Snowball: Getting Community Initiatives Rolling- Coordinating and Funding Drupal Projects - 2011 November Sprint Day 1

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At the undisclosed location of the Pirate Ship in Somerville we came together to follow up on many discussions at Drupal events over the years and launch into coding-- and spent the day discussing.

Day 1 Participants:

Boz Hogan
Mary Maguire
Allie Micka
Jer Davis
RJ Steinert
Nathaniel Hoag
Mitchell Tannenbaum
Benjamin Melançon
Stefan Unterhauser (he came with the place)

After a great deal of talk, most agreed that a unique capability we can bring is:

Community Driven Project Planning

(Snowball will work on bringing other people together to define the who, what, when, and perhaps a little how of a project, not do project management.)

Snowball would love to help the Drupal community come together to fund a whole Drupal distribution or a Drupal core initiative, for example, but will focus now on the bottom of the market-- coordinating a relatively few people with modest needs and means.


  • Workflow states
  • Nascent / in planning phase (draft?)
  • Discussing / determining features
  • At some point these get "locked in"
  • Fundable -> has a date and a time
  • "In progress?"
  • "Funded" (transitions when goal is met before deadline)
  • "Funding not met" (transitions when goal is not met by deadline)
  • Types of information
  • "Story" / testimonial / use case
  • Non-technical participants can weigh in with information on how it would be useful for them
  • Examples

Goals/features/ideas overall

  • Distinguish between technical conversation and non-technical conversation
  • "Needs" conversations / use cases
  • "Features" conversations / implementations
  • Can be interrelated, but not inter-mixed
  • Allow project owners to curate discussions
  • "Moods" on discussions -> "This is going really well"

RJ: What is unique about what we offer?

Similar to a project page on d.o. What is different about it? On d.o it is for life. We are talking about the birth of a project, and curating it through the three phases of this growth cycle, and doing something different in that life cycle to help that project come alive.

  1. project proposal, features discussed, community participation
  2. community buy-in, how to do it.
  3. Resource coordination

Allie: We should conflate phase one and two. We want to organically guide people into the process, of posting user stories, of figuring out requirements.

Verified supporters choose a product owner to represent their wishes for the project.

Who gets money and when is set out. Snowball can distribute money to multiple sources for a single project. This information can be entered by multiple people but all participants in the project must sign on to the participant list, schedule, budget etc. before the project enters funding mode.

Things that have to be in place for the project to be ready for funding could include:
* Use cases and Implementation (technical specs)
* Sustainability model for the proposed project

Note: Most supporters care about use cases, not creating a broadly useful API. See

Will cost $X.
Will be done by these people.
Will take this long.

Governance means knowing we have filled these roles, that some due diligence has been done on the budget.

General end goals relevant here: We really want to build in an incentive / easy way to communicate immediately when something is behind schedule or difficulties are run into.

Site features:
- when proposing a project idea, the site automatically searches previous ideas (and outside sources?)

Successful Project:
- Project goals defined
- Project goals achieved to the satisfaction of its supporters
- Transparent workflow.
- Timeline
- Code, documentation, reportback etc. GPL/CreativeCommons and on *

Prior art for idea-gathering:

  • Does this idea have any buy-in? And from whom-- people with experience and a record of delivering?
1.  Initiation
  - Who are you
  - What do you want
  - What resources do you have
2.  Gather
3.  Fundable description
4.  Funding

It would be kind of nice to be able to collect money for small features

People should be able support particular use cases, which can be pulled into multiple projects! And you are alerted at each stage of that-- brought into a project, project is ready for funding, project funded.

'workspaces'-- having the projects themselves evolve on the site

how do you get karma or buy-in from people that's not strictly based on marketing you've done?

