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Germany offers up to €30k for 6 months of working on OSS (prototypefund.de)
512 points by haraball on Aug 1, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 150 comments

As a german freelancer and long-time software dev with hundreds of releases of tens of apps/libraries, open source, under my belt, i can only say:

This project is misguided.

They want only "new" stuff. You may come in with something that already exists, but even then you need to prove how you're creating a "new" feature on top of that.

However funding that is pointless. People do that ALL the time. I have tons of such prototypes i have made myself, over the years and i know thousands of those among OSS dev friends. They are typically works of passion and happen regardless of any other circumstances.

Meanwhile the real problem is maintenance of existing software to combat bit rot. It usually requires experienced people who need to separate time from their already full schedules, but is largely ignored. See PGP.

I think that's a rather negative outlook.

Is the fund applicable to financing ongoing triage for projects? Nope.

Is €30k worth of funding for 40 kicking off individual projects valuable and worthwhile? Hell, yes.

Might the scope of an endeavor like this evolve in coming years, as they demonstrate success? Sure.

Government backed funding for OSS projects is a really smart and efficient use of public money when it comes to investing in digital infrastructure. It doesn't need to be perfect on launch, and it's far easier to pitch and justify the value of seed money like this, than it is to make (just as valuable, but more subtle) wider case for ongoing funding.

Furthermore I'm sure there's plenty of projects that could pitch proposals for new features that they want to build, while building in the cost of ongoing triage during those 6 months. (Ie. Make sure that the amount of work your proposing is viable on the assumption that you'll also have ongoing triage work to keep on top of at the same time.)

Let's celebrate the OSS funding achievements as they come, rather than knocking them.

> I think that's a rather negative outlook.

I guess my post was partly influenced by this piece of information being rather hidden on their website, instead of up-front and center.

Spending a million can be justified if they manage to drag at least one useful thing out of the pile.

Then again, i'd rather see something like "Ok, you made this thing and you're fairly sure it's viable, let us help you make it shine". I've seen too many things fail where the tech and thinking behind it was solid and working fine, but a severe lack of round tuits strangled the project before it could blossom.

>Then again, i'd rather see something like "Ok, you made this thing and you're fairly sure it's viable, let us help you make it shine".

I found this comment interesting, in that I imagine with the right PR campaign this could be easy to sell, and seems to me to be in line with extant German culture surrounding engineering rigor.

Sure. I think a slightly wider remit would be perfectly reasonable too.

It's just that kind of funding is a little more complicated to justify, as the outcomes are less well-defined.

I'm sure there'll be existing projects will be able to roll with the terms, and use the money in a way that both builds new functionality, while also refining the existing project.

Let me propose an alternative way of looking at it, that 30KE for six months of possible part time funding of new projects is almost perfectly wrong financially.

Early in a project you want experienced people putting in lots of time (full time) on architecture and initial design and MVP. Later on, lower paid programmers can evolve the project part time to add javascript flavor of the month.

As an alternative financial model, how about 25KE (or more) for two months for expert level programmers to bootstrap a new project full time only, or 60KE for a year to evolve features and squash bugs on an existing project perhaps part time. Or if politics and PR make ongoing support impossible, then only do the bootstrap phase.

Its possible programmer salaries in .de are much lower than I think they are. However they can't too much lower, someone there is buying all those BMWs and VWs.

It's the opposite. Any decent programmer can make a nicely architectured MVP. It is maintaining the code, refactoring it and implementing new feature requests not envisioned by the original programmers that takes real skill.

Stupid analogy time: Building a shiny, new house; easy. Retrofitting a 300 year old house with 1000gb ethernet wiring everywhere, while keeping the original character of the house and with minimal disruption to its inhabitants; HARD.

> Stupid analogy time: Building a shiny, new house; easy. Retrofitting a 300 year old house with 1000gb ethernet wiring everywhere, while keeping the original character of the house and with minimal disruption to its inhabitants; HARD.

Actually, I thought it was pretty apt.

Simply not true when the design is not trivial.

I'm giving interviews with system design, I'd say that the majority of programmers who are decent cannot actually architecture anything well enough. And it doesn't matter if they're given more time, they don't have the training/experience for it. (They'll only learn the impact of their decisions later, eventually painfully).

On the other hand, they may be able to develop it if handed and led through a proper architecture.

I think it fits well if you expect most projects to be a single engineer working full-time. An equivalent of up to €60k/yr full-time is a pretty good salary by most folks standards, even if it's not quite up there with top-tier engineering levels. (I'd probably suggest the funding was getting poor value-for-money if it was)

A freshly graduated CS student can expect around 40k€/y in Germany, so 60k€/y is not bad. With a PhD you can expect more than 60k€/y, but it might ok for some people.

I believe this is attractive for entrepreneurial graduates, because they probably already have the self-employed paperwork down. This grant might then become a startup later. I guess you have to release the product from this grant, but being the only copyright holder, you can continue to develop it further in a proprietary fashion.

> Government backed funding for OSS projects is a really smart and efficient use of public money when it comes to investing in digital infrastructure.

I think that remains to be demonstrated. I can think of several problems:

* Maintenance, as mentioned above.

* Government's ability to 'pick winners'. How do you decide who gets the money?

* Free rider problem of public goods: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good#Free_rider_problem

It's an interesting experiment, though.

I don't see how the free rider problem of public goods appliesin this case.

My understanding is the free rider problem would be Linus Torvald quitting linux(because a family member needs experimental medical treatment) to work in HFT for a big pay bump. Even though he creates $10 million of value with Linux he only captures 200k of that, but in HFT he would generate far less value and capture more. This reduction in economic output due to Linus being unable to capture the value he creates because of Linux "free riders" is the free rider problem.

Public funding of public goods is a fix to the free rider problem in economics because it means the value creators no longer need to capture the value they generate.(or as much anyway)

If I were a German politician, I might question the use of German funds to sponsor projects that end up being used by startups in the US as infrastructure.

For example. It might not play out that way, but I don't see it as impossible either.

