[asterisk-dev] General development funding (was: "Codename-Pineapple")

John Todd jtodd at digium.com
Thu Oct 23 14:06:12 CDT 2008

On Oct 23, 2008, at 5:13 AM, Iñaki Baz Castillo wrote:

>>> I saw this post in the asterisk blogs http://www.asterisk.org/node/
>>> 117.
>>> It is really amazing but I can-t find the code, not even do branch.
>>> Do you guys have news about it? Where can I find it?
>> Well, the project kind of died due to lack of funding. You can find a
>> lot of information
>> about it on http://www.codename-pineapple.org
>> I still think it's needed, but at the time could not find enough
>> interest from people
>> that could commit to funding the work. And I couldn't spend too much
>> time trying to find them either, so it's a chicken-and-egg  
>> problem :-)
> Of course it's more important an agreement with Skype for using a
> privative and jailer VoIP protocol than investing and funding in a
> standarized and open protocol as SIP.
> Let's privatize internet communications! Money money!
> -- 
> Iñaki Baz Castillo
> <ibc at aliax.net>

You bring up a good point that I think should again see some open  
discussion in the Asterisk community.  While you don't mention it  
specifically, I'm certain from your tone that you (and/or your  
company) are very willing to contribute hundreds or thousands of  
dollars towards Asterisk Open-Source development, and have contributed  
large numbers of patches already to the Asterisk project.  As you're  
willing to put money towards the project, OEJ (and many others) are  
interested in how to connect your funding with their time.   OEJ and  
many other coders love coding for Asterisk but often can't find the  
time to do it for free when faced with things like buying food, paying  
mortgages, and keeping current with their insurance - this is totally  
understandable.  Many coders have and continue to contribute things to  
Asterisk at no cost, but these patches are typically their own  
"itches", where they have solved a particular problem of their own.   
Rarely do people pick up problems that are not related to anything  
they're doing, or pick up unrelated problems that are so large that it  
would involve 100% of their time for any significant period.

Individually, there are many people or companies who perhaps would  
like to contribute to paying for various features in Asterisk that  
would be described as "large enhancements" or even minor annoyances,  
but do not have sufficient funds to pay for an entire project  
themselves.  There are perhaps also many people who would like to help  
out Asterisk in a way that allows them to contribute funding towards  
the project, but they're uncomfortable sending money to a corporation  
and hoping that it gets eventually applied to OSS Asterisk (and I'm  
not only talking about Digium.)   On the other side of this equation,  
there are coders available for a fee (perhaps much less than market  
rate, perhaps not - we'll just say "non-zero cost") who could do this  
work and would love to do it if they could justify the time spent.    
Open-Source Software doesn't always imply that the code is "unpaid  
work", and Digium's contributions towards Asterisk are a case for the  
benefits of having an income stream that supplements OSS development.

So there is a disconnect between two groups of willing consumers and  
willing producers - how do we bridge it?  The answer has been "Let's  
create an Asterisk fund and collect money and disperse money to pay  
for work by community members!"  This is a great concept, but the  
devil is in the details, and I've found that when money is involved,  
the detail devil is much larger and angrier than usual.

The problems with this idea have continually been:

   - Escrow of capital.  It is not feasible to trust that donors will  
be good on their contribution post-release.  This may be because it  
takes a while for the code and economic situations change, it may be  
that internal paperwork processes take forever to get done (Hi, Raj,  
sorry about that delay from Tello!), or it may just be that a large  
portion of funders are flaky.  I'm willing to be convinced this isn't  
the case, but personally I certainly wouldn't code a large amount of  
hours based on the say-so of people I'd never worked with before.   
Perhaps some sort of metric could be created for more reliable payers,  
like a rating system of integrity?

  - Agreement of project goals.  Who defines the project?  Who gets  
what they want?  Based on money?  Based on some arbitration?  What and  
who defines "success"?

  - Corporate structure for payments.  If there is an agent in between  
the coders and the funders, then what kind of agent is that?  For- 
profit?  Not-for-profit?  Who pays for the creation of this entity?   
It's possibly the case that Digium Inc. is not the best place for this  
funding repository, though possibly that would make life a lot easier  
from an organizational standpoint.  (not sure about taxes, though.)

  - How to pay?  Obviously, the more the merrier, but credit cards,  
bank accounts, PayPal, and other payment instruments are complex and  
expensive.  Payment to consultants is another problem - taxation may  
be a problem again.

  - Serious interest.  This has been a topic of conversation for the  
last 6 years that I'm aware of, and none of the concepts or problems  
I'm bringing up here are new.  However, it is discussed but no action  
is taken.  Perhaps now is the time to serious look at this concept  
since Asterisk is reaching such a large audience.  Traditionally, the  
number of people or organizations that would provide "seed" funding  
for something like this is low; possibly only a single organization  
(Digium) would have the focused interest and capital to create such a  
financial/organizational entity as a non-profit or other unrelated  
instrument.  But who would use it, really?  At what level of actual  
contribution?  To convince Digium (and/or hopefully other founding  
members of some as-yet undefined organization) to put their money and  
effort towards such a fund/foundation, there would have to be  
significant interest beyond idle discussion.  The bounty concept on  
voip-info.org has been around for a while, but saw only marginal  
uptake.  I've been a part of three or four (or more) paid projects,  
but only two (the sounds-extras recordings, and the SIP session  
timers) have actually seen multiple contributors, and the rest were  
straight-up consulting.  What companies or individuals would actually  
put money into such a fund, and would it be enough to make it  
worthwhile or self-sustaining on an ongoing basis?

All of the points above are open for discussion.  Your comments on  
this thread are welcome, since this is truly a "community" concept.

The first goal would really be to see if there is actually an interest  
in such an entity, so that last point is the problem I think we can  
try to solve here first - everything else is details.  To try to get  
some metrics on this that are something other than "around-the-dinner- 
table" discussions, I've put together a form to collect some data.  If  
you have an interest in putting money towards some general fund for  
Asterisk development, we're at a stage in the cycle where your input  
counts.  Please take a moment to put your data in the form below.   
Note that all replies (except for email address) are public, given the  
spirit of this whole concept being a community effort.

PLEASE keep discussion of policy, structure, and technical details  
here on the list.  Use the form below ONLY for cataloging your  
willingness to pay for Asterisk work via some idealized mechanism.    
If you're a coder, a survey about that may follow later which captures  
your willingness to work for money, but I suspect that's a pretty well- 
known truism that needs little confirmation.

Please feel free to forward this note to others (your boss, your co- 
workers, other less-involved Asterisk coders) who may have an interest  
in this type of funding approach.  I figure a month would be a  
reasonable time for letting this form collect data, but that's open  
for discussion as well.

Form for your input:



John Todd
jtodd at digium.com        +1-256-428-6083
Asterisk Open Source Community Director

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