"this is a nascent idea, which i'd like to do these things"

Project reaches ready-for-funding state

It reaches the ready-for-funding state, it gets to 60 days or whatever the timeline said ti should get-- but it doesn't make the funding goal by deadline. It gets unfrozen. Features, roles, budget, etc. can be changed. The participants have to be asked if they are ready, and then everyone is asked if their pledges are still valid, and funding can continue.

For a project that should be done in phases, we use the same tools as for a full project, that works as a phase of a larger project.

There should be requirements as well as use cases? As in, using Drupal 7 is a requirement.

Allie: We can pre-fill - suggest - requirements

Really cool if on roll-out of this we had a project that really made a splash in the Drupal community.

Our use cases should include helping with:

Core initiative
Documentation sprint

Boz: I could propose an awesome idea, and then take all Maui [and suddenly his chair half falls apart. Moral: If you try to steal community money, God will crush you with one thumb.]

Allie: Collect enough information, the correct information, in the project proposal, that people trust what it's going to do, and the disbursement approaches in that proposal must match the scale of the project, or it should be obvious to people not to fund. This is ultimately the decision of the funders.

How much?

The site will automate allowing proposals to rise to the top according to how complete they are.

It will be in the implementation discussion for a use case if someone shows that there is existing work that should be built on, but how does that get shown with sufficient weight? In the gather information, have a prior art section.

See a start at User stories (specifications) and requirements for Snowball: Getting Community Initiatives Rolling

See also the Prior Art (Precedent Study).

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The General Problem

mgifford's picture

So where is this now? I feel like in the xkcd example the guy developing the system went home. What happened to this initiative?


mlncn's picture

Thanks for the ping, Mike.

After raising $1K and that not being enough money to actually hire anyone and none of the original participants and his project has stalled. I recommend the coincidentally-named Snowdrift Cooperative: Crowdmatching for Public Goods.

Here's a generic version of what i sent out to our dozen donors at the end of September last year:

Belated Drupal Snowball crowdfund update and apology

Thank you for your generous donation, on 2012 March 12, to the crowdfunding campaign "Snowball: Getting Community Initiatives in Free Software Rolling" to help build a central, wholly not-for-profit and transparent gathering space for ideas and needs to gain clarity and gain the support and resources to become real initiatives in Drupal and Free Software generally. I apologize to you that we never built that, or even got very close.

The not-for-profit People Who Give a Damn has been holding the $1,000 raised. The funds have been well invested in my guilt at being too busy helping run a cooperative web dev business rather than making the Drupal initiative site we all wanted. Fortunately the business has been successful enough that we can try to make things up a little:

1. The full $1,000 plus interest will be donated to — a similarly named, and similarly intentioned, organization that has been making slow progress.

2. If you choose to accept it, i will gladly fund your membership in which is where my thinking at least has gone for how to fund free software and put the people most affected by use of software in control of decisions — a software cooperative and a platform cooperative. A lifetime membership in the software cooperative ($500) and a one-year membership in the platform cooperative ($600).

3. If you'd also like your money back since it wasn't used for its stated purpose, i can send it to you or make a donation to whichever of the mind-numbingly large number of needs there are in the world right now you would like.

Thank you for reading this far, and i'm sorry for the lack of communication compounding the failure to execute. According to my religion, i have... until sunset today to make things right with every person i have wronged. Last minute and starting with transgressions from five years ago... i thank you for your time.


benjamin melançon

benjamin, agaric

mlncn's picture

Which it wasn't at all when we did our work. But it would be really good to translate some of what we learned in our extensive planning to the work on funding Drupal work through voluntary donations now:

benjamin, agaric

Actually the reason we're again talking about the platform

gusaus's picture

Heya Ben!

I think Mike reached out in reference to what I recently posted here

Would be great if you provide a quick update/followup there as that post and subsequent comments seem to focus more on what the initial resources (funds + volunteer/contributor time) were going towards.

There are definitely more models for sustaining open source projects, communities, and contributors. Many, including Drupal, would benefit from an #OSS platform like Snowball.

Gus Austin