[Squeakfoundation]The Natives are Restless

Paul Fernhout squeakfoundation@lists.squeakfoundation.org
Wed, 23 May 2001 23:43:53 -0400

Dan Ingalls wrote:
> I think I could even raise a few $$ to carry us through the interim period

== money for what? ===

I would add that "money for what?" is a big issue. As long as no money
is involved, then whatever anybody wants to do is fine with me. If my
money is involved (which it isn't right now) then I'll be more
conservative in the organizational structure I give it to, especially in
terms of it accountability to the purpose towards which I contributed. 

My own priorities go first towards anything like modularity that helps
the management of complexity, and second a clear license (and statement
of originality) for each and every contribution (including those from
SqueakC) starting from the first Apple release. However, I know that
many people question the need for the first, and the second isn't even
on most other people's radar screens. 

As a minor note, I'd love to see a reliable version of Squeak for the
top major platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux) with a VM set up in such a way
that people could ship an end user app (i.e. no extra options for VM
preferences in the startup windows to confuse people, etc.). That's a
real show stopper for me as far as shipping anything with Squeak. It is
of course minor coding to add an option or a change to the default, but
it is a showstopper nonetheless because it requires recompiles on every
platform, which requires having the right version of the source for the
VM and the right image to go with that VM etc. And then there is
truncating and syncing files on the Mac (a minor thing but a showstopper
for a really good cross-platform database in Squeak, such as for a code

== fairness and volunteerism ===

If money isn't handled well by the foundation it may create a fairness 
issue and ingroup/outgroup mentality that could be detrimental to
Squeak. I think that is the biggest risk to just grabbing some funds and
splashing them around. I've seen other projects wrestle with this. So,
money for what? Programmers? Websites? Hardware? Travel? Balloons? 

If what it comes down to is raising funds to put a programmer on Squeak
full time on certain basic issues, then just lay it on the line. It
doesn't even require a Foundation to do that. But, be careful. I don't
think anyone volunteering time would begrudge the originators of
Smalltalk and a couple others at Disney being funded by Disney to do
Squeak development. There are probably another one to two dozen or so
full-time Squeakers at various companies employed for various reasons
related to corporate objectives.  The Squeak Foundation isn't as near as
I can tell intended to be a for-profit venture with a product to sell
created by paid programming staff, or a commercial service supported by
internal paid programming staff, which are the two financial models
supporting programmers most of us are familiar with. However, as soon as
we talk about fundraising through a public foundation to support
programmers to do work that may otherwise done on a volunteer basis,
then different standards of fairness and motivation apply.

If part of the mission of the foundation is to encourage voluntary
efforts by Squeak programmers, then whether money is spent at all on
"programming" of various sorts (as opposed to just other things) is, I
feel, a big issue. The fastest way to kill Squeak off might be to get
all those people now volunteering their time to be busy thinking about
when they will get paid for that work, putting things off, feeling they
are not paid enough if they are paid by the foundation, and so forth. I
would direct people's attention to this web page:
"Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain"

That's one of the reasons I did not pursue the Business Squeak idea I
proposed a couple years ago even after I got some level of interest in
pledging money towards four months of my work. (Another was not wanting
to directly compete with the good guys doing good things like Dolphin
Smalltalk.) And realistically, lots of person years of programming have
already gone into Squeak, so if a small amount of work is going to make
a difference it has to be very targeted towards a specific niche that is
within striking distance. I think Stable Squeak was a nice example, but
again, will that volunteer effort die if we pay someone through SqF? In
the case I outlined back then the concept was basically to support using
Squeak to make more or less shareware-quality business applications
under Windows (and hopefully later other platforms) with an alternate
widget set (which was my own immediate need for Squeak at the time).
However, whether that is where money should go now would have to be

== a few proposals for paying people ===

Not that he might want to do this, but if money is sloshing around
begging to be spent, consider paying Tim Rowledge (who's apparently
available and who I feel would be an excellent choice) to spend his time
coordinating changes made by volunteers (or SqueakC) and doing related
refactoring and testing. Since that grunge work is way beneath Tim's
ability, and he could do the same amount of such work in half the time
(or less) most other people could, obviously it would make sense to pay
part of his time for doing whatever he wanted related to supporting the
SqF Purpose to make up for the hair pulling side of the other part (and
the fact that he'll probably get less than he is worth to, say, Cincom).
If he could take some of the integration burden from SqueakC, then
SqueakC might pitch in part of the funding at first. However, there
needs to be absolute clarity on the license status of works produced,
and in the case of hiring any experienced Smalltalk VM developer like
Tim who has worked for a Smalltalk company, there would need to be an
absolute confidence that all work will be non-infringing (and will avoid
even the appearance of such as a possibility), or that questionable
areas will be handled by someone else or in a "clean room" process. 

As another alternative if one is looking for ways to spend money on
Squeak, one might create a process where people earmark funds for a
specific task and then eventually someone (like Tim or whoever) does it
on a project by project basis. An existing site that does this is
and we could even consider using it or something similar for that
purpose. Such approaches avoid having to funnel money through the
foundation itself (which does not exist yet as a legal entity with a
checking account). But again, the social dynamics and impact of paying
for development on volunteering need to be considered. (And frankly,
without modularity and complexity management, these projects could still
get swept aside and that would be especially frustrating for those
developers expecting to get paid.)

I'm a big fan of Michael Phillips' (Organizer of MasterCard) writings 
like "The Seven Laws of Money" and "Honest Business". (I just realized
this is funny, because Dee Hock who I also like of the Chaordic Alliance
founded Visa. Perhaps innovation is being bred in the banks!) One of the
things Michael Phillips argues for when money starts changing hands in a
business is open books. Open books saved the Coevolution Quarterly when
they were about to go under and a mysterious donor showed up. That means
knowing people's salaries, benefits, etc. when paid by the foundation.
And that is a contentious thing (but if it is the path chosen, it's much
easier if it gets going from the start.) If that concept is rejected,
then please think deeply about how foundation financial accountability
will be maintained.

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator