KDE: A Thriving Community Based on Participation
KDE thrives in direct relationship to the health and vibrancy of its community. The most obvious manifestation of this is when people contribute software development time to the various projects KDE undertakes. In fact, when KDE was founded 15 years ago that was pretty much the only way to get invovled. Since then the number of ways one can participate within KDE has exploded and the KDE community has grown to include groups of people working on translation and internationalization, art and graphic design, usability, documentation, communication, project management and more.
The world has benefited from the tireless efforts of thousands of individuals who have pulled together from around the world to make and be KDE. Whether it's school aged children in South America, farmers in developing nations, government offices at home and abroad (I recently found out that one European country uses KDE in their embassies around the globe), scientific beacons such as CERN or the NOAA or corporate offices around the world large and small, tens of millions have come to KDE for software they can use on their terms. Projects such as WebKit and several components within Qt itself have sprung from the KDE community, increasing the reach of KDE beyond our own software titles.
In support of this growth, a non-profit organization, KDE e.V. was founded n 1997 to provide legal, financial and logistic support to this growing hub of activity. Through "the e.V.", as those of us in KDE tend to refer to it as, we've been able to host dozens of developer sprints, participate in hundreds of trade shows around the world, engage with decision makers and other Freedom-oriented communities around the globe and build new levels of reliability and professionalism into the mechanics behind the KDE ecosystem. Very few other Free and Open Source communities out there have the benefit of such a competent and reliable foundation to hold trademarks, enter contracts protecting core technologies for the future as KDE has done with the FreeQt foundation, offer legal defense measures and future management guarantees through opt-in copyright assignment or do as good a job at reporting on the activities of the non-profit foundation behind the project with transparency and timeliness.
Being A Part of the KDE Team
Being a part of KDE is one of those rare opportunities to make a difference doing something truly enjoyable with others of like (and different!) mind in a productive and proactive environment. The best two words I can think to describe it are fulfilling and rewarding.
But being a part of this amazing movement has traditionally required available time, energy and some level of expertise in a field that touches on one or more of the aspects of developing software for end users. This isn't a mix of ingredients that everyone has available to them, leaving many on the "outside" or not able to be as supportive as they'd like to be. What to do?
A New Way To Get Involved Opens Up: Join the Game!
Yesterday, "the e.V." announced a new way to get involved with the KDE community. Unlike the other ways to get involved with KDE, this one doesn't involve your time but rather your pocketbook. We've received donations from thousands of people over the years, and those donations have made many things possible. Those donations are sporadic (making financial planning around them difficult) and haven't really been given the encouragement or recognition they probably deserve. This new program, called "Join The Game", changes all of that.
For 100 Euro a year, which is less than having a very cheap lunch out once a month or a few cups of nice coffee (mmm... cappuccino!) for most of us, you can join the KDE community and contribute with your resources. Since it's a scheduled program, this will allow KDE to budget around this income. What can your spare change do for KDE and, by extension, the world using Free software? With just 500 participants joining the game, here are some examples of what KDE could do:
- Fund and host a major developer sprint every month. These sprints are the backbone for many of the larger, and smaller, KDE projects. It keeps the community connected and progress being made, with positive effects that are measurable through things such as commit rates for 3-6 months afterwards. Imagine what we could do with 12 more developer sprints a year!
- Double the size of KDE's annual global event, Akademy! The travel budget for this year's Akademy could be doubled, and then some, allowing us to bring twice as many people together. Alternatively, it could be used to build up the regional events such as Camp KDE, Akademy.es, Akademy.br, etc.
- Build a hardware "library" so KDE developers could get their hands (and code!) on various kinds of devices: mobile, thin client, tablet, multi-screen, alternative input devices, etc. Right now we rely on personal availability of the KDE contributors and the kindness of corporations who lend out such hardware. Having a hardware library for KDE developers would ease this and ensure that KDE is never left in the "well, I'd do it if I had the hardware..." position again.
- Improve our server infrastructure. As KDE grows, we put a greater and greater set of demands on our technical infrastructure. I'd love to see bugs.kde.org blazing fast, and part (though not all) of the solution for such things in money to afford good hardware and the people to run it.
- With a fraction of those funds, KDE could print more and better fliers, posters and hand outs for use at trade shows. We could more easily send such packages around the world to those who are representing and spreading KDE in their areas.
How the funds are actually used will depend on the needs of KDE in the future, how many of us sign up to "Join the Game" and the feedback from those who join up. One thing that is certain is that it will definitely be to the benefit of KDE and everyone who uses the software we create together.
There are some nice membership packages waiting for those who sign up, but even more importantly it's a way to feel more involved than ever, a way to build that "I'm making a difference out there" feeling with us as we take Free software out to the masses.
A Goal: 500 People In The Game
Goals are a great way to achieve concrete results, so here's one for all of us: Let's work towards building up to 500 "Join The Game" members. How quickly can we find (and/or be!) that number of people who will join us in helping KDE go faster and further through a regular financial contribution? One year? Before January 2011? Even faster?
Let's find out and spread the word about the Join The Game program in our local and online communities and jump into this new opportunity ourselves with both feet. Blog about it, talk about it, send links to the website to those you think would be interested. For those of us who also have the financial means to do so and are looking for a way to get involved with KDE and help move F/OSS forward on the desktop (and mobile, and..), open up your web browser and ...
Just imagine what we can do as our team grows and grows!
(Note that right now membership requires filling out a form and faxing it in, but online payment is being worked on and should be brought online shortly. An announcement will be made when that happens, and I expect the membership to accelerate when that happens.)