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03.26.19

Guest Post: The Linux Foundation Needs to Define “Support”

Posted in GNU/Linux at 4:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THE FOLLOWING post is a guest post, which forms part of an ongoing series of articles we do about the Linux Foundation with an investigation underway. We have been receiving a lot of feedback and tips.

As one person put it yesterday: “Since Microsoft joined all of this love for Linux, I was also wondering how come no other media, linux dedicated channels ect.. talked about this very subject. Microsoft is infiltrating Linux to have it’s way with it. Linux Foundation is now off my books of being an advocate for Linux.”

We don’t mean to bash the Linux Foundation; rather, constructively, our goal is to understand what it is and what it does (or who for).


An interesting conversation in our community often centers on what support, investment or returns our projects are receiving from corporations that use our code for profit.

 

The Linux Foundation has member companies that are making a huge profit from open source projects. Companies like AWS, Google and Microsoft are part of the membership with the Linux Foundation. The list of companies/members is found at:

https://www.linuxfoundation.org/membership/members/

 

In 2012, the Linux Foundation numbers were as listed below.

 

Total Revenue

$17,123,662

Total Functional Expenses $16,195,531
Net income $928,131
Notable sources of revenue Percent of total revenue
Contributions $8,255,747 48.2%
Program services $8,781,221 51.3%
Investment income $22,566 0.1%
Bond proceeds $0
Royalties $0
Rental property income $0
Net fundraising $0
Sales of assets -$37,171
Net inventory sales $0
Other revenue $101,299 0.6%
Notable expenses Percent of total expenses
Executive compensation $1,291,777 8.0%
Professional fundraising fees $0
Other salaries and wages $3,330,574 20.6%
Other
Total Assets $14,731,225
Total Liabilities $4,579,960
Net Assets $10,151,265

Form 990 IRS

 

In 2016, the number are as listed below.

 

Total Revenue

$61,085,552

Total Functional Expenses $51,733,209
Net income $9,352,343
Notable sources of revenue Percent of total revenue
Contributions $0
Program services $60,908,388 99.7%
Investment income $117,563 0.2%
Bond proceeds $0
Royalties $0
Rental property income $0
Net fundraising $0
Sales of assets $0
Net inventory sales $0
Other revenue $59,601 0.1%
Notable expenses Percent of total expenses
Executive compensation $4,236,621 8.2%
Professional fundraising fees $0
Other salaries and wages $20,934,840 40.5%
Other
Total Assets $39,714,654
Total Liabilities $11,078,045
Net Assets $28,636,609

Form 990 IRS

 

I was surprised to discover the Linux Foundation making claims of supporting inclusiveness.

 

Here you can browse a list of “featured organizations that the Linux Foundation supports”.

https://www.linuxfoundation.org/about/diversity-inclusiveness/programs/

 

Supports is an interesting word. What is the definition of “support” (as a verb).

 

sup·port

/səˈpôrt/

verb

verb: support; 3rd person present: supports; past tense: supported; past participle: supported; gerund or present participle: supporting

give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act.

“the government gives $2.5 billion a year to support the activities of the voluntary sector”

synonyms: help, aid, assist;

 

Is support the right word here?

 

Perhaps the depth and breadth of support is a little more clear when we see responses from some of these partner organizations the Linux Foundation “supports”.

 

Kids on Computers - Online learning discounts (for schools with no internet in Mexico)

 

An example of the support came in the way of discounts for online courses for kids on computers, a project in financial jeopardy last year. Volunteers serve schools in Mexico by setting up computer labs in offline areas, with offline content servers. Needless to say, according to one volunteer, none of the discounts for online learning was used, yet.

 

Outreachy – Sponsorship for travel to Linux Foundation Conferences

 

Let that sink in. That’s right, the Linux Foundation sponsors travel to its events for people speaking about their work in group sessions and giving lightning talks – at Linux Foundation events.

 

You can see all of our sponsor’s support levels (LF and LF projects
like Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Ceph Foundation included) by
looking at their logo placements on the Outreachy main site (we publish
information about our sponsorship levels at

https://www.outreachy.org/sponsor/)

LF itself didn’t sponsor this last round, but they did the one before that, last year.

“Other than Red Hat’s generous contribution of Marina’s time, we haven’t really gotten non-monetary contributions from sponsors. We’ve never received any discounts on training or advertising from LF that I can recall. Linux Foundation does frequently support travel of Outreachy alums to its conferences in the way they fund the travel of many of their regular session speakers, such as travel of Linux kernel alums, who have done lightning talks about their work in group sessions at Open Source Summits.”

- Karen Sandler, Outreachy

So, it seems like the Linux Foundation did not even support this year, yet Outreachy is listed as a featured organization the Linux Foundation “supports”. Supports seems to indicate the present or something it is currently doing. This seems like misrepresentation.

CodeChix – asked what my intent was in gathering the research before answering any questions.

 

Good to hear from you. My name is Rupa Dachere and I lead CodeChix.

Might I ask the intent behind your questions?”

 

Blacks in Technology – not only would not respond but suggested we ask Linux Foundation.

 

Thanks for reaching out to BIT. I am not sure what this is about but I would suggest you reach out to someone at the Linux Foundation regarding your questions.”

 

This gentleman had a great idea!

Let’s ask the Linux Foundation.

 

Linux Foundation, can we see how you support these organizations on the same page as you list the groups? Thanks in advance!

 

The only other response was an automated response to an online contact form.

 

The Linux Foundation has a few projects that may keep these companies/members busy enough to believe the contributions are going to community. In actuality it looks like contributions could support projects from within the Linux Foundation. Of course, there is the exception of the “support” to these inclusiveness featured organizations.

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