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I for one am very happy indeed to see the work the Ada Initiative is doing, and the idea that such important work should be backed by salaries and travel funding doesn't seem like a bad one to me.
I look forward to sending them some money soon.
An update on the Ada Initiative
Posted Dec 20, 2011 11:00 UTC (Tue) by ekj (guest, #1524)
But it's still smart to hire people now and then.
Posted Dec 21, 2011 3:24 UTC (Wed) by nanday (subscriber, #51465)
However, according to TAI's press release (http://lwn.net/Articles/449315/) over $80,000 was raised in its Seed 100 campaign. Linux Australia donated $5000 (http://www.linux.org.au/news/linux-australia-news/linux-a...), and Puppet Labs (http://puppetlabs.com/blog/puppet-labs-supports-the-ada-i...) and two or three organizations donated undisclosed amounts as well. These sources make an estimated total income of around $100,000 (excluding services in kind) seem a reasonable guess. The exact figure probably depends on how (or whether) you count donations in kind.
Whatever the exact figure, TAI's blog states that it spent about $15,000 in legal fees in trying to incorporate as a non-profit (http://adainitiative.org/2011/11/what-we-did-with-your-do...). No other expenses are itemized, but assuming another $15,000 seems reasonable, based on my experience with business startups. That leaves something like $60,000-70,000 spent on salaries and travel -- probably mostly on salaries, since some payment in kind was apparently in travel costs (http://adainitiative.org/sponsors-and-supporters/donors-i...)
While incurring these expenses, TAI conducted two surveys (one unpublished), intervened to encourage O'Reilly Media to develop an anti-harassment code of conduct, and planned a number of future projects, including a barcamp-like event scheduled for January, and a couple of web pages of resources (http://adainitiative.org/2011/11/what-we-did-with-your-do...). In addition, TAI encouraged some conferences to adopt an anti-harassment policy (although not, I believe, most of the thirty or more of those known to have done so). These activities were in addition to the preliminary organization and setup.
Although TAI itself lists among its credits the development of templates for an anti-harassment policy, that work was announced on November 29, 2010, several months before TAI was founded. In fact, to me, it is an example of how much can be done without salaried staff.
Let me emphasize that I am by no stretch of the imagination accusing TAI's founders of any dishonesty; to the contrary, I believe them to be honest and sincere in their efforts. In Aurora's case, working for TAI may actually have been a decline in income, considering that her previous position was at Red Hat; if so, you can't ask for a greater indication of sincerity than that.
Nor do I think what TAI has done is by any means completely worthless. Furthermore, although I admit to being a disillusioned former supporter, I still believe that increasing the participation of women in free technology and culture is a worthwhile and vital goal.
However, I do weigh the money spent against the accomplishments and wonder whether the money was usefully spent, or even necessary to accomplish what has been done to date. To state the obvious, money spent on TAI's routine expenses mean less money for the causes themselves.
Admittedly, as another poster commented, you can make the same critique of any organization with paid staff. But when most people give to charity, they prefer those with the smallest overhead. Although new charities typically have higher overheads than established ones, 60-70% overhead still seems rather high to me.
When I review what TAI has actually done, as opposed to what it is planning to do, the one thing I think it has done that a volunteer organization couldn't do is to convince O'Reilly Media to promise a code of conduct. That was well done, but I wish more examples of the same kind could be cited.
As I said in my original article, TAI could still turn itself around, or reinvent itself. Since many people are looking to it to help change things, I hope it does. But for me, the gap between what it should be and what it presently is appears so large that I can only characterize its first year as a disappointment.
I have laid out my reasoning here as completely as possible, so everyone can make up their own minds about the issues raised. Until TAI publishes its complete financial records, that is all anyone can do.
However, since I have no wish for a flame war, I will try to limit my replies to corrections of fact or fuller explanations, if any are requested or needed.
Posted Dec 21, 2011 3:26 UTC (Wed) by nanday (subscriber, #51465)
Posted Dec 21, 2011 5:51 UTC (Wed) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
Posted Dec 21, 2011 4:31 UTC (Wed) by nanday (subscriber, #51465)
Posted Dec 21, 2011 11:31 UTC (Wed) by njwhite (subscriber, #51848)
I was referring to the way that the article mentions a controversial issue, then just links to one or two articles saying essentially "some people agree, others do not," generally emphasising the side who were most negative.
Which wasn't very interesting to me, in general. That said, it wasn't a bad overview of some of the issues of the last year. I suppose I wanted a bit more than just a "this happened, some liked it, others did not" sort of a thing.
I was happy to see you mention the GNOME Outreach Program for Women, by the way; they do indeed appear to be doing great things. I too hope (and expect) that the Ada Initiative work closely with them, in particular setting up similar mentoring and internship type programmes.
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