> If I were a German politician, I might question the use of German funds to sponsor projects that end up being used by startups in the US as infrastructure.

Only if you're bad at math.

The thing about funding public research generally is that the ROI is extremely high. When something good is free to use then it will be widely used and produce widespread benefits.

Which means that if you spend €30K with the result that local people capture a benefit of €200K and startups in the US capture a benefit of $800K, not funding it is cutting off your nose to spite your face. You're getting back more than you put in regardless of what anybody else is getting.

And the US has the same calculus regardless of what you do. If everyone makes the rational choice then it balances out because everyone is funding research and everyone is benefiting from it (and people rationally fund it in proportion to the benefit they get).

The only reason everyone doesn't is because the benefits are diffusely distributed so public research doesn't have a strong lobby. But you still come out ahead by doing the right thing here regardless of what anybody else does.

The actual ROI on research spending isn't really known.

Here's an article from Nature looking at the evidence:


Economics is not physics. You're citing a paper that essentially says that measuring the economic effects of public research is hard. It is. But that neither proves nor disproves the matter, and it isn't going to change. It isn't a matter of having to do a better study, it's a matter of there being no good way to do a study.

This is quite common in economics, but it's especially bad here, because the benefits of research don't inherently result in transfers of currency, and the benefit is actually often to eliminate them. The existence of Linux means that businesses can make broadband routers without having a large internal software team, which means vendors have lower costs and more competition, which means you can get a broadband router for <$100 instead of $1000. That is clearly a useful benefit, but the specifics of it are going to depend on what people do with the surplus $900, which will change over time and cultures and populations in ways that have no relation to the research. There is not going to be any good way to measure that and any measurement is not going to be stable or generally applicable.

But the difficulty in measurement doesn't get you out of having to draw a conclusion, because you still have a decision to make and need something to base it on. So when data is not forthcoming, we use analysis. And the analysis clearly points to research producing large returns, because the product is one that is produced once and can thereafter be used and reproduced arbitrarily many times at negligible cost. It's the classic scenario that justifies governments building roads and infrastructure with tax dollars.

The caveat is that the research has to be useful. It is obviously of no benefit to allocate a crate of cash labeled "research funding" and then transfer it to cronies or apparatchiks. But then the fight isn't over whether we should fund research, it's over how to make sure the money goes to the right place.

Creating some random bit of open source may or not be something akin to 'research', though.

It might work out, in the end, but there are things that people may not like about it. Experimenting is good.

Very much this. Maintaining existing software and improving user experience is what is missing in open source, building shiny new things is not. We don't need more features in Gimp or Kicad, we need them to suck less.

Obligatory: https://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html

That link redirects to a NSFW image when you go there with a HN referer.

Ah, sorry - forgot about JWZ's sense of humour.

Nevertheless, note that it delivers about the same message in both case ;)

I don't see it. KiCad seems like a perfect example of where giving it €30k to maintain it wouldn't have mattered. It is CERNs leadership and shiny improvements, like the push and shove router, that have made people excited about KiCad again.

Actually, to have worked with KiCad (a CAD design tool for integrated circuits). The only thing that make it worthwhile is that it is free (as in $0) whereas the industry standard (Eagle) is worth a TRUCKLOAD of money (many grands per seat).

That hardly gives any choice to all students, most little companies and most professionals (especially outside their work computers at big companies).

People have no choice. I'd hardly call that excitement when the competitor is unaffordable to 99% of the audience. It simply cannot die because of it's monopoly (of being the cheap option).

Altium is the industry standard. Eagle has a free version and is the standard for hobbyist and "makers". Thing from SparkFum or Adafruit comes with Eagle schematics for instance. Up until recently KiCad was about as exciting as gEDA. Although now even Altium has a both a free and midlevel offering.

It's not pointless, just different.

I mean, yes people build prototypes all the time, but I think most of them don't put in 6 months full-time for a prototype.

> I have tons of such prototypes i have made myself, over the years and i know thousands of those among OSS dev friends

You're in an incredibly privileged position if you can afford to implement tons of prototypes. Many people have an idea but no way to allocate resources towards implementing it because they have less resources to start with, need to care for family, come from an unprivileged background, have less connections and support in the OSS community... This funding offer can act as a springboard and booster for them to join the community and further their development.

Funding those is most likely a worthwhile endeavor. Funding other activities and ongoing maintenance is most likely a worthwhile endeavor as well, but calling a project misguided because it chooses a different focus is wrong and misguided.

I've got 5 or 6 projects that would be at least somewhere on the road towards a viable MVP. I think a lot of programmers are have things in a similar state.

Without looking at old source repos, some of the things I have laying around include:

-- A website classifier: classifies websites against a fixed taxonomy. Roughly as good as AlchemyAPI

-- A English-Language questions answering system. It can answer plain (written) English questions against a knowledge graph. I also have code for a non-Knowledge Based approach (from a Kaggle competition)

-- A somewhat complete Docker based Minecraft server admin tool

I'm sure I could find some other projects kicking around too.

These are all thing I've written as a working programmer in my spare time, while supporting a family. Yes, I'm a white Anglo-Saxon male, and I'm aware that puts me in a somewhat privileged position but I'm not sure the privilege argument makes total sense here.

I do this for fun, not really expecting to see a return. There are plenty of less privileged people who do similar.

Maybe there is a definition mismatch, but I (as I suspect many/most of other folks working in tech) do throwaway prototypes all the time. For pretty much any tech project, personal or professional, I aim to use 10-30% of time to try 2-4 different approaches in a very rough form to see what works and what does not.

Maybe though this is not what one would call a prototype in the context of the article (which might imply a more finished product).

There's a definition mismatch: The funding is intended to build a working prototype as in "this is not fully functioning and polished software, but demoable". You'd probably not build and then trash 6 month of prototype.

You sound a bit too critical to me.

It's a nice incentive for small developers and I can't see how this could be regarded as a waste of taxpayer money, given the small scale of it. It's similar to temporary funding for lyricists or artists, by far not enough to live by, but not bad as an additional incentive or 'token of appreciation'.

