me give an example.

I'm the secretary for the TPF Grant Committee. When I took over that role, one of my first priorities was to make the grant system a bit more accountable. Part of that was publishing regular updates to the TPF blog and ensuring that we were following our charter scrupulously. However, another process that needed to be changed was to not pay out all the grant money up front in hopes that the work would get done. Here's what would be nice:

  • Regular milestones would be identified and published.
  • The grant manager would discuss/negotiate every month with the grantee what work was accomplished and only pay for milestones achieved.
  • If milestones needed to be changed, the grantee would rewrite them and submit them for approval.
  • Checks/wire transfers would go out monthly for this.

Why was something so simple not adopted? Because frankly, most grants are for far less money than the actual project is worth and grantees would be mired in paperwork and endless discussion. Already we've had people decide not to go for a grant because it's not worth their time, so increasing the hassle of a grant makes the problem worse. In short, we have trouble paying people to get work done, much less getting enough from volunteer labor. (From what I've seen, as a rough rule of thumb you can multiply many grants by 4 or 5 to get an idea of what they are really worth -- people need to pay mortgages/rent and they're not getting rich off what we can afford to pay).

The compromise we reached needed to ensure that we were being proper stewards of the community's donations, so we agreed to "half up front, half on delivery". We realize that many folks will want a more stringent process, but we only have so much time and money, so we did the best we could.

This is only a tiny example of many decisions and compromises which need to be made to keep things rolling along. It's not easy, but we try. Short of a massive influx of money or volunteers willing to work for free, we have to struggle with what we have.

As for having funds put in escrow for particular projects, we have done that for large amounts of money, but managing a bunch of smaller escrow amounts would be problematic due to lack of enough free time on the part of volunteers. This is also what killed a nice "micro grant" project which was discussed. We just haven't come up with a way of making the process relatively painless. If you have some ideas on how we can implement this, I would dearly love to hear them.


New address of my CGI Course.

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Re^3: The Perl 5 Conspiracy
by xdg (Monsignor) on Mar 01, 2006 at 01:22 UTC

    I really do appreciate the complexity. I thought about it after my post, particularly about verification of delivery -- it can't just be "bug closed" on the RT. My best idea so far is to agree up front on a test script and the platform(s) on which it must run. If the script passes, the coder gets paid. Incremental payments can come when X% of tests pass. While writing the test script takes effort, too, that's another way of triaging the most important items to address -- i.e. the ones where someone is motivated enough to write a good, testable spec.

    And while I get that this is complex, nevertheless, when US comp-sci students can outsource their homework to RentACoder for under $100 a shot, I've got to imagine that there's some existing infrastructure that could facilitate micro-payments for small, focused pieces of work. (And I'm not saying it's, per se, I'm just using that as an example of the kind of infrastructure I mean.)


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Re^3: The Perl 5 Conspiracy
by salva (Canon) on Mar 01, 2006 at 10:11 UTC
    Paying people to do things is fine, but probably the most expensive way to get things done. At the end the contributor will not see the money as a reward but as a payment for his work and so request money accordingly.

    On the other hand you have lots of volunteers that are contributing their time just because they like to do so. They are the cheapest way to get things done. Maybe with a little money you can reward them in some way, making them feel an important part of the project and the community, happier, and willing to contribute more.

    For instance, send T-shirts, stuffed camels or keyrings to people contributing paths, to the best CPAN uploads of the month, etc. For important contributions, you can give better prices as watches, silver or gold pins, etc. or invite them to some conference.

    Other possibility is using your influence to help them, for instance, give them some award they can include on their CV or keep a labour exchange website or just a who is who web.

      For instance, send T-shirts, stuffed camels or keyrings to people contributing paths, to the best CPAN uploads of the month, etc.

      I would love to have a "I fixed a bug in Perl 5 and all I got was this stupid t-shirt" t-shirt :)


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