Gabor Szabo recently asked on his blog what we want to see out of The Perl Foundation. This was in response to the issues raised in comments on his grant request. I’d made a comment in there that I figured I should pull some of ideas from my comments there out into a blog post in response Gabor’s question.
Obviously much of the comments are specifically a response to the particular grant proposal. However there are important pieces in there about what I think the future of the TPF could be.
The TPF current helps with much of the infrastructure and financial support for running the Three Perl Workshops in North America as well as YAPC::NA. I know this because I’ve been involved with organizing a workshop for the last 3 years (Frozen Perl initially and then Perl Oasis), as well as writing the winning bid for YAPC::NA 2011 from Dahut.pm and leading the organization efforts there1.
The conferences committee has put together excellent documentation for helping plan a workshop or YAPC. Depending on the level of commitment you want from them, they help process payments and write checks for the venues etc.
I would love to see them continue and expand on this process. This is an “easy win” for them because many workshops are self-funding. I would love to see those of us like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Orlando be called on to help give advice to new groups looking to host their own workshop or write a YAPC bid. I know I was actually moved by the amount of support I got at YAPC after the bid was announced from former organizers Dan Wright, Casey West, Heath Bair, and Rob Kinyon to name a few2. These conferences are a steal compared to the equivalent in other communities, anything we can do to make them bigger and better should be a priority.
One of the pain points of being a conference organizer is fund raising. Each set of organizers must individually contact all the different companies who may or may not sponsor and give them a pitch. This is not only highly inefficient, it annoys the companies that sponsor. I think that one possible thing that the Perl Foundation could take on here would be to take on some of this work. If we had someone at the TPF level who could contact a list of donors and help work out some basic sponsorship each year for the different workshops it would smooth the process unmeasurably. These donors would be sponsoring the workshops directly, that wouldn’t change, but they would be coordinated across all of the events the TPF is responsible for so we can help balance funds and grow the number and quality of events.
The Perl Foundation currently issues grants quarterly. In fact the 2010
Q3 Call for Proposals was just announced. Grants are for $500 to
$3000 in funding and help targeted projects get done. This is how the
Moose documentation was written.
The TPF traditionally has had a poor record when it comes to grants. Looking at the grant history an embarassing number are failed. However they are increasing their success rate. Dave Rolsky has an excellent post discussing the nature of grants and motivation. Let’s just say that for some people they can provide the proper incentive to perform good tasks for the community. Having them is in my mind a net benefit.
Much more recently, and closer to the nature of Gabor’s grant proposal are the TPF involvement in non-TPF events. These events aren’t specifically non-Perl but are simply not one of the official events that the TPF helps sponsor. These would include OSCON as well as many of the events listed on the wiki. Gabor has been doing an amazingly good job of organizing people to attend these and help spread the Modern Perl movement beyond the echo chamber.
I personally think that the TPF should elevate this process to equal to the Conferences and Grants. Those two efforts have official committees and budgets to allocate to proposed efforts, and so should the Events group. The budget would go toward whatever is necessary to attend an event (SWAG, travel expenses, booth/space rental), and be allocated at the discretion of the committee.
As you can see the ideas here are a consolidation of the things the TPF are already doing. I think that right now the TPF needs to organize itself and find it’s own identity and purpose. This is an introspective process fundamentally but can be done in consultation with the community3. Only once they are successful at the things they are currently doing will they be able to properly focus on a new endeavor.
volunteered to help with YAPC::NA, and who have contributed to Perl Oasis. For the help the TPF gives, nothing would happen if I didn’t have wonderful people getting things done.
wisdom, they’re just the ones I know are former organizers.
are the people who benefit most from their activities.