In comparison to investment funding, 1.2 million for various OSS projects is nothing. So why not just create another project of passion (I agree with you on that), and get a few extra bucks from the government for it?

I wish I could participate, but as a German living abroad I can't.

I agree. I think a similar situation obtains in academia. Economically, reusing the existing academic infrastructure to fund FOSS development would be a perfect fit, because both FOSS and research are "public goods". But the success criterion for research involves novelty. Some funding for FOSS skates by nevertheless but it's an uphill battle, due to the problems you mention (but even worse, as a production-quality implementation of something that someone else has already published a demo/prototype of is less novel than an 'original research result').

I hear what you're saying, but new features are a KPI that can be measured, especially by people who aren't experts in the software at hand. Maintenance is much more difficult to measure (and is why maintenance heroes are so often unsung).

I feel like there ought to be a way to publicly fund FOSS developers full-time because they often produce software used by everybody and therefore a product for the common good, just like someone working at an NGO. You may laugh and say it's a stretch to compare it to working with disadvantaged people or similar work, but software is used everywhere and we rely it on it in all kinds of situations now. So, why shouldn't there be a FOSS org that collects donations to compensate maintainers of projects? Right now, this exists as fundraisers on a project basis and therefore only a couple high profile projects manage to a few of their developers to focus on it more than just on weekends.

One might argue this should be supported at least financially or with a do-not-starve stipend by the government, but this may again be controversial. The government could start by making taxation easier for people who could get donations or many small one-time payments aka nano-contracting (prioritized bug fix for pay). In most countries the tax code is not on the side of a hobby programmer who would accept many small payments but isn't already a freelancer.

I think there's a special niche with civic technology, the kind of public-benefit projects this is also aimed at: most European societies already have this deal.

It's public broadcasting systems. In Germany, the pot is 7.6bn per year - basically, because we believe it's a good idea to have a well-funded set of institutions in the public sphere.

I'd argue that doing stuff like GPG, a web site to track bills through Parliament or some important infra isn't actually that much different.

So if we can decide to get rid of an old radio station or two, there's plenty of money already allocated - it just needs to be shuffled around a bit.

Even though the public broadcasting system started to produce more fluff content on ARD and ZDF in the last decade, they also opened a couple channels like Phoenix and ZDF Info which are aiming to reach the quality level of BBC productions. I don't know if it's just having more money and therefore the quality content growing in proportion. Either way, the original purpose of the publicly funded broadcasting service is very limited and the funds are misused for fluff. If half of the programming is similar to what you find on the US hallmark or bravo networks, it's easy to understand people's reluctance to pay the per-household mandatory tax (legally not a tax, but technically the same thing). I mean, given that people need access chips with a per annum fee for many HD channels today, I could totally get behind a scheme where the publicly funded channels are reduced to what they have to provide by law and thereby requiring just a tiny part of the funds they do now. Then either the mandatory fee is reduced or used for, as you suggested, FOSS code.

Anyway, I like your train of thought. We could start by making the national tax tool open source so that there's a proper Linux port, because it's written with Qt already.

GPG, due to the safety requirements and reliance in critical situations, would do well with a rewrite in a different language that can still expose a C API. For good integration of the C API (aka no GC) there aren't many languages available to build it in. Maybe ATS2 or Rust. Such a rewrite is something the GPG devs are highly unlikely to do for obvious reasons, but it's something that can be publicly funded as a long-term project.

They are buying the rights to the Olympics and to the World and European Cup every time, getting into bidding wars with private stations. Their argument is, that many people will stick around to watch the news in the half-time so they can fulfill their educational mandate.

They could save billions buy just letting RTL or Pro7/Sat1 show sports. UEFA and FIFA restrict the material anyways, so the main difference would be more boulevard half-time news while everybody is getting up to get a new beer.

They stopped showing Tour de France a few years ago, when the doping scandals hit its highs and literally nobody cares.

Also - and here comes the fucked up part: Showing the events publicly on a stage was forbidden recently, since this requires another set of licensing so you have to pay to visit these stages even though every German household already paid for the license through ARD/ZDF.

Fun fact 2: Austrians do not pay and can watch it anyway.

And in some countries the tax is a one-time payment included in the price of a tv, radio, etc. That's better in my opinion, and it may force them to produce just what the mandate requires, not daily soaps, game shows, all the while showing ads during the day. If we're consequent, we could easily reduce it to two channels, with an hour per day where the local news are available on an otherwise national broadcast. This is already available on the WDR feeds to some extent. One would be Phoenix++ (plus partially localized Phoenix++ feed) and the other ZDFInfo++. Most of the content is repeated anyway, so two channels with on-demand view on the website is sufficient.

Game shows and other forms of entertainment are not about education and keeping the population informed via government funded channels. You might argue it's too late to change it now, but the TV landscape would quickly adjust and formats would move to other networks where they belong and are still broadcast without DRM.

The whole 7.6bn/year fund being used for stuff people wouldn't actively select to pay that much for problem reminds me of the misappropriation of the road tax of 8bn/year which trucks pay on a per-km basis. 8bn should be more than enough to build and maintain public roads, but it's apparently used for other needs, all because taxes are not purpose-bound by law. What's the political solution? They're trying to extend highway taxes to private vehicles too in order to build roads. The German government is in dire need of a more logical treasury that's accountable to the electorate outside of 4-year-period-elections for misappropriation or over-/under-spending. If the roads in a city are not maintained for decades, then those paying vehicle tax and other annual fees, must have a right to refuse payment, just like they can do with their landlord. After all, taxes are payments to your national landlord, nothing else.

In general I agree with you, taxes and tax-like systems (church, healthcare, social systems, IHK and the others, broadcast) should be separated as much as possible, but ultimately the system will collapse if we do so. The social systems cannot fund themselves and the outlook is even worse. I think it is not even theoretically possible to cut the subsidies for the pension funds, and even if it was possible, it would choke the young generation because of the increased dues all while Germany already has the second lowest birth rate in the world. The birth rate would fall even lower, thus increasing the costs for the next generation even higher.

