Offering to work directly for the Ruby community!

Hi folks,

I’ve been prone to having crazy ideas before, but this one is my
latest. After posting a long, whimsical post on the O’Reilly blog
about this, my friends have persuaded me to try this for real.

If you haven’t read that post yet, it’s here:

=== Quick Project Summary ===

Through the donations of community members, I would like to put my
commercial and personal software projects on the back burner for a
prolonged period of time (3-6 months), and focus on working on open
source projects that are of high importance to the majority of
Rubyists.

If you’ve already seen discussion of this idea elsewhere, and are just
wondering where to donate, head to:

http://pledgie.com/campaigns/571

Otherwise, if you still need convincing, read on:

=== Why does the open source Ruby community need some grassroots,
non-commercial love? ===

The Ruby community suffers from an embarrassment of riches when it
comes to open source software. It seems that countless hackers and the
companies they work for are eagerly contributing new software, and
working on shaking bugs out of old software. This on its own is a
great reason to believe that Ruby will continue to be a serious
contender for many different programming tasks, both in the commercial
and hobbyist sectors.

Still, there are complications. With the explosion of interest in Ruby
and software written in it, the community is feeling growing pains at
all levels, especially in our infrastructure that supports application
development in Ruby. Though it’s relatively easy to find paid Rails
work that allows you to contribute a plugin to the community now and
again, it’s pretty hard to find a company that’d fund fixing the
various bugs that have been reported with RubyForge, our central
software repository. Though many Rubyists will seek 1.9 compliance in
their greenfield projects, it’s unlikely that we’ll see large numbers
of existing Ruby projects get fixed up in a short period of time
without some external push. These are the kinds of things that casual
hacking as well as commercial work don’t really answer, and this
proposal aims to offer a solution to them.

Put simply, I’d like to put my commercial work as well as my personal
software projects on the back burner for several months, so that I can
work on problems that are common among most Rubyists. My goal is to
raise the funds necessary to do this from the community itself, and
there are a number of reasons why I’d be a good candidate for this
sort of thing.

Ideally, I’d like to spend 3 to 6 months as an employee of J. Random
Rubyist, working on projects that matter to me, but also matter to the
many hard working, busy, and wonderful Ruby developers I’ve met over
the last several years.

== Why Me? ==

I can name a ton of Rubyists I’d say would be technically proficient
and community centric enough to take on this kind of effort. However,
I’ve been fortunate enough to have several unique experiences that
make me confident that I could do some great work on something like
this:

  • I have successfully participated as a Ruby Central Codefest Grant
    recipient in 2005 as well as a Google Summer of Code student in 2006
    (Ruport).

  • I have been very active in the community, so my work and
    contributions can easily be reviewed by anyone who wishes to do so.
    I’ve spoken at a number of Ruby users groups and conferences,
    including RubyConf 2006 in Denver, CO.

  • I have a deep passion for working on open source software, and place
    this interest ahead of making boatloads of money. Though I expect to
    do some minimal commercial work during the duration of this project, I
    have no problem making this project my primary focus for a while.

  • My living expenses are relatively low, and I do not have a full-time
    job, a family to take care of, or any other major commitments that
    would take me away from dedicating time to a project like this. For
    the record, I have endless admiration and respect for the hackers out
    there who are ‘doing it all’, though I don’t envy the complications
    that must arise from that.

  • I am very comfortable with candid, transparent discussions in
    public. This will be necessity for a project like this to succeed.

Because of these reasons, I think I’m the right person for this job. I
hope you do too.

=== Logistics ===

If you’re looking for the shiny stuff, such as the ideas for things I
want to work on, skip to the section below here, but here a few
important logistic details:

  1. I need to make at least $500/wk to cover my living expenses.

  2. I need to figure out whether I’ll be working on this project, and
    for how long, by April 1st. This will let me figure out how to
    re-arrange my commercial work so as to not conflict with this project.
    This means that I need to raise money rather quickly, just over 3
    weeks remain from the time of this posting.

  3. $500/wk is less than what I’d like to live on, and less than what I
    make. So I’ll accept donations up to $20000 for a 6 month period,
    even though $500/wk would put it at $13000. If I make less than that
    in donations by April 1st, and at least clear the cost of working two
    weeks, I have no problem working fewer weeks at $500/wk. This means
    that earlier donations will be ‘sustaining the project’, and later
    donations will be ‘supporting my comfort’.
    Though I would be quite happy to even be able to dedicate two weeks to
    this project, reaching the $20000 maximum would be phenomenal, as it’d
    make this hardly a sacrifice for me.

