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Stripe Open-Source Retreat (stripe.com)
572 points by gdb on April 24, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

I wish more companies and hacker spaces would launch programs like this. With so many companies relying on open source, giving projects a little bit of stability is crucial.

The no-strings attached is also a huge deal. Versus being employed, this program lets people work on something that they are passionate about without the risk of the company assigning them to a new project that they aren't interested in.

Well, okay:

If you're an open source developer that needs space to work on their project in Phoenix, you can come to heatsync labs (a hackerspace) and work on it every day you want to for free.

Check it out here: http://live.heatsynclabs.org/

We can't give you money, though (since we don't have a ton of it; we're a non-profit).

[By the way, this is kindof meant in jest: anybody can come and work on their projects here if they want to, and that has always been the case.]

I'm a programmer that does open source and teaches classes in his free time. I live in Austin, but all the coworking spaces here charge more money than I'm comfortable paying, would somebody be willing to sponsor me or offer a reduced-rate?

I can provide Github profile for proof.

I'm also in Austin and have been hanging out at Center61 (http://www.center61.com/). It's a pretty nice space for social entrepreneurs. Their definition of social entrepreneur is flexible and I bet your open source work would qualify. At $25/mon it's pretty affordable too.

That's fantastic! I'm sure you're already connected to Skysong. The ASU W.P. Carey school of business has a new head of the entrepreneur program (I think it used to be called Spark). Sidnee Peck took over the program. She'd probably be a great person to meet to get ASU students and alums to check out the space. Let me know if you want an intro.

That is very cool! I live in Sedona, about 90 miles north of Mesa. Maybe I will drop by when my wife and I are in Phoenix shopping. I will check your calendar first. I get that it runs on volunteer effort, but who pays the rent?

We pay dues (they're not required, but they do come with some benefits. For example: in order to get 24/7 access, you have to be paying at least $50/mo in dues).

Awesome! I'll definitely keep this spot in mind for hackerish projects that take up space

Agreed - what Stripe is doing here is inspiring. Here is something along the same vein launched last week => https://assemblymade.com/sabbaticals

Fully agree! Sadly, incidents of [Responsible Capitalism](http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/ca...) don't come up on radar as dramatically as corporate overreaching.

I'm going to research this as a possible opportunity within my company.

Thanks for the comment!

I thought this meant that Stripe was retreating from open-sourcing internally-developed software.

A potentially better title is "Stripe offering open-source retreat for select software developers".

jjallen was downvoted, but I thought exactly the same thing. I was full of righteous indignation, which was promptly defused by the actual article.

I'm very happy to be mistaken!

Funny, that interpretation didn't even cross my mind.

I guess there's a lesson in that (don't assume your way of reading something is the "right" way).

Agreed, I had the same mistaken impression.

I had the same reaction; "retreat" is ambiguous without context.

I thought it meant that their entire company is taking a retreat to work on an OSS project.

This version is cool too though.

I read it is as: Stripe is organising a retreat for its developers where they can work on Open Source—imagining that it would give them the time to contribute (more) to the Open Source software they already use at Stripe.

Me too. That was a shock.

I had the same reaction as well.

I'm interested to know where ideas like this originate within the company. Outreach like this is great for their brand within the dev world, though this may be more altruistic than CTF (semi-recruitment tool). There's no question that both initiatives are clever enough to make one wonder how they come to life internally. Love the idea(s)!

We have an internal mailing list called "Crazy Ideas". No idea is too crazy.

Greg emailed the list two weeks ago with a proposal for the open-source retreat. The reaction internally was quite positive. He polled open-source maintainers externally to see whether this was something they'd be interested in. The reaction externally was quite positive too.

Greg hammered out the details and shipped it.

This idea has been making me smile for like the past 40 seconds.

And that's how you do it, well done Stripe! Glad to know that the money they received from me through their API use is being well used and having a positive effect :-)

That's awesome, sounds like a fantastic company culture. Thanks for the info.

You guys are so fantastic. this is awesome and it's great to see companies embracing open source!

I'm generalizing here but I would hazard to guess a good majority of OSS project maintainers (myself included) do so in their spare time and have full-time jobs. It's unrealistic to leave a job for a 3 month "retreat", regardless of how great the opportunity is.