The bullshit expenses like broadcast and so on can absolutely be reformed, but that's just a few billions here and there. The overwhelming majority of the spending (130 bn € per year, next biggest is the military with just 34 bn €) for the social system cannot decrease, thanks to the demographic it has to be increased every year until the birth rate is stabilized, which as described cannot happen if young people are busy paying for pensions.

And btw. the tax revenue from federal roads was 6 bn € last year, while the the ministry of transport spend 8 bn € on it's federal roads. Of course there are also 33bn revenue from the gas tax, which was introduced with the argument that roads need to be paid for, but yeah as described, if we cut the tax, pension funds will die. Revenue from VAT and income taxes are just ~ 80 bn € each, appropriate spending would just collapse the system instantly.

Here are the sources as an interactive chart, unfortunately only in German: https://www.bundeshaushalt-info.de/

You're right, but I think that the population can be educated and convinced of the necessity of certain taxes without them feeling ripped off. Therefore, I have this hope that a more transparent and purpose-bound tax system can work and finally discourage tax payers from complaining about taxes as if infrastructure and services grow on trees. What I mean is that I've met many people who view tax evasion as a national sport of sorts, and the professionalism rises the higher their income, unfortunately, while those with lower income are less capable of leaving 30 to 50 percent of their income on the table. I'm not advocating a rich-people tax or anything like that. Just apply tax laws evenly, without making exceptions or implementing loop-holes for those who can hire a tax lawyer/accountant. I believe that once people know why certain taxes are paid and see what they're used for, they will be less likely to be frustrated about it. Now, there's the risk of people not caring about issues somewhere else and thus not wanting to support that, but that also can be solved with education. There's so much useless stuff put into people's minds via psycho-advanced ad campaigns that it's possible to use that for good as well.

With all that being said, maybe the Germans are less likely to be educable in that regard, and thus you're perhaps right that a fair and logical tax system won't fly. If so, it might work in Japan's society.

This is obviously tangential to the original issue, but your interpretation of the task given to the public broadcast stations is incredibly narrow. The law explicitly includes social and cultural aspects and deliberately does not limit the task to dissemination of news or educational tasks only. Entertainment is explicitly included in the mandate. And as much as I dislike soaps, most of the music played on the radio in general, most game shows, they definitely are part of our culture, thus covered by the mandate:

    § 11 Auftrag
    Auftrag  der  öffentlich-rechtlichen  Rundfunkanstalten  ist,  durch  die  
    Herstellung  und  Verbreitung  ihrer  Angebote  als  Medium  und  Faktor  des
    Prozesses  freier  individueller  und  öffentlicher  Meinungsbildung  zu  
    wirken  und  dadurch  die  demokratischen,  sozialen  und  
    kulturellen  Bedürfnisse  der  Gesellschaft  zu  erfüllen.  
    Die öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten haben in  ihren Angeboten einen 
    umfassenden Überblick über das internationale, europäische, nationale und regionale
    Geschehen in allen wesentlichen Lebensbereichen zu geben. Sie sollen hierdurch die
    internationale Verständigung, die europäische Integration und den gesell-
    schaftlichen  Zusammenhalt  in  Bund  und  Ländern  fördern.  Ihre  Angebote  haben  
    der  Bildung,  Information,  Beratung und Unterhaltung zu dienen. Sie haben Beiträge
    insbesondere zur Kultur anzubieten. Auch Unterhaltung soll einem öffentlich-rechtlichen
    Angebotsprofil entsprechen. 

That's the law, yes, but when it was written there weren't private TV networks. Therefore, it needs to be updated. I'm not saying there shouldn't be culture per se, but the amount of money spent in the networks is disproportionate to the positive effect it has these days. Say they spent the money on mobile apps and websites, then maybe it would be more contemporary-appropriate.

The main issue isn't with the 18 EURO per month, it's how it's used. If they cannot use it appropriately, it should be at least cut back so that it's just 5 EURO per month.

One could argue that technologically we could and probably should easily replace most of the programming with something that requires paid-for access keys. That way, one can reduce the mandatory part to a bare minimum while still allowing those who want it to get rest of the content. Then the argument would be that it has to be accessible by everyone, though with that argument you could say analog TV may not be turned off as long as there is still one analog TV set around.

I'm glad that Germany doesn't force a church tax or alternative payment to some similar org like Finland or many other nations do. At least one bug that doesn't exist in Germany.

> That's the law, yes, but when it was written there weren't private TV networks

The version I quoted is from the 2013. Private TV and radio existed by then. It has been reworked and rewritten, new media such as apps and online media has been included in the scope, partially by the constitutional court. The actors that try and prevent that as much as possible are the private TV stations.

> I'm not saying there shouldn't be culture per se,

But you did: "to produce just what the mandate requires, not daily soaps, game shows, " (taken from your previous post)

> but the amount of money spent in the networks is disproportionate to the positive effect it has these days.

[citation needed] A lot of german tv shows and niche content would not be produced if not for the public broadcast. They also produce a lot of stuff I consider waste, but that's my personal opinion, others may like it. I dislike opera and dance theater as well, but meh - it's still state sponsored as are other cultural venues that I do frequent and others may abhor. Funding culture is a wasteful process per se. The alternative is privatization of culture, so that mainly culture survives that either appeals to a large enough part of society or to a private wealthy donor.

> One could argue that technologically we could and probably should easily replace most of the programming with something that requires paid-for access keys. That way, one can reduce the mandatory part to a bare minimum while still allowing those who want it to get rest of the content. Then the argument would be that it has to be accessible by everyone, though with that argument you could say analog TV may not be turned off as long as there is still one analog TV set around.

This is contrary to the idea. The whole mandate aims at having a broadly and freely accessible canon of news, educational and cultural media that reflects as much of our society as possible.

My problem is that they are competing with private companies. Operas are state-sponsored, because they cannot compete in a free market and would die. But there are plenty of soap operas on private networks, too. We would not lose anything if they would stop producing those. Same with sport events. I think the private networks are right: It is unfair and wasteful to create a state-sponsored entity, which has an ridiculous amount of funding and can therefore out-compete private companies, which would create the same service.