  4. Until April 1st, this is pretty much a process open to change and
    community suggestions. Please join this mailing list and ask
    questions / make suggestions, whether or not you choose to donate.
    http://groups.google.com/group/rubymendicant

=== Project Ideas ===

Here are some of the ideas I’ve cooked up, and I’m open for more
suggestions:

= Ruby 1.9 Field Medic.

Start with Ruport and tumble through dependencies, working on
compatibility issues. From there, work on helping with 1.9 support
where needed in projects like: ActiveRecord, mechanize, redcloth,
Camping, Merb, hpricot, highline, and maybe others. I’ve not checked
the 1.9 status of these projects, but I’m sure could come up with many
more if time permitted.

= A Six Month Nightmare with RubyForge.

Tons of bug reports!
Tons of feature requests!

No one likes PHP. But RubyForge is driving me insane. I would be
willing to fix it given the time and funding.
Uncovering Hidden Gems

I could request suggestions for various useful but under-documented or
less well known Ruby libraries, either third party or stdlib, and
write a large series of tutorials and quick references. The idea here
is that it would hopefully result in a large amount of documentation
being written, which would spark contributions to these many ‘hidden
gems’ in Ruby.

= First class PDF support in Ruby.

I’m currently maintaining PDF::Writer along with Mike Milner. The
library implements most of the PDF spec, and is incredibly useful.
However, it’s not very usable. It is slow, has API issues, and
countless bugs. The current plan is to maintain the library making
minor improvements when we can. A large time block would allow for
something better: A fast, thin, pretty rewrite. This would go a long
way to helping Ruby be a first choice for reporting software
development.

= From Lone Hacker to Community Leader.

I could work with newer or shy developers to help them get acquainted
with free software practices in general. I’d help people learn how to
package gems, set up mailing lists, do sane release

** Please send me more ideas! **

=== Summary / How To Help ===

If you’ve read through this long email and still want more detail,
my ‘official’ proposal is a bit longer and has some additional info:

http://rubymendicant.wikidot.com/proposal

If you’ve managed to get this far, you’re probably at least partially
interested in this project, and the most straightforward way you could
help is of course, make a donation:

http://pledgie.com/campaigns/571

I’m suggesting that $50 is a good number to shoot for, because if I
end up doing proportional voting for projects, that’s probably the
amounts I’ll split them up into. Of course, I welcome anything folks
wish to offer, so feel free to offer $5 or $500 if you wish.

There are other ways you can help. This project will depend entirely
on word of mouth and the support of the community. If you know my
work, or just think I’m a good guy, please tell your friends. Blog
posts linking to the proposal and donation page would be great.

Finally, if you’re skeptical but have constructive criticism you can
offer, or have ideas on how you think this should work, or are just
generally curious, please join this mailing list and get involved:

http://groups.google.com/group/rubymendicant

Thank you for those who’ve read all the way to the end of this long
email. I hope this project succeeds, and I look forward to working
directly for J. Random Rubyist starting in mid April!

-greg

Gregory B. wrote:

Hi folks,

I’ll contribute $10,000. Where should I send it?

7stud – wrote:

Gregory B. wrote:

Hi folks,

I’ll contribute $10,000. Where should I send it?

Never mind. I reread your post and now I’m really excited. I’ll
contribute $20,000. I’ve got a clearing agent in your country. He’ll
send you a check for $50,000. You cash the check and keep $20,000 for
your Ruby work, and then send the balance to me. Here is my address:

118 Maple Way
Shanty Town, Nigeria
100234

On Mar 9, 10:18 pm, 7stud – [email protected] wrote:

7stud – wrote:

Gregory B. wrote:

Hi folks,

I’ll contribute $10,000. Where should I send it?

Never mind. I reread your post and now I’m really excited. I’ll
contribute $20,000. I’ve got a clearing agent in your country. He’ll
send you a check for $50,000. You cash the check and keep $20,000 for
your Ruby work, and then send the balance to me. Here is my address:

Very entertaining, and I’m sure there are no legal issues involved in
that one :).

Those serious about donating can of course use Pledgie:
http://pledgie.com/campaigns/571

My hopes are that my Ruby friends who are familiar with my work and
contributions to the community will help me make this project a
reality, but I totally respect people who are afraid I’m scamming
them. Just please investigate the projects I’ve been involved with
before poking fun.

-greg

Gregory B. wrote:

On Mar 9, 10:18 pm, 7stud – [email protected] wrote:

7stud – wrote:

Gregory B. wrote:

Hi folks,

I’ll contribute $10,000. Where should I send it?

Never mind. I reread your post and now I’m really excited. I’ll
contribute $20,000. I’ve got a clearing agent in your country. He’ll
send you a check for $50,000. You cash the check and keep $20,000 for
your Ruby work, and then send the balance to me. Here is my address:

Very entertaining, and I’m sure there are no legal issues involved in
that one :).

Those serious about donating can of course use Pledgie:
http://pledgie.com/campaigns/571

My hopes are that my Ruby friends who are familiar with my work and
contributions to the community will help me make this project a
reality, but I totally respect people who are afraid I’m scamming
them. Just please investigate the projects I’ve been involved with
before poking fun.

-greg

Let me guess. You started playing p_oker online for fun. You won a few
$'s, so then you bought a book and started playing seriously. However,
your results weren’t as good as when you started. You lost money.
Since you knew you were a better player, you deposited more money. Then
you lost that. Then you lost more. Now you owe a bookie 20 large, and
you’re looking for new ways to raise ‘investment capital’.

Good luck.

FWIT, I’ve seen python sites which list programmers wanting to do
specific things, and will, if people wish to fund them. I believe people
with specific projects also show up there. It’s been a while, so I can’t
tell you more than this. I HAVE see the idea working, though. The trick
seems to be that someone says “I can do this cool thing, but not for
free”, and the “thing” sells itself to a community of interest. Enough
people buy in, and it’s launched.

Good luck.

t.

On Mar 9, 2008, at 9:39 PM, Tom C. wrote:

FWIT, I’ve seen python sites which list programmers wanting to do
specific things, and will, if people wish to fund them.

Yeah, kind of like putting a bounty on a project, in reverse. Greg’s
project seems much large in scope, but along similar lines.

James Edward G. II

Exactly - that’s the idea: “I’ll do the following for $XX.” THEN people
know what they’re buying into, and that’s much more inviting than simply
putting money on the table for…for… what?? People will respond to
specifics best, I think.

t.

On Mar 9, 10:39 pm, Tom C. [email protected] wrote:

FWIT, I’ve seen python sites which list programmers wanting to do
specific things, and will, if people wish to fund them. I believe people
with specific projects also show up there. It’s been a while, so I can’t
tell you more than this. I HAVE see the idea working, though. The trick
seems to be that someone says “I can do this cool thing, but not for
free”, and the “thing” sells itself to a community of interest. Enough
people buy in, and it’s launched.

That’s certainly what I’m hoping for here.

As one of the lead devs of Ruby Reports[0], I’ve had literally 100s of
people tell me about their difficulties with PDF::Writer. So one of
the cool things I’m suggesting is to give the library a clean
rewrite. Currently Mike Milner and myself have taken over maintenance
on that project, because Austin is too busy these days. While we can
manage to fix bugs here and there, we don’t have the time to rewrite
it for free. That’s one thing this could fund.

Also, we want to get Ruport running on 1.9, and there are a ton of
projects I use I’d love to see 1.9 compatible. That’s another idea.

Finally, as a RubyForge staffer monitoring the support forums, I know
there are a lot of problems with RubyForge that need fixing. So I’m
throwing that up as an idea as well. Basically, I’ve tried to target
things I feel already affect a lot of people, in the hopes that having
a reasonably well known Ruby hacker work on them for some dedicated
period of time sounds attractive.

However, if I’ve missed the mark with these projects, I’d basically be
willing to work on whatever people suggested, so long as it’s
something I find cool.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and keep an eye on the
project ideas[1] page to see what folks cook up.

-greg

[0] http://rubyreports.org
[1] http://rubymendicant.wikidot.com/project-ideas

On Mar 10, 2:06 am, Tom C. [email protected] wrote:

Exactly - that’s the idea: “I’ll do the following for $XX.” THEN people
know what they’re buying into, and that’s much more inviting than simply
putting money on the table for…for… what?? People will respond to
specifics best, I think.

The only issue is that most of the projects I’ve targeted are as James
mentioned, large scale. So there is a bit of a commitment on my end,
as I’ll need to be sure I can pay rent for the amount of time I’m
taking off. That having been said, I’ve listed project ideas here:

http://rubymendicant.wikidot.com/project-ideas

I’m going to keep this list relatively small and ‘general community
centric’ in the hopes that anyone who donates, even if they prefer one
project over the other, would be happy seeing most or any of these get
worked on. Those who have concerns about that, can catch up on the
mailing list I’ve started and help me weed out ideas that aren’t
generally useful enough.

Reverse bounties work pretty good for projects of small to mid-size
scale, but I’m really targeting the things that seem to never get done
in an organized fashion. This is of course, an experiment, but I hope
it’s one that works out well.

On Mon, Mar 10, 2008 at 2:50 AM, Gregory B.
[email protected] wrote:

Through the donations of community members, I would like to put my
commercial and personal software projects on the back burner for a
prolonged period of time (3-6 months), and focus on working on open
source projects that are of high importance to the majority of
Rubyists.

I hope you can put in at least a month. Good luck!

On Mar 10, 3:46 am, Gregory B. [email protected] wrote:

Hi folks,

I’ve been prone to having crazy ideas before, but this one is my
[…]

It’s not a problem of money, but a problem of humans.

so, you need to work on the ruby community, in order to get a better
ruby.

http://case.lazaridis.com/wiki/RubyAudit

.

Gregory,

Just had a thought. This whole idea might generate more heat if it were
bigger - I’d like to see a place where problems and people could meet,
and the interested community could register and vote, to express their
interest. This would involve much more than one programmer, of course,
but that’s part of what would drive interest of the community in
general. The focus would probably end up being the more difficult,
unsolved, high-value problems.

This is probably too idealized, but I like the concept, and it could
serve us all well. It would embody a key notion: pro bono work can only
get so much done, after that, people have to get paid, somehow.

t.

On Mar 10, 10:02 am, Tom C. [email protected] wrote:

This is probably too idealized, but I like the concept, and it could
serve us all well. It would embody a key notion: pro bono work can only
get so much done, after that, people have to get paid, somehow.

I’ll definitely have this in mind for the the future, and it’s a good
idea for sure. It’s tough to convince people to clear 3-6 months
without having a guinea pig do a test run first. :slight_smile:

I’m happy to be that guinea pig. While it’s true I’m just one person,
often a lot is accomplished by one person when they have a dedicated
period of time. My experience in Google Summer of Code was like
that. However, there is a lot to be said for working in pairs or a
group as well.

This is a great idea, and please keep in touch with me if you flesh
the ideas out.

-greg

On Mar 10, 5:17 am, Thomas W. [email protected] wrote:

I hope you can put in at least a month. Good luck!
Things are looking optimistic. If all the folks who emailed me pledge
what they suggested they would, we’ll clear that no problem.
I also am talking to some people about larger scale donations, more on
that as I find out…

Thanks for your support.

Gregory B. wrote:

Hi folks,

Hi.

If you’ve already seen discussion of this idea elsewhere, and are just
wondering where to donate, head to:

http://pledgie.com/campaigns/571

Pledged.

Best wishes,

On Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 12:15:12AM +0900, Gregory B. wrote:

I hope you can put in at least a month. Good luck!

Things are looking optimistic. If all the folks who emailed me pledge
what they suggested they would, we’ll clear that no problem.
I also am talking to some people about larger scale donations, more on
that as I find out…

Thanks for your support.

Didn’t Chad announce at RubyConf this past year that RubyCentral wanted
to fund
projects exactly along these lines? I’m not sure where things are on
that front.

enjoy,

-jeremy

On Mar 10, 4:19 am, Bil K. [email protected] wrote:

Pledged.
Thanks Bil!

On Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 3:16 PM, Jeremy H.
[email protected] wrote:

Didn’t Chad announce at RubyConf this past year that RubyCentral wanted to fund
projects exactly along these lines? I’m not sure where things are on that front.

Ruby Central supports it, see
http://rubymendicant.wikidot.com/ruby-central-press-release
They will match donations up to 5000$.

On Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:16:10PM +0900, Jeremy H. wrote:

Rubyists.***
Didn’t Chad announce at RubyConf this past year that RubyCentral wanted to fund
projects exactly along these lines? I’m not sure where things are on that front.

You must be talking about some other Chad than me.

By the way, if someone wants to solicit funding, “fundable” might be a
good place to get started:

http://fundable.org/

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