Debian Administrator’s Handbook

Cahier de l’admin Debian, first published in 2004 by Eyrolles, was a best-selling French guide to running the Debian operating system. Five editions have been published, later ones designed for specific Debian releases. The authors, Raphaël Hertzog and Roland Mas, launched a campaign aiming for €15,000 with the goal of translating the book to English. At the same time, however, a second campaign ran that aimed to raise an additional €25,000 to publish the English book under a free license. Donors could contribute to both goals by donating above and beyond the stated “reward” levels of the first campaign.

The original campaign succeeded only in the first goal, although some post-deadline large donors helped make the second one a reality as well.The authors later (mid 2013) ran another successful campaign to publish the original French text under a free license as well.

As Eyrolles would own the copyright of the French text, Hertzog and Mas made an agreement with the publishing company to enable both creating the translation and publishing it under a free license (which is why community translation would not be a legal possibility).

Summary

  • Campaign: Independent (ulele.org and self-hosted)
  • Campaign date: 2011-11-27
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 677 (original campaign)
  • Campaign raised: €24,345 of 15,000 (original)
  • Project type: existing/translation
  • Project license: dual-licensed CC-BY-SA, GPL

Outcomes

The campaign aimed to fund two authors spending three months full time translating the 450-page book. The book took five months to come to complete fruition, and was published in May 2012 as a paperback and in several e-book formats.

Commentary

Mailpile

In early 2013, Geary asked for $100,000 to build a mail client and stalled. Six months later, Mailpile did the same and the world could hardly hand over money fast enough. The difference? Edward Snowden.

…OK, there are a few other differences. Like Geary, Mailpile promised a Gmail-ish sleek design with fast search. While Geary is a GNOME app (which is not necessarily an exciting prospect for Windows or Apple users), Mailpile is a web-based client.

The Mailpile team of 3 is based in Iceland. Their fun campaign certainly struck a chord, as they reached their target well before deadline. During their campaign mail host Lavabit shut down rather than comply with a request to turn over their private security keys to the FBI.  They had so much money pouring in that Paypal froze their account. Undoubtedly the extra coverage from that event didn’t hurt, either. As well as hundreds of individuals, Mailpile won support from many companies as well.

From the start the Mailpile team had their eyes turned towards the long-term. Donating $23 or more made one a member of the Mailpile community. These members

get to have a say in the long term direction of the project. When we aren’t sure what features to work on next or need to make some other major decision, we will seek input from the Mailpile Community…. This is the Mailpile business model. As long as members of our community are willing to fund development (we will ask you to renew your membership in a years’ time), we will dedicate ourselves to Mailpile and build the secure web-mail client you want.

Summary

  • Campaign: Indiegogo
  • Campaign date: 2013-09-10
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 3639
  • Campaign raised: US$163,192 of 100,000
  • Project type: prototype
  • Project license: AGPL, Apache

Outcomes

Their website lists the current status of development of various features. Their roadmap written shortly after the close of the campaign listed January 2014 as the goal for an “alpha release”. Their alpha release was launched on February 1 at FOSDEM (although it still requires installing from source) and on their website have hosted a demo.

Commentary

Geary

The campaign for a “beautiful, modern” (Linux) desktop email client was widely loved and publicised. It was also consistently seen as “too much” with a target of US$100,000, the company’s response that that was the cost of quality software seemingly not satisfying many. With the Snowden NSA revelations occurring later in 2013, it is tempting to speculate that the same campaign would rapidly succeed if launched today. Was Geary merely ahead of its time?

Adam Dingle is a software developer with a vision for usable media applications on Linux. He founded Yorba, a small company which writes desktop applications for GNOME, funded by donations and consulting fees. Yorba’s first hit was with photo organising software Shotwell, which is now the default option in Fedora and Ubuntu. In May 2012 they released Geary 0.1, a distinctly modern looking (that is, Gmail/Apple-ish) email application. In March 2013 they launched their crowdfunding campaign (and still found time to release Geary 0.3).

The timing of their campaign seemed fortuitous, with Google announcing the shut-down of Google Reader in the same month serving as a reminder of the capricious nature of commercial web-based services.

Throughout the campaign donors asked: why $100,000? Why so much? The boring answer that that is what the salary, tax etc of three developers would cost, didn’t seem to satisfy many. Others questioned why Yorba had used Indiegogo rather than Kickstarter. Eric Gregory commented that

A lot of it came down to payment systems. At GUADEC last year we talked to a number of people about Kickstarter and the consensus seemed to be that nobody likes Amazon Payments — especially outside the US.

Since IndieGoGo uses PayPal it seemed to be the “lesser of two evils,” so to speak.

During the post-mortem, Yorba stated that

First, it’s important to understand that the Geary campaign was a kind of experiment.  We wanted to know if crowdfunding was a potential route for sustaining open-source development.

For Geary, the answer was sadly not. However Yorba continues to experiment with funding open source – in November 2013 they posted a bounty for someone to backport Geary 0.4 to Ubuntu 12.04, which a developer claimed a month later.

Summary

  • Campaign: Indiegogo
  • Campaign date: 2013-04-24
  • Campaign status: unsuccessful
  • Campaign backers: 1192
  • Campaign raised: US$50,860 of 100,000
  • Project type: prototype
  • Project license: LGPL

Outcomes

Yorba did not set a timeline for releasing 0.4 if their campaign was successful. Instead they promised the following features:

  • Fast searching
  • Always-on notifications
  • Support for all major IMAP servers
  • Save and auto-save drafts
  • Transparent GPG integration (digital signing and encryption/decryption of messages)
  • Calendar integration
  • Google Contacts import address book

During the campaign, Yorba promised that they would continue to work on Geary if the campaign failed but could not promise the same outcomes:

Well, we still have a little gas in the tank and can keep working on Geary.  We won’t have enough time to develop all of the above features, however, so it would be a pretty limited subset of them.  In fact, it may only be a couple, plus some bug fixes.  That may be about it.

After that — who knows?  There’s a lot of possible futures and it’s not worth speculating which one will develop.  In any future, it’s hard to see continued aggressive development of Geary without further funding.

The 0.4 release arrived in October 2013 and included search and autosave to draft, of the above list (as well as many other features and fixes). OMG Ubuntu called it one of the best Linux applications of 2013 and “one of the the best mail apps on any platform, Linux or otherwise”.

Commentary

GnuPG website and infrastructure

GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG) is the GNU implementation of the OpenPGP standard which is widely used for encrypting/decrypting email, disks, and other data. GPG has been around since 1997 and is a widely used and well-trusted project.

The crowdfunding campaign was conceived by Werner Koch, longtime author of GPG, and Same Tuke, of the Free Software Foundation Europe. It bundled several goals under the name ‘website and infrastructure’, including the 2.1 release, a brand new website designed to be more user friendly with new servers, mobile friendly design, anonymous Tor access, and updated documentation.

The campaign reached 100% of its ‘optimum’ goal within 26 hours.

Summary

  • Campaign: Independent (goteo.org)
  • Campaign date: 2014-02 (closes 28 February, 2014)
  • Campaign status: open
  • Campaign backers: ?
  • Campaign raised: €? of 21655
  • Project type: existing
  • Project license: GPL

Outcomes

TBC

Commentary

Snake

“Snake: the privacy-aware social network. An end-to-end encrypted social network that is easy to use and protects your privacy from evil hackers, storage providers and overly curious government agencies.”

The campaign page states that the team has a “serious design document and about 20k lines of code of the prototype implementation”.

Summary

  • Campaign: Indiegogo
  • Campaign date: 2014-02 (closes 11 February, 2014)
  • Campaign status: open
  • Campaign backers: ?
  • Campaign raised: €? of 50021
  • Project type: new
  • Project license: AGPL

Outcomes

TBC

Commentary

Cobbler

A small-scale campaign to purchase hardware for a project cut loose by Red Hat.

From the campaign, by James Cammarata, the new project lead:

Created in 2007 by Michael DeHaan, Cobbler is a Linux installation server that allows for rapid setup of network installation environments. It glues together and automates many associated Linux tasks [...] Cobbler was originally a Fedora/Red Hat sponsored project, and is currently a key part of the Red Hat Satellite/Spacewalk project. Since March of 2012, the project leadership has changed and it is no longer receiving direct support from Red Hat in terms of money or development contributions.

Summary

  • Campaign: Indiegogo
  • Campaign date: 2012-12
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 27
  • Campaign raised: US$5776 of 4000
  • Project type: existing
  • Project license: GPL

Outcomes

Seems like hardware was purchased, so this can probably be counted as a success.

Commentary

  • Shoes for the Cobbler’s kids – blog post from a VP at Eucalyptus Systems, announcing they would match donations dollar for dollar during the Indiegogo campaign.