State sponsored broadcast by definition compete with private companies by offering alternative content. Operas do as well. They compete with movie theaters, private stages, TV and all alternate forms of entertainment.

> But there are plenty of soap operas on private networks, too. We would not lose anything if they would stop producing those [...] private companies, which would create the same service.

Which is questionable at least: Take Lindenstraße for example: I personally dislike it but without question is has been on the forefront of bringing important topics to the TV screen and probably the most diverse cast of all soap operas produced in germany. The english wikipedia page only has a short paragraph, read the german page if you can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindenstra%C3%9Fe#Cast Notable example are showing homosexuality in 1986, the first homosexual kiss in 1987 (the actors received death threats as a consequence), ... No private soap opera in germany dares to touch sensitive topics. American soaps are a bad substitute.

Exactly. If they really want to fund expensive content, which is not produced by private media, then focus on things like documentaries. I don't mean the stuff that's broadcast on current day Discovery or History channels, but the stuff ZDF and BBC show where unsurprisingly a disproportionately large amount are synchronized-to-German BBC productions. It seems that the Brits do it better.

I also agree about theater and opera, though the tickets for those aren't cheap and you don't get a free ticket just because you paid for public broadcasts.

> The version I quoted is from the 2013. Private TV and radio existed by then. It has been reworked

Figured as much based on some of the text.

> and rewritten, new media such as apps and online media has been included in the scope, partially by the constitutional court. The actors that try and prevent that as much as possible are the private TV stations.

Yeah, I never understood why someone like RTL would be opposed to ARD or ZDF's online content. the only explanation I got was that they want to limit where the content is available how and see it as a competition, otherwise why would they be the cause for only limited time online availability of publicly funded videos. I wonder how it's handled with BBC's iPlayer and if they also have an expiry date demanded by private media.

> But you did: "to produce just what the mandate requires, not daily soaps, game shows, " (taken from your previous post)

I know, though I don't consider the content cited here culture, and I may be wrong about that, yes. My interpretation of the cultural aspect is to preserve and document the genuine culture of Germany so that it's visible to Germans and foreigners alike. Stuff like game shows or soaps are pretty much the same globally, so there's nothing interesting German-culture-wise in them. In the past cultures used to be very different but with globalization and the massive reach of Hollywood I'd say culture has been homogenized in popular content to more than 95%. Legally speaking, though, you're right.

> Yeah, I never understood why someone like RTL would be opposed to ARD or ZDF's online content. the only explanation I got was that they want to limit where the content is available how and see it as a competition, otherwise why would they be the cause for only limited time online availability of publicly funded videos. I wonder how it's handled with BBC's iPlayer and if they also have an expiry date demanded by private media.

RTL is owned by Bertelsmann, which owns roughly every media company in Germany.

"""We could start by making the national tax tool open source so that there's a proper Linux port, because it's written with Qt already."""

Absolutely this. Would allow me to get rid of my final Windows VM. I rage about this every now and then...usually around May :P

I think the words you are looking for are "infrastructural software".. Software that works as infrastructure, such as linux, web browsers, databases, ie, mostly anything that we can build other more specific software on top of, has the tendency to become open source. And one cannot deny the increased value that that software brings, for instance, linux servers and open source browsers and all the economy around the internet..

So, why shouldn't there be a FOSS org that collects donations to compensate maintainers of projects?

GNU does this I believe...

How effective are them at this? Which high importance projects have they financed?

Legitimate questions, I'm not implying anything here

There are some organisations/groups which seem to be effective in actually paying people.

There is a group of Debian developers that collect funding and pay Debian developers/maintainers to maintain LTS for Debian releases:



The FreeBSD Foundation also hires developers to do actual work:



However, I think such initiatives are typically highly underfunded. Like OpenSSH/{Open,Libre}SSL/GnuPG, everyone uses the software, few companies/individuals chip in in a significant way.

Getting a copy of "The Debian Administrator's Handbook" also helps support Raphaël Hertzog and Roland Mas keep doing good work.

I purchased a recent copy of the book (covering Debian 8), and while there are things I'd like more details about, I find it a good resource to have on hand.

GCC and Emacs spring to mind :-)

I'm unaware of any Emacs or GCC dev being paid by the FSF. From what I recall, the Emacs maintainers do it as a hobby, and the GCC maintainers are employed by the likes of Red Hat to work on it. However, if what you're implying is true, I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong :).

Perhaps not at the moment, but you can read all about the woes Zawinski had with the guy GNU hired to work on Emacs that led to the XEmacs fork...

There's a redirect to imgur if the referrer is hacker news.

Not many people other than JWZ can pull that off without pissing off people. Reminds of the time when MSN.com hot-linked to some poor guy's website in a front-page article. What did the guy do? Replace the image with a copy of the original goatse photo.

FSF collects money for infrastructure etc.

Generally the GNU project maintainers are not paid by the FSF. Mostly they're paid through the likes of Red Hat etc., with varying overlap between day job and maintainership

You might be interested in viewing this GitHub project [1] that explores in details a multitude of the available options for financing FOSS projects.

A very handy guide if you ask me.

[1]: https://github.com/nayafia/lemonade-stand

Basically, the project team for this (which is a German non-profit) wants to make the case that public funding of F/OSS can spawn cool tech that might eventually turn into startups.

The idea is to create a buffer between government (grant) bureaucracy and individual developers so that they have the least possible amount of forms and applications to deal with -- just fill out a few basic questions, and a panel of pretty cool judges gets to make the grants.

German residents only, for the moment.

That "buffer" model is more or less the default for public R&D funding in Germany as well as the EU. It allows for a bit of innovation in the grant process (although they're often administered by agencies that are every bit as beaurocratic as you'd expect them to be)

Can non-german residents apply if we're willing & able to move to Germany for 6 months?

