Subject: funding indirect services
From: Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com>
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 12:48:22 -0700

[As noted in a previous message, I'g like to get the group's thoughts
  on how to organize the Meta (http://www.cfcl.com/rdm/Meta) Project.
  This note is an attempt to jumpstart the discussion.]

Meta is basically a standards proposal, but it is more likely to make
progress if there is some dedicated (read, compensated) infrastructure.
This could range from experimental development to web maintenance, but
my experience tells me that trying to manage a substantial project (as
Meta would surely be) is not a "part-time job".

Although Meta could be packaged and distributed as an "add-on" product,
this runs directly counter to the project's goal of universality.  It
needs, instead, to be incorporated into packages, distributions, web
resources, etc.

Nor is it reasonable to try to "tax" the 10K or so Open Source projects
that are listed on FileWatcher.  These folks are mostly volunteers; we
want their cooperation, but we can't expect financial support from them.

Although government agencies and educational institutions occasionally
fund standards efforts, the levels of paperwork this would require are
daunting.  Simply put, life's too short...

So, by process of elimination, we come to the commercial sector: folks
who make money from selling products and services that are related to
Open Source (and, more generally, Unix).  Funding could come from these
parties in any of several ways:

   *  contracts to perform specific Meta-related tasks

   *  contracts to provide Meta-related "consulting"

   *  "sponsorship" funding

   *  ???

Examples of all of these are found in current practice; any of them
might be appropriate in some given circumstance.  The first two don't
actually require a Meta-specific organization.  If Wombat Industries
wants to issue a contract, they certainly know how to do so.

They aren't really very flexible, however, nor do they provide a basis
for building Meta, per se.  The third category does meet these needs,
but it will require some sort of organization:

   *  Companies will want a plausible "entity" to sponsor.

   *  Sponsorship funds will need a dispersal mechanism,
      allowing various sub-projects to be funded, etc.

   *  Somebody (not me!) will need to answer the phones, send out
      literature, and generally provide an organizational "presence".

The nature of the organization, however, is up for grabs.  It could be:

   *  a "for profit" corporation, either private or public

   *  a "not for profit" organization

   *  ...

So, what organizational form is most appropriate, and why?

-r
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Rich Morin:          rdm@cfcl.com, +1 650-873-7841, http://www.ptf.com/~rdm
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