Questions Regarding Community Donation Program

Harald Sitter apachelogger at
Mon Jun 1 21:05:23 UTC 2015

On Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 6:27 PM, Michael Hall <mhall119 at> wrote:
> Harald,
> Sorry again for the delay, I have been trying to respond to all of the
> inquiring around this and related topics in a timely manner, but some
> have taken more time than others. Also apologize for misspelling your
> name :)

No worries :) Thanks again for the answers and your effort on this.
I'll be traveling the next couple of days, so it might take me until
Thursday or Friday to reply.

I am again dropping fully answered questions for overview.

> On 05/29/2015 11:26 AM, Harald Sitter wrote:
>> On Thu, May 28, 2015 at 10:19 PM, Michael Hall <mhall119 at> wrote:
>>> On 05/28/2015 12:18 PM, Harald Sitter wrote:
>>>> 0. I think it would help a great deal if the community could get an
>>>> outline of how exactly the donation process works. To that extent a
>>>> lot of the question below seek to better understand how it works,
>>>> where money goes and how it eventually ends up in an applicant's bank
>>>> account. Could you perhaps document the process either on the funding
>>>> page on or somewhere else so the community as well as
>>>> possible donors know exactly how the process works and how money ends
>>>> up where it ends up?
>>> The basic process is discussed on
>>>, if that needs
>>> additional clarification please let us know what and we can add it.
>> It probably could do with some clarification at least.
>> That being said, I think writing "Canonical Community Team" instead of
>> simply "Community Team" already would go a long way. Possibly also
>> rephrasing the first paragraph's end to something like " donate
>> money to Canonical for use by the Ubuntu community.".
> Thanks for the suggestions, I've changed the wording on that page to
> clarify this better. Please look it over and let me know if you have any
> other recommendations.

Thank you. I'll set some time apart during the week to have a complete
read and get back to you. But at a glance it looks much better now.

>>>> 3.1. In case the answer entails relying on numbers coming out of
>>>> Canonical. Is there a process in place to verify the correctness of
>>>> these numbers to ensure everyone is working with accurate numbers and
>>>> no one made a mistake along the line? For example: can the UCC request
>>>> a look at the actual books pertaining to the public community funding?
>>> No, Canonical is trusted to be honest and transparent in this. We have
>>> already published one correction where we found that a mistake was made,
>>> and will do so anytime in the future a mistake is discovered.
>>> If there is any question of Canonical's honesty in these reports, those
>>> questions and any supporting evidence behind them should be brought to
>>> the attention of the Community Council.
>> As pointed out in my final comment of the original mail, I do not
>> think a trust argument should be a factor in financial matters. I do
>> trust my bank to not screw me on my savings account, that doesn't mean
>> I shouldn't check if the balance indeed is what it should be. Equally
>> most governments (supposedly ;)) trust their citizens and corporations
>> to file correct tax reports, they do still conduct audits though.
>> At present we appear to have no transparent auditing mechanism in
>> place and that is unsetting. Not because I believe there to be a
>> problem, but because I cannot prove either that there isn't or that
>> there is. We do not know the actual accounted incoming donation
>> numbers, we also do not know who has or has not requested funding, nor
>> do we know who has or has not received funding. All we know is what is
>> in the reports and those could be mistakenly or intentionally false
>> and given that we have no reference numbers outside those in the
>> reports there is no way for us to know whether they are false until
>> someone within the Canonical community team or the Ubuntu community
>> (in case of actual errors in disbursement reporting) identifies them
>> as such.
>> Just like one can only make certain deductions from comparing balance
>> sheets, the community can only make certain deductions from comparing
>> the funding reports. In both cases one can observe trends, correctness
>> however is nigh impossible to verify.
>> Could a proper auditing process WRT the community fund be subject of
>> discussion at some point?
> Honestly I don't think it will be worth the overhead. The amount of
> donations seems to have tapered off after that first quarter.

According to the lump-sum report Oct 2012 to Apr 2013 generated 48k,
that's 24k per quarter (assuming equal distribution) and then it went
to 15k. That is somewhat odd, now if only someone audited and also
found it odd and investigated why exactly that happened ;)

At any rate, since Apr 2013 donation income seems to have been pretty
stable between 12-14k (with outliers at 10k and 17k apparently). I
would hardly call that tapering off to be honest, from Q1-Q2-Q3 there
was a decrease apparently, the five quarters since then have been
stable though. In fact, the fund volume kept growing ever since public
reporting was introduced, so that should be a good sign.
But I think I get your point. The overall incoming amount isn't too
exciting, even more so considering that the 3 sliders previously
generated about 71k per quarter (again, assuming equal distribution).

> We made an
> effort to keep the management process behind the community donations as
> light-weight as possible because of this. We provide a fairly detailed
> report for the use of the Community slider donations, and so far there
> doesn't seem to have been any interest on details of the other sliders
> still in use.

But Canonical is not opposed to potentially discussing
improvements/changes in the future?

Since currently only Kubuntu contributors seems to have a keen
interest in more transparency of the donation process and I doubt
Kubuntu people would do an annual audit, I agree that at least for now
the overhead doesn't seem to be very practical.

I made my preference clear. I do also appreciate that a structure
where donations go to a not-for-profit and are handled with greater
community involvement would probably require legal and tax wrangling
to get set up, but most of all commitment and interest from the
community that presently doesn't appear to be there.

So all I am asking is whether this is something that can be discussed
in the future if more demand were to arise in the community at large.

>>>> 4.1. Are measures to make reporting more reliable already being
>>>> discussed? In particular with regards to the fact that the incoming
>>>> numbers for Q1-2 2013 were incorrect and funding being accounted for
>>>> that has not actually taken place.
>>> The initial numbers from Q1-2 2013 were taken from a different source
>>> than we have used for all subsequent reports. The new sources provide
>>> this information is a way that is much clearer and simpler for us, which
>>> should avoid us making the same mistake again.
>> Is a solution being implemented to the reporting mishap mentioned in
>> 4.? I am not sure how much of it is tied to internal inter-department
>> communication constraints but to me it sounds as though a funding
>> request simply needs a final state "disbursed" which should then
>> prevent this sort of thing from happening? This would then additional
>> allow accurately reflecting this transitional stage in the reports as
>> "Approved but not Disbursed" rather than considering the request done
>> once it was approved.
> We've been counting money as "spent" when the PO has been raised and
> approved. It's a bit like balancing a check book, you mark the money as
> gone when the check is written, not when it's cashed. In the cases where
> the money isn't actually distributed (or only partially distributed) we
> should and will provide a detailed accounting of that in the following
> report.

Sounds like a reasonable approach.


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