As far as I understand it, you already have to live in Germany when you apply (so that you don't move to Germany only when your application was successful). To quote from http://prototypefund.de/en/submission/:

"Ich bin über 18 Jahre alt und mit meinem Hauptwohnsitz in Deutschland gemeldet."

(roughly "I'm over 18 years old and have my primary residence in Germany"), which you have to sign. Additionally you have to fill out your application on http://prototypefund.de/en/submission/ in German. So if your knowledge of the German language is not good enough for that, you are probably out of luck.

So it seems to me that if you are only willing to relocate to Germany when your application is successful or if your level of the German language is not sufficient to apply, the answer is "no". On the other hand: If you aren't a German citizen, this should be no problem.

Thanks @wolfgke and @pudo. I asked on twitter and they said it'd be fine:


Don't see why not if you're in a country that's planning to stay in the EU and you're crazy enough. For non-EU, no idea what the freelance situation looks like :/

Who can apply? Self-employed and independent developers who live in Germany can apply for funding.

Support: Each project is backed with a maximum of 30,000€, coaching from experienced mentors, and collaboration with an exciting network.

Time frame: You have 6 months to implement your idea from the first concept to a prototype. There will be four rounds of funding between 2016 and 2019. About 10 projects can be funded each round.

Open Source: Your results must be made publicly available under an open source license.

Additional details: https://okfn.de/en/projekte/prototypefund/

It has support from the BMBF (Federal Ministry for Education and Research)

It is a good opportunity but I could not find answers for these questions:

- Is it permitted to use these 30k to pay for hosting/cloud or they do not limit the use of the grant?

- Is a person eligible if he is employed but works also on some other projects (startup, open source).

- Do they fund teams? For example, can two persons apply for the grant? For example, one person is employed and works part-time while the other developer works full-time.

Your questions are partially answered in the FAQ:

- From the german FAQ (the english is missing a sentence there): "What does the funding consist of? Each project will be funded for 6 months at most, and with a maximum amount of 30,000 €. Your work time on the project will be primarily funded. The amount of funding always equates to 60% of the overall project budget. The remaining 40% is your own contribution – meaning the time that you spend on pursuing the project." Though the "mainly" implies work time is not exclusively funded. You should probably contact them here: info@prototypefund.de

- You need to be self-employed, but you don't need to work exclusively on your prototype: "The grant will be paid in instalments based on the work carried out at the beginning of each new quarter. Example: The eligibility period starts on 01.03.2017, therefore you can call for funds at the beginning of the new quarter (in this case, in April) proportionately to the work you performed."

- "I am working on my project as part of a team, is there anything I should be aware of?

As a rule, only individuals are eligible for funding. Whether several persons can apply for one project, or whether parts of the grant can be transferred, will be decided in each particular case, e.g. if there if there are distinct modules in the same project."


that's very nice for german developers. 30k for six months is not too bad for anyone but the most senior developers and you get to work on your own thing. I don't think comparing this with typical freelancing rates is completely fair because you are assured of work for six months.

Yes, I work at such rates often, if the contract are that long.

Blog post with rationale (German): http://codefor.de/blog/prototype-fund

If you're interested in working on open source permanently consider applying at our open core company GitLab Inc. 80% of what we do is released as open source. Vacancies are at https://about.gitlab.com/jobs/ and we hire everywhere https://about.gitlab.com/team/

Why is this getting downvoted? It's adding something to the discussion that's relevant.

Part of the reason for looking at the comments is to find other links to other initiatives or companies that are helping fund FOSS development.

> Why is this getting downvoted? It's adding something to the discussion that's relevant.

Probably because "open core" is a worrying business model for a free software company. It's better than it being proprietary, but there's a legitimate concern that GitLab will stunt development in the community edition to upsell people to the proprietary version. Much of the engineering talent is at GitLab, unlike most free software projects.

I work at SUSE, and all of my contributions and patches are free software (in fact, I maintain runC as part of my job which is pretty awesome). This is a much less worrying model than open core IMO. Enterprise support doesn't have to be support of proprietary software.

I hope you get more employees and/or funding, because 15 seconds for an "Already up-to-date." git pull is the norm with your service.

You're right, GitLab.com ssh access is way too slow. See https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/infrastructure/issues/59#note_... for my writeup. We'll prioritize this.

Thank you very much, it's appreciated.

You're welcome, thanks for commenting back. Also, we added public monitoring to measure this http://monitor.gitlab.net/dashboard/db/gitlab-status?panelId...

Relevant part from our initial look into this https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/infrastructure/issues/59#note_...

"My gut feeling with all this is that the NFS server is the main bottleneck. It is maxing out all the time in CPU time dedicated to IO (check graph) and our last finding is also pointing in the direction that the way the LVM is setup (using linear) is not efficient at all, and it is generating a lot of overhead by fragmenting the actual filesystem for reads (on rewrites) and by concentrating all the writes into one single drive at time. The first test I want to make is to create the new NFS server, and add monitoring on that one to rule out completely the fact that the NFS server is the main bottleneck, hopefully this should happen today."

talking about funding

100.000 Euro funding available (total €5.5 million) for opendata startups & SMEs https://opendataincubator.eu/apply deadline by 30.08.2016


I'm a self employed dev from Germany and got free time the next months.

But I got no idea for a project, haha.

So don't apply, seriously. One problem with these type of initiatives is that they bring out all the people who don't mind embellishing their ideas to get access to "free money" at the expense of people who have substantial projects but stick to the truth.

Sure, I wouldn't apply with any crap just to get the money.

But if some OSS projects need help and don't have any German devs that could get funded, it would be good too.

I worked many hours in OSS without getting any money, but if I could do it full-time for a few months, I'd love too.

Don't create a new project. Help maintain an existing one.

Ah, that is allowed too?

Any OSS project leads here, that need a front-end developer? ;)


"Can I apply with a project that already exists?

Yes you can. However, your proposal ought to be clearly defined and and have its own degree of novelty, e.g. you plan to expand or enhance your preexisting project with a new module. In any case, you need to make clear what you will be working on during the 6-month project term."

Some ideas for useful addons to existing projects, keeping in mind I am not sure what your focus as a front-end developer is:

Gnu Privacy Assistant https://www.gnupg.org/related_software/gpa/index.html is a GnuPG frontend written in GTK. The software works well and does nice things like file encryption, taking a piece of text and outputting it encrypted.

The GUI badly needs improvement. I'd be happy to point out several problems. I also don't believe GPA is available in platforms like Windows and macOS.

Kleopatra is a GnuPG and S/MIME frontend written in Qt (KDE libraries). It is maintained and available on Windows (through GPG4Win) but is still "computer power user"-centric and could also use user interaction love.

Enigmail https://www.enigmail.net/index.php/en/ - Also has several pain points that might be interesting to solve.

On a side note: One method that Enigmail uses to import PGP certificate is the ability to get a valid PGP certificate from a URL. Adding that functionality to GPA and Kleopatra would be nice wins.

All three frontends, Enigmail, Kleopatra, or GnuPG would do well to have a graphical or screen-based export of public keys. Something like a QR-code export of a minimal PGP public key would be nice for importing via smartphones.

Up for helping us with [1]data sync (Open Source Firebase)?

We're funded already but always need coding help. Latest stuff we've been working on is [2]performance (30M+ ops/sec)!

[1] https://github.com/amark/gun [2] https://github.com/amark/gun/wiki/100000-ops-sec-in-IE6-on-2...

Sounds nice :)

Do you have any front-end projects that are "clearly defined and have its own degree of novelty"?

They love vague statements, haha! I don't know if these qualify but things like (from most novel to least):

WebRTC adapters, browser encryption/cryptography integration, SQL parser, React/Angular/Ember bindings, reference implementations/example apps.

If you are curious and want to meet everybody else, shoot me an email! We'd love to hear your story. mark ATSIGN gunDB PERIOD io

This OSS initiative is open only for "Self-employed and independent developers who live in Germany". So that there is no love for the open source projects people do after their daily work in Iowa?

Plenty of love :) Just no legal way for prototypefund to pay them with this money. Sorry. Trust me, they tried to negotiate.

Presumably they want you to be working full-time on this for six months.

Site is down unfortunately. Haven't read about this topic anywhere else yet so I am a bit sceptical.


Although the FAQ with any info is not in the Google cache, so it's still less than useful.

Okay thanks. There is also a German-language news article here: https://netzpolitik.org/2016/12-millionen-euro-fuer-open-sou...

They give you up to 30k for 6 months, and it is funded by the German ministry of education. Their strive for a very easy application process where you just need to write an email and send a link of your open source project, and a list of goals you want to achieve with the money.

So it passes the smell test and seems like a great opportunity for European oss devs. I couldn't find any info which explicitly states that projects outside the EU might be funded.

"Self-employed and independent developers who live in Germany can apply for funding."

Thanks :) This should include European citizens who live in Germany.

It's not limited to EU citizens, anyone with the right to work and live in Germany can apply.

The application seems to be only in German though.


The FAQ is in the Wayback Machine: http://web.archive.org/web/20160801094432/http://prototypefu...

I had to disable CSS to see the answers, though.

English translation of the announcement https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=de&sl=auto&tl=en&u...

One of the virtues of OSS :)

I would like to see more such models in the future, because two world seem to intersect here: open source projects and the public domain.

Open source projects can have such a huge leverage, that the cost reductions in comparison to commercial offerings could be enormous. On the other hand, open source projects will gather people, who at least care about the specific domain (this does not mean, there is no politics). Treating software as public infrastructure could be a huge step forward.

For comparison, the EXIST Business Start-up Grant from BMWI (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy) provides 2500 EUR/month = 30k€/year.


So PrototypeFund (BMBF) pays twice as much for open source project development as EXIST for founding a startup. Yet, startups in EXIST get also something for equipment, marketing, coaching etc. Also, they probably will be taxed differently.

Any hints why this is only for self-employed people? I think there are lots of OSS developers with very interesting/largely used projects which do this besides their normal job...

Under German law you can have part-time self-employed work alongside your normal job.

And in fact, many people have.

They need to give you the money somehow, if they don't want to employ you, that is (as far as I know) the only way.

You're right! But then I'd really wish they'd refine the phrasing of the rule section.

In fact, if you have a full-time employer, this employer will in most work contracts reserve the "right" to your full work capacity, and will insist on a sign-off for other jobs besides the "full-time" one.

Sure, but the project you want to get fundet doesn't need to be full-time.

I know a bunch of people in full-time employment, who are self-employed on the side for few hours a week.

Also, some employers would let you reduce to 80% or 50% for a few months, if they're nice :)

That's true. But I think for people who don't have a self-employment status yet, this is a big obstacle to even apply.

Maybe it would make sense to open up the application for everybody, but to connect the grants to the self-employment status (i.e. the applicant get some timeframe to register the self-employment and if necessary talk to the employer).

I just think the rules lead to a strong restriction of the applicant pool and also the possible grant-worthy projects. But this might be intended...

As far as I can tell, the application doesn't ask for informations on your self-employment status.

And how long you are self-employed doesn't matter for the payment.

Yes, but my point is that nobody will try to get self-employement status first if he/she doesn't have it, before even knowing whether the project is accepted.

This would have implications on the relationship to the full-time employer, and also from a tax perspective (which is quite a hassle here in Germany, IMHO...).

You can get self-employment status in Germany for 26€ and about an hour of waiting. It's a single form to fill in, and doesn't have any tax implications until you actually start receiving income from it. Your full-time employer doesn't need to be notified or asked for permission. (your contract may require notification if you actually perform additional work, but getting the status itself is extremely low hassle)

Probably easier? I don't know.

I mean, if you want to do this besides your day-job, you have to be self-employed too, otherwise how would you write bills?

You're correct on this I guess. I was more wondering about the wording, because to me it sounds like full-time people with part-time "self-employment" are excluded.

Germany is so far ahead in their understanding of the common good. Recall too that they single-handedly jump started the modern solar industry with their feed-in tariff scheme.

