[Cython] funding (Re: sage.math problems?)

Stefan Behnel stefan_ml at behnel.de
Thu Mar 22 22:53:54 CET 2012

Robert Bradshaw, 22.03.2012 19:39:
> On Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 10:52 AM, Stefan Behnel wrote:
>> Regarding funding in general, maybe we should just start putting up one or
>> two of those sexy funding bars on our web site, like the PyPy devs do for
>> their funded projects. Assuming that goes well, it would also allow us to
>> put money on dedicated projects by paying basically ourselves for doing
>> tasks that we won't normally spend our precious spare time on (e.g. because
>> they appear too large for a weekend), but that we and our users deem
>> necessary for some reason.
> While that's a good idea in theory, I'm not sure how many additional
> hours would be freed up just because we could pay ourselves for it.

And if more than one person frees hours for a given project, how would we
distribute the money? And how do we know we can still trust each other when
it comes to counting the hours? ;)

> Perhaps it would act primarily as an additional incentive to align our
> efforts with user request (though there are certainly already
> non-monetary incentives).

There sure are, and I'm sure that won't change. We should see it as an
addition to what we invest voluntarily. No-one's going to pay for code
cleanup and refactoring, for example, or for tweaks and "having fun at the
weekend" code and "I hate that being slow" optimisations.

We are not necessarily talking about large projects here that represent
person months of value. If I were to decide if I'd start implementing a
feature that looks like taking me, say, 10 days, and I'm not seriously
self-motivated in doing it, I won't even start because I know that I'll
have enough other things to do in the meantime that weigh in equally for
me. But, when I know I'll be paid for doing it, I'll certainly consider
shifting my priorities. And even if it takes three months to finish it in
my spare time, it would still be done in the end, which is much better than
just staying an open tracker entry forever.

> the
> monetization of Cython development changes the spirit of things a bit,
> and while I am a big fan of people being able to make money, or even a
> living, off of open source development

I think if that works depends a lot on what you do exactly, who the users
are and also what you do in order to sell it (and yourself). It doesn't
work for every project and certainly not for everyone.

> it complicates things a lot
> from a legal, financial, and political perspective.

Yes, I'm seeing that, too. But in any case, before it comes to asking for
donations for a given feature/project/fix/whatever, one of the first
questions will be: who can do it? And when? I think that will kill a lot of
political hassle early enough (although hopefully not the project in
question ;).

> The current model of organization X is willing to pay developer Y for
> feature Z directly seems to work well enough for the moment.

That would still work. However, a donation based model would allow us to
lower the barrier. Paying a whole feature may be too much for a single
(smaller) company, and they would have to know exactly what they want in
order to ask us to do it for them. If, instead, we put up a list of
projects we consider worth doing and they can make a donation of, say, 5%
or 10% of the actual sum and let others pay for the same feature as well,
they can just use it to show their appreciation for the general gain we
give them, without desperately needing a given feature themselves. It would
also allow users to contribute money for "nice to have" features, which is
otherwise less likely to happen.

> E.g. with
> GSoC, the bottleneck is finding good enough students and time to
> mentor them, not slots (=funding).

The mentors are not getting paid in a GSoC. So we invest our time by
guiding the student, and that's regardless of the usability of the outcome.
Even if there is an outcome, it's not unheard of that the mere overhead of
cleaning up and integrating the contribution comes close to reimplementing
it. It doesn't always work out as well as with Dag and Mark.

I'm not saying GSoCs are bad - we've certainly had a boost of overall
development power through them. But they are just one way to fund the
development, and not always the best one.

> Opening up funding to non-students
> could help a bit, but IMHO wouldn't change the balance that much (the
> gainfully employed cost a lot more and have less spare time).

It's certainly not the right way to attract new developers. But it's a way
to advance the development.


More information about the cython-devel mailing list