I'm not suggesting it won't work, I think it's a fantastic program and I'm rooting for its success. I'm just suggesting you may want to consider remote opportunities (maybe with occasional visits for in-house tech talks) for future iterations which would undoubtedly increase the talent pool and presumably be more effective at delivering your end-goal.

Sure, it's not going to work for the majority of OSS developers; but nothing is. It's nice to have different kinds of opportunities available. Some people can do stuff in their free time; some may be more productive with a dedicated sprint. Some people may have the opportunity to do it between jobs; some developers are consultants, and can probably find a way to free their schedule up for a few months if they can justify it with the extra income.

Different companies contribute in different ways. The company I work for funds major features that we need, as well as having support contracts with the primary developers of some of the key software that we use, and we contribute back patches when we find bugs that need fixing. Google does their Summer of Code, in which students can work remotely over their summer break, plus does primary development of a lot of projects like Android and Chrome, and contributes to others like the Linux kernel. Red Hat and Canonical mostly develop open source software directly. The Gnome OPW funds internships for women, over several periods over the course of the year.

So there are lots of opportunities out there, with a lot of different ways to get funding and support. I don't think that each program needs to be all things for all people; it's OK to have particular targeted and focused programs, either on different groups of developers, different projects, different types of time commitment, and so on.

I completely agree with everything you said. I got the impression from the blog post they are looking for people to solve real world problems, and people who are good at that are generally employed (comfortably). I hope the program is successful and they expand it at some point to allow for different types of arrangements.

There's plenty of freelancers and academics who could make this work. Or people who hate their jobs and want to do something meaningful.

Good point. Also consider people that just graduated or just finished up some sort of temporary placement.

Yes - the fact that many/most promising OSS projects are built by professionals who would either need to leave their job or take time off from their job makes this a challenge.

Yep, the retreat in its current form definitely has some constraints. However, we hope that it'll reach a few really awesome maintainers/projects, and also serve as a starting point for future programs in this space.

What about developers working on commercial open source software? This would be an unbelievable deal for them!

I was actually wondering how Stripe would feel about for-profit open source projects. I don't think they'll be too excited to fund their development.

I have a pretty flexible work schedule, and offers like this would actually encourage me to push to open up some of my day-to-day work. I'll probably try to drum up some support around doing something similar in Boulder too.

for someone that just came out of college this would be a fantastic experience

If there is ever a company to look at to model your developer relations, Stripe is it. It is really a joy to see the stuff these guys come up with.

Stripe does a good job about staying top of mind for devs by doing things like this. When I think of a great company to work for, Stripe and Github are usually near the top.

And benefiting open source? Double win.

That's a really good point. I always reference them as a company that seems great, despite never having used their service or known anybody who has worked there. They have really great developer PR which, given their market, is also just really great PR.

Asking people to move to San Francisco for 3 months is just a tad bit crazy/expensive don't you think?

One might spend ~$5,000/mo for a short 3 month stay in San Francisco.

Why not organize accommodation for them as well? Renting a house for 3 months over a summer and dividing it by 3-4 grantees would be cheaper for both parties. And it would help manufacture some incredible collaboration as well imho.

There are a lot of people who manage to live in the bay area on far less than $7500/month. For example, it's very affordable to live in Oakland and commute in on BART.

Sure, I could spend my expertise living frugally in one of the world's most incredible cities... or the company I am helping out could help me better by providing me with a simple room to live in inside a house near their office filled with other like minded people.

I am an expert programmer, I don't want to spend my 3 months in San Francisco in a hostel just to help the greater good and save a few bucks.

Can we nominate other developers who are working on projects we're not?

Wow, this is the exact idea I have been thinking about!

For successful companies like Stripe, the cost of doing this program is negligible. And yet many open-source projects (OpenSSL comes to mind) can really take a huge step forward by having several professional developers working full-time on it for three months. Lots of kudos to Stripe for doing this, and hope to see more companies follow this example!

As a bonus, they're working in the Stripe office. If Stripe thinks they're awesome, they can extend an offer at the end.

I'd be more excited by the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with other talented professionals.

This is really great. Kudos to Stripe. I'm curious about what the ideal scenario is at the conclusion of the 3 months? Some options are...

- The project has progressed significantly to the point where the developer can hope to find continued sponsorship at Stripe or elsewhere.

- The project has progressed to the point where it no longer needs the tender loving care of the maintainer full time. Either it got more contributors or has reached a new level of stability.

