Notes from FLOSS Foundations at OSCON 2008

Allison's Notes

Update on Software for FLOSS Non-Profits:

- LedgerSMB (fork of SQL Ledger) is not ready for prime time. Goal was LedgerNPO for non-profits. Needed a code refactor, not finished yet.
- CiviCRM, Mozilla is about to deploy. Good for managing infrastructure, only very small tools for financial organization.
- TinyERP (was OpenERP), have a large set of accounting modules. Geared toward corporate use, have some modules that could be used for non-profit.
- Razor's Edge, proprietary.
- DonorWare, proprietary, built on open source WebGUI.
- Could we develop a series of Drupal modules that handle what's needed?
- RSVP tools.
- Pentabarf, software for organizing small conferences, Ruby on Rails + Postgres
- Expectnation, GNOME Foundation got a free license, may be open source soon
- SugarCRM
- Concursive, CRM tools
- Outsource to Paychecks, CheckMate, PrimePay, ADP
- Mozilla could be interested in funding development of NPO software.

Identity Commons:

- Clay Shirkey's book
- Internet Identity Workshop

FOSS Leadership Training:

- Rockwood Feb 2009 $4,000
- A need for FOSS leadership training adapted to managing volunteers
- Also a need for technical leaders training
- Karl Fogel's book
- Google Summer of Code mentor's list has good content on
- FOSS Coach (, running within OSCON (also called OSCon). Running a repeat of Poisonous People talk.
- BSD Certification and LPI has done a good
- Michael Dexter book recommendation "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael E. Gerber
- "First Break All the Rules" by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (Help people with what they're good at, don't punish them for what they're bad at.)

Working with Contributors:

- Clue Deficit Disorder (curable), Clue Retention Disorder (not curable), Poisonous People (dire), Truly Malicious Troll (quite rare, and easily identifiable)
- How do you work with these people?
- Reward behavior that you approve of, that benefits the community.
- Zak has created a bug-tracker to handle issues at the OSI, more productive discussion.
- When do you kick someone off the mailing list?
- Poisonous People switching projects.
- Examples of Poisonous conversations, not targeting specific people, but linking to emails.
- Transitions are natural and expected, trolls departing, developers absorbed by new jobs, people have kids.

- OSI is running training on how to triage license discussions in Trac. Sometime on Monday or Tuesday.

Accepting Donations:

- Paypal, Click and Pledge, Google Checkout (no fees to 501(c)(3) orgs), Pay Simple, Tip Joy (, Ivan, Jacob Kaplan-Moss has contact)
- Linux Fund Branded Cards
- Twisted giving public credit to donors.
- Keeping in contact with donors, updates on what's happening inspires new donations.
- Blender as exemplar of acknowledging donors.

- Legal Advice for new Projects,
- Often their first interest is when they need to accept donations.
- Individual Liability is another motivation for forming foundations.
- Advocacy to end users to for why they need to look for responsible organizations.


- Allowing community use while preventing malicious use.
- Working with existing trademark holders.
- OpenJDK

Other Topics discussed:

- How to start a non-profit organization.
- Folding foundations into existing foundations.
- Resources for new foundations.
- JCA CLA licensed under creative commons.
- Print shirts locally.
- Wiki page or yelp category of local resources could be useful.
- Educating the new wave of open source contributors
- Obama endorsed open source, new influx of government users.
- Eclipse is changing structure to accommodate companies that aren't software vendors or software developers. No commercial offering or developers on project.

- ET phone home question, whether or what data to send back to a central repository
- Freeing of proprietary software, to push maintainership back to core project

Action Items:

- Create a new mailing list for software., at OSU OSL. (Done. --ANR)
- Josh Berkus, start reqs for software to support FLOSS non-profits.
- Start a page of recommended reading on floss
- Update the membership list.
- Put together an initial CLA list for OSI's CLA pages.

- List of software freedom related 501(c)(3)s.

- Invite Martin Michalmayr, invite the (Debian) DPL every year.
- Post to the list any developments in trademarks.
- Topical Summary of mailing list archives, starting with Dave Neary's message to new members.

- Ask OSU if we can have some pages accessible only to member logins
- Next year, bring blank name tags.

Gerv's Notes

When to create a Foundation?

Karl: Subversion Corp - holding trademarks, taking SoC money
Want to fold non-profit part into ASF, SFC or similar
Don't want to change governance
Apache may impose a governance structure...
(Discussion of whether it does or not)
But why are there so many? Why do people not use umbrellas?

Allison: 3 years ago, I thought it was always good to go with an umbrella
Now want to revise my view
Umbrellas good to start with, when you want to focus on code
You do get a bit more independence as your own Foundation
Decided to split off Parrot from the Perl Foundation umbrella

Bradley: Yes, go with an umbrella first

Allison: You start with an umbrella, then branch out after you've grown

Josh: We (PostgreSQL) started as a 501c(3), realised how much work it would be, shut it down and joined SPI.

David: Be careful being a "public benefit corp" - Oregon, at least, didn't like us doing that and got nasty until we became a 501c(3).

Michael: The new form 990 is "horrible" (accountant's words) and so that might make the decision really easy when they start using it next year.

Karen: Remember there's a $25,000 limit before you have to file the nasty forms.

David: We used professional advice for this, and I sleep a lot better over it.

Allison: I drafted all the incorporation documents and contracts, but I got a lawyer to review them before we sent them off or signed them.

Karen: Remember the FSF's legal overview for free software projects.

Josh: Also can use an umbrella for a year to get the ability to raise funds to pay lawyers to do your own non-profit!

Kaliya: If you have umbrellas, how do you avoid member projects feeling that they've lost their identity?

Bradley: At least for the conservancy, people are officially "member projects". There's a contract which says that we can't interfere in technical decisions. Projects create their own identity via e.g. websites.

(Long discussion about the legality of directed donations)

Kaliya: Do you take a cut of donations?

Bradley: No, but we drop hints which most people ignore.

Lance: Projects graduate. Mozilla is a good example for us. Drupal are behind them.

Josh: Carnegie Mellon takes 30%, although they supply office space.

Don: Anyone else a c(6)?

Karl: One of my two is.

Allison: We looked carefully at 6(c) before picking c(3). The key difference is whether your sponsored seats are Board seats or something independent.

Luis: GNOME has a "write a cheque" advisory board, but a board of directors sets direction.

(Discussion about public support test for 501c(3).)

Michael: If one umbrella project gets sued, does it affect the others?

Josh: It depends on the relationship between the sub-projects and the umbrella. SPI operates like a service, and the projects are not members, so it shouldn't have any effect.

Karen: A conservancy is different. Different structures have pros and cons. There is more risk to other projects in our model, so conservancy boards must have a diligence process to look at what the liabilities are.

Dave: Anything better than Paypal for small donations? They are a leech.

Josh: We used Click and Pledge for a while, but had issues. Consider getting a merchant account if your volumes are high enough.

Bradley: Only one credit card processor has a full free software stack. Google Checkout still gives no fees to 501c(3)s, so they are the people to use now.

Jacob: Although they refuse payments from China and Russia.

Josh: Google Checkout problems: limited in forms of payment they accept. Also, can't do anything but take money. Can't, for example, add a note. (Bradley thinks you can.) But also bigger Google policy of never being able to get anyone on the phone. When you have a financial problem, you need to be able to do that. Now switching to PaySimple.