It sounds like a good idea in a vacuum. However I'm a bit worried that this might be in direct violation of some studies from psychology that basically say "as soon as you get money for something you do as a passion project you will stop doing it once the money stream ceases". Can't find the paper right now but the famous one involved kids painting things iirc.

I feel like there needs to be a very good integration plan for the time once the funding ends (which I think is lacking).

Not the paper, but a wikipedia article on the effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overjustification_effect

https://prototypefund.de/?lang=en does not work for me.

https://prototypefund.de/ does work for me.

Here is a project list:


Looks like you can implement citizen/government related websites for a very low salary.

Using the term OSS seems like a stretch.

Those are projects developed by OKFN. They have almost nothing to do with this fund where you come with your own ideas/projects.

How is it a "stretch" if we make open licensing a contractual requirement?

For what it's worth: most of the software projects on that page have been developed by people on their own time, just because it's cool :)

I don't see the point of funding the ONE area in software development where you can still make money, namely web companies.

OSS for me is associated with thankless things like xterm, non-prestigious kernel drivers, Python modules etc.

Are you going to fund such things? Really, to be more clear: If websites are also socialized, soon no one will be able to earn an income from programming at all.

Where does it say this is about websites? Or that it is against building (web) companies ? (Quite the opposite, actually!)

I neither buy your point that 1.2mn R&D money will replace the dot-com economy with socialism, nor that there's no money in infra.

Also, how come you think every place on the web should be for-profit? It's a bit like saying every city needs to turn all its parks and community centers into shopping malls so as not to undermine Starbucks right for revenue.

The whole setup of this foundation is very website centric. The description of the candidates for funding is Internet centric.

The emphasis is on "new projects". I can already tell you how it will go: People who are good at grant writing, have no shame in over-promising and throw around the right buzzwords will get the "R&D" money.

After 6 months you'll have half-finished, bug ridden implementations that are bad copies of existing software, and the projects will be abandoned.

I doubt it. So long as you have experts in the jury – as is the case with the prototype fund – you'll decrease the chances of BS proposals getting funded.

€30K for 6 months is a pretty low salary? Not in Germany. Not anywhere.

€30K for 6 months works out to 5k per month. That's really not bad by our standards, at least in Austria.

If you make 5k before taxes you're already way above average here, because your employer usually pays around 7k per month then.

Edit: Yes, I admit it is quite low when compared against typical contracting rates in urban areas.

If a person is self-employed then he has to pay VAT (Mwst) 19%. And then they say that they cover only 60% of all the expenses. And finally the person has to pay income tax.

This is wrong. Especially if you are self-employed you do not need to pay VAT (to simplify it: VAT is for end consumers). Where do you get that 60% ? If you are not self employed you have to pay wage tax, so there's not much difference to income tax.

€30k for 6 months is a low contracting rate.

Normalise that to €60k per year. Full-time work in Germany is 231 days (52 * 5, less 29 days legally-mandated holiday).

€60k / 231 = €259.74 per day.

So around €260/$290/£220 per day. This is definitely the low-end of freelancing/contracting rates in Germany[1]/Western Europe.

[1] Contracting rates in Germany: http://forums.contractoruk.com/business-contracts/77870-hour... (German)

You math is slightly off, it's 24 days of legally mandated holidays, but those assume a 6-day workweek (§ 3 BUrlG, see 1). Legally mandated holidays on a 5 days workweek is 20 days only. The actual number of workdays varies slightly with the location you're in as well. Some states have more federal holidays. Generally speaking the dominantly catholic part have more, the city of Augsburg has the most (they have the "Hohes Freiheitsfest", a holiday that is restricted to the city of Augsburg) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augsburger_Hohes_Friedensfest


Your general point still stands: 30k is a low contracting rate and in general untenable for a freelancer. You should be earning at least twice as much. However, for open source work this is a major step up - you can make a living off it instead of self-funding your work.

(1) https://dejure.org/gesetze/BUrlG/3.html

IMHO Contracting rates based on GULP are totally BS.

If you make €60K you are very good for beeing a self employed (programmer) and make more money than many not self employed programmers (yes, even when you subtract all taxes, health insurance and your private retirement arrangements).

Specialists in big corporates earn of course more (what GULP is targeting), but then at first place you have to be a specialist and need to have the expertise.

Also don't forget that many people do not have work the whole time... so you have to see the GULP rates also in contrast to gap times where you have no income.

And they pay only 60% ~ 155 per day

>Looks like you can implement citizen/government related websites for a very low salary.

Sounds ideal for students, sort of like Google Summer of Code.

30K for 6 months work? When I was a student I was not even dreaming of this income. I would freak out.

I hope someone applies to work on Redox. It's just so cool.

It's back online.

That homepage animation is eating up the damn frames and flickers the page in mobile. Maybe the first job in the contract should be to remove the heavy animations.;)

> With a grant of up to €30,000, software developers [...] can write code and develop open source prototypes over a period of six months.

> You have 6 months to implement your idea from the first concept to a prototype.

Oh, it wants to fund new stuff and not fund a Firefox, Gimp, Linux kernel, whatever dev to work for 6 months.

It wants new stuff, but that doesn't mean "from scratch" or "not firefox". Plain bugfixing is out, new features may be in. You have to write a paragraph or two about how New Feature X is in line with their goals, one of which is more intelligent/better informed use of people's personal data. It doesn't seem impossible to do something along those lines with firefox.

The FAQ says you can also work on existing projects, given that you can clearly define a project for the funds.

Any new module for an existing project is eligible as well. It's in the FAQs.

Hope a new module, that replace an old module (with less functionality) is accepted too.

Gimp is a more traditional Free SW project, but most developers on Firefox and the Linux kernel are already being perfectly funded by the corporations that employ them.

they ought to clean their own house:

not hosted in germany? it's for germans only

could not afford a fresh ip for this project?

wired combination of www- and plain domains in ssl-cert

mixed ssl and plaintext

css-animation drives (my) firefox to a grinding halt

While this is truly awesome — imagine how much more this would get done if it was not based on the developers being in Germany.

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