- The developer joins Stripe (or somewhere else) full time and the project is left better off, but without a full time contributor/maintainer

Any thinking about what the end-game is from the developer's perspective. Either way, it's an incredible opportunity.

The great thing about this that there are many good possible outcomes, for Stripe, the developers, and everyone.

It's amazing how many cool things they come up with and follow through on. Respect.

So, hopefully some OpenSSL developers will apply?

Hopefully not. The heartbleed debacle is going to see that project showered with money and corporate aid. We need to see projects that have absolutely no support but are critical (a lot of the GNU utils are good examples). nginx could probably use some of this goodwill, as can core language compilers, and frameworks like Qt. Albeit Qt is probably a bad example, because you have to sign copyright over to Digia. KDE5 is supposed to be very library portable, it seems like a good place to put Qt extensions businesses are uncomfortable turning over to Digia.

I think Nginx is good with http://nginx.com/ and their Nginx Plus + Support Contracts model.

I'd like to see OpenSSH on this list simply because it is probably as widely used as OpenSSL and I don't think it has better funding...I could be wrong tho.

OpenSSH originates from the OpenBSD developers. While the OpenBSD foundation could always use more money, they are no where near as bad off as the OpenSSL team was/is.

Really? I seem to remember them nearly having to shut down their servers a few months back?

I don't have a link to give you, but recently they have received good funding.

Fair enough. However, I think someone volunteering from outside the organization to do a security audit wouldn't hurt given how widespread it is. :)

Even it is not explicitly mentioned, I wonder if Stripe will let 'whether the applying project can be used somewhere inside Stripe' be one deciding factor, or the project can be totally irrelavant to what Stripe is doing.

It is great seeing YC companies giving back to the community, first teespring and now stripe. I can see it is the future that it is startups pushing forward the technologies and communities, much more than big corps.

I wonder if US immigration would count this as "work" for people without ability to work in US?

Not an immigration lawyer but I unfortunately have to care about this stuff w/r/t a non-US nation and have previously had to care about it w/r/t the US on behalf of third parties: even "You talk at our office and we pay you a modest honorarium" requires a B-1 (short-term travel for business purposes to e.g. negotiate a contract) as opposed to e.g. a visa waiver. It is vanishingly unlikely that the duration and scope of this project, which looks an awful lot like "We wish to purchase your professional services for 3 months", would be sustained under the B-1 visa.

Speak to a lawyer prior to relying on the above, etc.

Required to perform specific labor full-time in designated offices and give talks to other employees in exchange for $7,500 per month and meals in compensation? Sounds like work to me. IANAL, but I think it'd sound like work to immigration officials too.

Based on some initial discussions we think that it could be characterized as independent research, but it's a somewhat unusual circumstance so tough to say with certainty. We're happy to work with the selected applicants (if they're from outside the US) and put them in touch with our immigration counsel to figure out what will work.

This is super cool. Love seeing all the new incentives for open source and nonprofit startups.

Is there a reason this article is future dated by 5 days?

"Greg Brockman, April 29, 2014"

Good catch. Mostly I'm just bad at reading calendars :).

I like to think that your brain was just prioritizing more important concepts :)

Sounds like an awesome idea - I look forward to seeing which projects get selected.

Why don't you give the grant to the current maintainer of the open source project. I think that can have more impact on the open source project

This is really awesome. Super inspiring and wish more companies would do this.

Sounds like you wouldn't be willing to give a grant to a pair?

You're welcome to apply together. We're looking to maximize impact, and e.g. bringing together a pair who normally work together remotely could be a good fit.

Sounds good! (I was asking in general not for myself)

This is a pretty inspiring initiative. Thank you for doing this!

This is awesome, can't wait to see what comes out of it.

I'm going to submit an app for the NeoVim guy.

Are you guys accepting recent graduates for this?

This is great. Well done Stripe.

You guys are SO awesome!

smart hiring strategy!

I think so too. It also works both ways. For those lucky enough to work on a mutually agreed Open Source 'pet project' they will have a good idea as to whether they really like the atmosphere and if the challenges available at Stripe are going to suit them.

Not actually what we're going for :).

anyone know what software Stripe is using for their blog?

We're using site/blog.rb, pretty much the last thing I wrote that's still in production at Stripe...

Wow, this is amazing.

outstanding hiring strategy.

Yes indeed. Encouraging open source contribution, validating that he/she can get stuff done and evaluate culture fit. Win-win-win.

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