Diaspora

Diaspora promised itself to be the ultimate free software Facebook-killer, and in the process became a blockbuster – the second biggest Kickstarter project ever, at the time. Four university students were inspired to spend their summer building privacy-focused social networking software that gave the user control, after listening to a speech by Eben Moglen.

While software has been produced, after the runaway success of the initial campaign and subsequent pressure to produce a result, the project has struggled to gain traction with a critical mass of users.

Summary

  • Campaign: Kickstarter
  • Campaign date: 2010-06
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 6479
  • Campaign raised: US$200641 of 10000
  • Project type: new
  • Project license: AGPL

Outcomes

The campaign was in June 2010. The first “pre-alpha” release of the software was September 2010, although that was marred by security problems. In June 2011, Google launched Google Plus, with many commentators noting the similarity of Google Plus concepts to those in Diaspora. In November 2011 one of the original founders, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, committed suicide. In August 2012, the founders announced that they were handing Diaspora over to the community.

Commentary

Much has been written about Diaspora! Here is a selection. For more check out the Diaspora wiki.

Mediagoblin

MediaGoblin is a “free software media publishing platform”, a free alternative to many popular sites: YouTube (video), Flickr (photos), SoundCloud (audio) and the like. It aims to support truly decentralized publishing and sharing. It was borne from a Free Software Foundation meeting in 2008, recognising the lack of response in the free software space to popular commercial web-based media hosting and sharing sites. Minor releases were made up until October 2012 when the crowdfunding campaign began. There was a stated aim to reach v1.0 by the end of the campaign-funded development period.

The campaign reached over 70% of its goal amount, but as the campaign did not follow the “threshold pledge” model of Kickstarter, it has still enabled significant work to be completed. Chris Webber, the main developer, chose to work on MediaGoblin full time for a year (as was the aim of the original target). Webber previously worked as a software engineer at Creative Commons.

Summary

  • Campaign: Independent (FSF)
  • Campaign date: 2012-11
  • Campaign status: partially successful
  • Campaign backers: ?
  • Campaign raised: US$45198 of 60000
  • Project type: existing
  • Project license: AGPL

Outcomes

Since the fundraiser ended, as of January 2014,  5 major versions of the software have been released. Code is hosted at Gitorious. Releases have added support for 3D models, documents, specifying media file licenses, media file gelocation, and improved plugin architecture. Development of an Android app has also begun. The project hosted several interns as part of Google Summer of Code / GNOME Outreach Program for Women in the middle of 2013.

Commentary

git-annex assistant

“Like DropBox, but with your own cloud” promised this campaign, and it was funded in a single day. git-annex is a plugin for the popular version control system git, which has the potential to be used to sychronise one’s files across multiple machines – a la Dropbox. The campaign was to fund further development on this plugin as well as a graphical interface to it to make it accessible and usable by non-developers.

The initial fundraiser was for three months’ work (one might suspect rather optimistically budgeted); the eventual wild success of the campaign meant Joey Hess, the original author of git-annex, was able to work on these projects for a full year.

From the website

git-annex allows managing files with git, without checking the file contents into git. While that may seem paradoxical, it is useful when dealing with files larger than git can currently easily handle, whether due to limitations in memory, time, or disk space.

git-annex is designed for git users who love the command line. For everyone else, the git-annex assistant turns git-annex into an easy to use folder synchroniser.

Hess is currently running a second campaign to fund another year of development.

Summary

  • Campaign: Kickstarter
  • Campaign date: 2012-06
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 951
  • Campaign raised: US$24786 of 3000
  • Project type: existing
  • Project license: GPL

Outcomes

Hess has kept a daily development blog to keep “the Internet” updated as to his progress. He summarised the twelve months’ work and has given several talks at technical conferences about the projects.

Commentary

Schema migrations for Django

Django is the go-to Python web framework, with South a plugin for Schema migration. This campaign was to put the next generation of schema migrations directly in Django core, essentially a rewrite of South. It was funded within a matter of hours. The campaigner is a Django core committer, and the original author and principal maintainer of South.

Summary

  • Campaign: Kickstarter
  • Campaign date: 2013-05
  • Campaign status: successful
  • Campaign backers: 507
  • Campaign raised: £17952 of goal 2500
  • Project type: existing
  • Project license: BSD

Outcomes

TBC

Commentary

By the campaign author: