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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.

Cheers,
Ovid

New address of my CGI Course.


In reply to Re^2: The Perl 5 Conspiracy by Ovid
in thread The Perl 5 Conspiracy by chromatic

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