In which we learn how a series of cockups can reinforce lessons about money, and potentially provide some new infrastructure for Perl5 Core

The Background

If you were at YAPC::NA this past summer1, you may have attended my talk about the lessons I’ve learned from starting and running my company Tamarou. One of the points I emphasized in the talk was the importance of understanding the nature of money. What I wanted to convey is that “money” is not a finite substance (like we treat it when thinking about the stereotypical household budget), but rather a fluid (which is how people who work with money professionally – accountants, financial advisors, stock brokers and other gamblers – regard it). Anyone who has seen the talk may also have noticed that I was a little tired while delivering it2. That exhaustion was largely because I had forgotten this important point about the fluid nature of money myself, and was attempting to heroically unjam a project that had gotten firmly – and in the end, fatally – stuck.

I don’t want to go into the details on what went wrong with the project, because at this point, they’re inconsequential. The critical point is that our cashflows have been seriously impacted by the implosion of this project. In addition to the financial impact, it also wrecked me on an personal level for a couple months, until the recent Moving To Moose hackathon gave me an opportunity to get some distance and clarity on the situation3, and to appreciate and understand where we are now: Tamarou needs some short-term help with our cashflow. Longer term, we have contracts coming in, but we also have serious unmet short term needs. Rather than just begging for money, we decided we’d rather give something to the Perl community.

The Plan

Back in March, there was a discussion about testing intrfastructure on p5p, with contributions from many Perl community members, including myself. One consenus reached by this discussion was that despite the amazing efforts by people such as Steffen Müller, Abe Timmerman, George Greer, Andreas Koenig, and others I’m unfortunately forgetting, there is significant room for additional, improved smoking infrastructure for the Perl core. Nicholas Clark even went so far as to sketch out some notes on what he would like to see added in this area. (Shortly after this email thread concluded, I started my ill-fated summer project.)

Now, several months later, Tamarou is in the position of desperately needing to trade some time for money. Consequently, we’ve started a new project on the recently updated Tamarou website. The project has the general outline of what I think needs to be done to accomplish the tasks that Nicholas defined. It has a timeline for how long I expect to take to accomplish these tasks. It also has a place where you can donate some money to making this project happen, if you think this is a good idea. Overall, we need about $5000 USD to make this project feasible.

Frequently Anticipated Questions

1) Why not get a grant from The Perl Foundation?

I love The Perl Foundation. I will try to do anything that TPF President Karen Pauly asks, because I think she works far too hard as it is. That said, I think that the TPF has had a rocky history when it comes to development grants. While stewardship by the current Grants Committe, and projects like the Perl5 Core Maintenance fund are doing an awesome job in moving past that history, I wanted to try something different. I remain open to future TPF involvement, but I hope that Tamarou can show a third way to succeed with crowd-sourced funding for development to support Perl5 core.

2) What happens if you fail?

Then we fail. Publically and with full transparency. I think the project scope is well understood, and it can be reasonably accomplished on the timemline I’ve laid out – I’ve learned my “heroics” lesson – but if I go over time, then I go over time. If in the end, even after extraordinary effort, the project cannot be accomplised, all my work products will be committed to a public repository and provided for the world to use.

3) Is this really something we, the Perl5 community, need?

I don’t know. In March, posters on p5p were excited about seeing it done. I’ve had private conversations with some of the people it would directly benefit and they didn’t seem to think the project was insane. I had to pick something to try, and this is what I picked. If you have a better idea, and this experiment doesn’t totally blow up in our face … we can try your idea next time!

4) How can I help?

First, obviously, you can contribute money. (Seriously: we can really use the cash.) Secondly, there are many tasks I left out of the initial scope of this project to make something I thought could be reasonably accomplished on a reasonable schedule and budget. I have already committed to start documenting these tasks, and as I move through this project I will work on making everything accessible for contributions from the community at large.

  1. The summer of 2012, in which YAPC::NA was brilliantly hosted in Madison, WI.

  2. My favorite comment/review of the talk was “Dude needs a nap.” At this point, I’m not sure who made the comment, but it was awesome.

  3. One of the best things, for me, to come out of the Moving to Moose hackathon was how it reminded me of all the things I love most about the Perl community.