[Squeakfoundation]Concrete SqF projects

Paul Fernhout squeakfoundation@lists.squeakfoundation.org
Sat, 26 May 2001 03:45:43 -0400

Andreas Raab wrote:
> I need to say a word about this. 
> [On Tim as "benevolent dictator for life"]

Sorry if I caused offense. Some things aren't funny (or are only funny

I just reread Tim's post of 08 May 2001 and he actually uses the title
"Grand President For Life". However, Linus Torvalds has been called the
"benevolent dictator" of Linux by Eric S. Raymond
and I guess that is partially where I am parotting it from. 

Since Tim is the first one outside of SqueakC who has stepped forward
for such a position on this list, is highly qualified technically, and
he is available now, I am trying to support him. But I'll tone it down.

Actually, chaordic organizations don't have dictators (or at least, not
just one dictator). From the common principles, 
chaordic organizations "make deliberations and decisions by bodies and
methods that reasonably represent all relevant and affected parties and
are dominated by none", and they "vest authority in, perform functions
at, and use resources at the smallest or most local part that includes
all relevant and affected parties", and they "resolve conflict
creatively and cooperatively without social, ecological or physical

I agree, though, with Cees that, like under Linux, it makes sense to
have a "blessing" process take place for the release of modules, as part
of a process of "develop, test, bless" to add a bit of engineering rigor
through a social means of quality control (with stability and
functionality affecting how the blessor's credibility rises or falls.) 
I'm completely flexible on how that blessing should best be decided on
for each module (by one person, a committee, community voting, delegated
proxies, etc.).

> So how about Cees, how about you or
> any other who would be willing to take the job? Please let's see the options
> first before focusing.

First off, what job are we talking about? 

Let's assume we mean "full-time chief organizer and programmer and
marketer for the Squeak Foundation on a completely unpaid volunteer

Cees can speak for himself. But obviously, he is already involved with a
company full-time.

I like Squeak and Smalltalk and have tracked the list on and off since
around 1996. I have produced a couple of Squeak modules (LinksWorld,
Pointrel, EmbeddedSqueak) that aren't really used much. I have made a
couple of aborted attempts towards a Business Squeak. In general, I have
been a thorn in the SqueakC's side on license clarity and the management
of complexity (especially modularity). 

Historically, as someone who makes most of his money contracting, I go
through periods when I work for someone else for months and then periods
of months when I work for myself by choice or not. Right now, I'm doing
something else full-time (mainly Java/XML/XSTL -- sigh) which limits the
commitment I can make, plus I have other obligations including
supporting and enhancing existing software of my (and my wife's) own.
However, I am considering taking an extended period of time away from
contracting after this current project winds down [I don't know when
that will be] to get back to my own projects in a big way (especially a
technology and simulation library, built on something like Squeak). Had
this Squeak Foundation effort come up around when I was not contracting,
I might have had a different reaction. Still, if I devoted full time to
just Squeak things indefinitely, then other aspects of what I want to do
would suffer, since I want to use Squeak for something, not just as an
end in itself (as worthy as that is).

Also, frankly, I'm still evaluating how much work this all would be and
ultimately how succesful such an effort could be compared to other
existing systems. My commitment to Squeak thus wavers against, say,
using Python or GNU Common Lisp or DrScheme for what I want to do, and
also against rolling my own system (with prototypes or triads or who
knows what perhaps on top of Squeak). Every time I've had to choose
between Squeak and Python in the past for a commercial project, or
recommend something to someone to use commercially, I've chosen Python
despite my own preferences for Smalltalk syntax and tools. [Sorry.] I'm
also deciding if what I want to do is worth doing for Squeak as opposed
to, say just using one of those other systems which might provide an
easier legal base to work from for whatever reasons (and, yes, part of
my objective eventually entails clear licensing for each and every
Squeak module or other content I use -- call that what you will). 

Still, I like the Smalltalk syntax, and I like the Squeak architecture
for platform independence, and I like the Smalltalk tools, and I like
the Dynabook vision driving all of this. I also think the Squeak
community is the finest on-line one I have ever been part of (equalling
or surpassing the Well). For me, the single biggest asset of Squeak is
the Squeak community as represented by the Squeak mailing list, not the
software itself.

Many of the things that keep me from choosing and recommending Squeak
are the very things I think that need to be done. I'm at a decision
point for myself -- pull back, be a follower, be a peer, or forge ahead
as a leader. One nice thing about participating on the general Squeak
mailing list is that one can choose a level of commitment that varies
over time, and also play different roles on different projects. 

But most likely, where I have conflicts, someone who has devoted much of
their entire career to Smalltalk (like Dave Thomas, Tim Rowledge, or
many others on the Squeak list) would have few such doubts. Naturally we
all have limitations (paying the mortgage etc.) even if we have full
confidence in Squeak, so those with the least doubts may for whatever
reason not end up being the people in a position to do the most
significant work towards the SqF purpose:
: To assist in the evolution of Squeak into its ultimate expression 
: as an exquisite personal and collaborative
: computing ecosystem that is open, well supported, 
: and freely available across the great majority of
: modern platforms and operating systems.
[I replaced "environment" with "ecosystem above to try it out once.]

If we talk about participating in a formal organization (say, as a
volunteer officer or trustee of a non-profit), that would seem to
require at least some sort of formal commitment of time. But it still
isn't clear what parts of SqF will be formal and which will not. As long
as no substantial money is involved (directed through SqF), I think the
level of formality can remain quite low. People could even work
full-time for SqF "on loan" from other organizations that pay their
salaries. That might satisfy technical needs. However, whether that
would satisfy marketing needs related to public perception is a
different issue. Yet, why create more hoops for ourselves at this point
just to convince people who can't just be convinced by seeing a great
system in action?

On the other hand, Dan Ingalls and Dave Thomas seem eager to fund raise
for SqF. I can only assume the money is to be for salaries (but again,
for what sort of work, and who decides what these people do if not
themselves, and how will paying these people affect the feelings and
behavior of current volunteer developers?) Obviously though, one can
also quickly spend money on non-programming things like conferences,
advertising, lawyers, and travel (for giving talks). 

However, one caution on advertising -- one quick way to destroy
word-of-mouth advertising is to have paid advertising. Realistically,
hiring people or giving conferences are the two most likely ways to
spend significant money in the near future. 

> [BTW, I'd personally think about one of those guys involved with Stable
> Squeak - they've shown that they can pull off something, that they can
> manage a variety of people working in different places and times. So, John,
> are you available?!]

Another great choice!

Again though, available for what? To what level? For how long? 

If we are talking about fundraising for full-time salaries, then why
stop at one? Why not hire ten people? Or a hundred? Surely raising
millions of dollars or even hundreds of millions from large foundations
would be possible if the foundations believed in the people involved and
the value of the cause. What is, after all, the value of progressing a
lot further in the direction of the SqF purpose? Very high I would

Again though, in the interest of fairness, the impact on the voluntary
community itself would have to be considered. It would be silly to raise
tens of millions of dollars to shepherd the Squeak community only to
find out all the people not receiving the funds are disillusioned and
have left it. In that sense it is safest to not raise funds at all.

Obviously though, there are a several non-profits with some paid staff
that do software development (like the FSF) and there is still
development going on. Zoos have paid staff and they also have
volunteers. So possibly this can be addressed, but frankly, some advice
from such software groups (like the FSF) on handling this issue might be
in order before funds are raised. [Does it help if the staff don't make

In any event, the question remains, employees for what end?

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