The burden of keeping things private

Submitted by dag on Thu, 2009/07/30 - 17:43

Now that the cat is out of the bag I can discuss one part of what bothered me within the CentOS project for more than 2 years. Something which was unknown to outsiders, but also not discussable inside of the project because of the fear of the repercussions of bringing up this topic during a meeting. If you cannot discuss, you cannot fix.

The CentOS project does not have any recurring expenses, the project works with volunteers. And those volunteers pay with their own time, their own resources and sometimes travel expenses (for those who joined one of the promotion events). The project does get hardware and bandwidth donations and they are very valuable. In the end there is no need for money to keep the project running as-is.

But that of course does not mean that money couldn't help grow the project and that is why (I think) initially when the project was set up there was an effort to raise money. Google adsense, sponsorship on the website and even Paypal donations from users. How much, I cannot say because I don't know. I heard some vague numbers, likely in the 4 digits EUR range per month but real figures are only known by one person.

For at least three years people were donating money and sponsors were paying for website ads while the money was not flowing into the project, where it went to I can only guess. Raising the question was a risk to the project so everybody stayed quiet for the sake of the project hoping it would resolve itself. But this evidently has a burden on its volunteers, especially those that do invest their time and effort into the project.

Sadly such things never resolve themselves, they only get more ugly. I commend the project for coming clean and I didn't expect it would happen as quick as it did. But once the financial issues are resolved, there is a lot of work to turn the project into a real community project that can release even when one person is out of office, that is owned by a foundation and that makes the best use of the power of its the community.

Keywords here are trust, delegation and leadership (all three go together).

All in all, this is very good news from the CentOS project team ! Hope to see the first CentOS elections in 2009 ;-)

good prescription

This strategy makes sense for almost everybody involved in the CentOS project. I suspect that the contents of the PayPal account won't be recovered by the project, but it has trust and brand, and being well-managed will only add to its prowess. Recovering the domain name is the critical piece - potentially breaking updates and losing the brand aren't great options.

You and may of the signatories to the open letter have well-respected, hard-earned reputations due to your commitment and hard work for the linux community. I hope once this is resolved you'll consider to rejoining the development effort. The fire of greatness always starts with a single spark.

Cause for fear?


Could you elaborate, in more detail, as to what or who was the cause for all that fear?

Thanks for sharing.

Can't believe

Hi Dag,
Really sad to hear such news. I hope you are note blinded and biased by some personal conflicts inside the project. If there indeed is such an issue, as you are suggesting, I think it's necessary to clarify the problem. I convinced my company to donate some hardware to the project, and now I feel really confused. Who in the project would be able to put the light on the problem?

"I hope you are note blinded

"I hope you are note blinded and biased by some personal conflicts inside the project. If there indeed is such an issue, as you are suggesting, I think it's necessary to clarify the problem."

As someone who did some (too few) promotional events for CentOS together with Dag, I can assure you that he is not. Currently the CentOS project is completely intransparent to outsiders.

I bring some examples for intransparency:
* How is the distribution build? If I want to build my own "CentOS" from the Red Hat sources, how to do?
* Development of CentOS Plus is pretty much intransparent (at least to me): How is maintainer of which package? Where is the Version Control for the spec files? Where can I see the build infrastructure?
* Release process of new CentOS versions is intransparent. No-one outside of the very core team knows how many packages are already rebuilt and what the state is.

The most intransparent thing is finances where no-one except Lance knows how much money there is and how it is spent.


Rejoining the team?

I have got to assume that your recent resignation from the CentOS team was due in large part to the issues have recently become public.

Once the CentOS project settles and reorganizes (and it appears that it will, with or without Lance), is it safe to assume that you will be willing to re-join the team assuming your concerns with the current situation are addressed?

I don't know. Is there

I don't know. Is there something I can do the enforce CentOS from within the team ? At least outside of the team I don't have any responsibility and I can speak more freely :-)

Maybe that is more important in general. Why would you be interested to see me in the CentOS team again ?

Every team needs a Dag. ;) I

Every team needs a Dag. ;)

I don't like this about Linux: I have worked in post production studios for years, having moved a large studio onto CentOS when they were looking at RedHat (switching from Irix)then having to get the various applications that were needed by the artists that required many updated dependencies, I ended up in build hell - it was not worse than trying to get software to build on Irix mind you. Your RPM's bailed me out and saved me many an hour of head scratching and cursing.

I don't know if this is something that you can enhance the team by, but I guess if you're willing to put that sort of effort towards the general community, then CentOS could only benefit from your insight and dedication. If the general community is server better by your independence, then I'd support that 100%. I understand being outside gives freedom to criticize, I for one love to bitch. :)

Thanks Dag.

You can always quit again if a similar problem arises

I assume that this issue played a large part in your decision to depart.

I suspect that it is no coincidence the issue became public shortly after you left, and that your leaving caused the rest of the team to decide to make things public before other members also left.

We would like to see you back because you (as did the other members of the team) made important contributions to the project.

It's unlikely that a similar issue will arise again because measures to prevent it will be but in place. But if a similar issue does arise then you can always leave the project again so that you have the freedom to criticise.

From we can the most problems are to be resolved soon

From we can the most problems are to be resolved soon. I do really hope that you'll rejoin the team.
I used CentOS as my first choice among Linux distributions and your rpm repository saved me many times.
Thank you so much for your great work!

I think of your RPM

I think of your RPM repository as a high-quality "3rd party vendor" to the CentOS distribution. So just as a major software vendors work with the prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor to make sure things function smoothly, rpmforge should work with CentOS to keep the packaging well maintained.

I understand that developers

I understand that developers are hardly interested in formal side of project management :) however lack of attitude in this area has tremendous effects in case of conflict...

make a foundation! :) not in USA be smarter... Luxembourg or Isle of Man (like Canonical)

explain the Community why... zero IP/software patents risk and flexible tax/accounting regulations

ask for help... lots of business entities like hosting companies, sys integrators which provide services build on top of centos understands that their future depends on that Project...

wish u best

Great job, good luck

I would like to say that CentOS really rocks and has been allowing us to start a saas business with very little funding.

Thank you for honesty and dedication to put the project back on track.

best whishes

Legal action

If as you say there was possibly 1000 + EUR per month coming into the project for 3 + years, that makes a fairly sizable chunk of cash, certainly if CentOS or a derivative, is going to get retooled by the developers that cash could be to your advantage. I'm not sure what the law is, or even which jurisdiction it would fall under, but if sponsors donated money under the assumption that it would go to the project, when it fact it didn't, that seems awfully like fraud to me. I'm not sure you know, or if there even are plans for what to do if the money and domain are not recovered but I certainly wouldn't just try to move on without a fight.

One commentator described it

One commentator described it as 'handbags out at 5ft'. There's certainly some truth in that. You're all behaving like a spoilt bunch of kids.

Get real.

Business and other users want CentOS because it's RedHat-like but most of all it's free. You don't need to pay Redhat their subscription - which makes it more expensive than Microsoft Windows over time. It's not about some nice, warm, sharing community philosophy. You're all being used.

The guys left at CentOS need to get their act together. They've got an intellectual investment in the product. Lance has been a very silly boy again. Now take some legal steps to take over the 'company' from Lance, get some financial input stream to pay for your continued existence, and let's get on with life. Otherwise shares in RedHat sound a good investment as their subscription income is likely to increase with the next release.


I personally would like to see you revive the Tao distro. Is there any chance of that?

Why don't you join Red Hat?

Dag -

Since Red Hat is the one actually spending all the hard dollars on R&D, hardening, packaging, upstream commits and the like, why don't you go to work there? I'm sure they'd love to have you, and you can actually help make sure that the real developers of RHEL get paid instead of getting ripped off by CentOS.

I Love Centos - Ik hou van Centos

Hoi Dag,

Ik ben helemaal nieuw op Centos but I like Centos very much. I use it on a VPS.

Can anyone explain what needs to happen to the RH programs before they become Centos programs ? What is necessary for the conversion.

Groetjes uit Engeland.