Transcript from the Q2 Rust Foundation AMA with Bec Rumbul, Paul Lenz and Joel Marcey, moderated by Sage Griffin.
April 11, 2021
Table of Contents
- Why aren't you making larger grants?
- Tell us more about the decisions you've made regarding the funding model?
- Is there going to be transparency around who's receiving grants and why?
- Are the project grants going to create more work for existing maintainers?
- Are Foundation member companies going to do all of their Rust sponsorship through the Foundation?
- How was the $1,000/month Fellowship amount chosen?
- How much of the decision process was based on the survey results?
- What will the balance of the Fellowships be between existing contributors and new contributors?
- Who do grants need to provide value to?
- What systems are being put in place around accountability?
- Can the Foundation help people get sponsored by the member companies directly?
- What are the problems the grant program is intended to solve?
- How do you measure success?
- Closing remarks
- An announcement about RustConf!
Sage Griffin: Alright, are we live?
Paul Lenz: We are live, I believe.
Sage Griffin: We are live. All right. Well hello everybody, welcome to the Rust Foundation's second quarterly Ask Me Anything. My name is Sage Griffin, my pronouns are they/them, and I am going to be moderating the session. Joining me today we have three wonderful panelists. We have the Executive Director and CEO of the Rust Foundation, Rebecca Rumbul. We have the Foundation's Director of Finance, Paul Lenz.
Paul Lenz: Hi.
Sage Griffin: And the Director of Operations Joel Marcey.
Joel Marcey: Hello, good day.
Sage Griffin: This AMA is being recorded, if your question doesn't get answered right away - if we don't get to your question today, rather, we will be posting follow ups on the blog at some point. And if you need to leave for whatever reason the recording of this call will be made available in the near future. So with all that out of the way, let's get started. I'll be answering questions as they come in but until we start getting those live I'm going to go to a few questions that we got during registration. So the first one I think is on a lot of folks' minds. With the grants program, why aren't you making larger grants? The amounts available are quite small within this space.
Paul Lenz: Shall I jump in? So, there were a couple of reasons for that. We've got $625,000, which sounds like a lot of money, but actually when you think about making grants to individuals, particularly if they're to be in the same ballpark as the kind of salaries they could be making in the commercial sector in the US, then that suddenly dwindles very rapidly, and it means that we would be focusing the funding on relatively few individuals. And something we're very keen to do as a Foundation is to expand the diversity of those people who are engaging with Rust and also to ensure that we're supporting as many pillars (for want of a better term) of Rust and the Rust community as possible, rather than just focusing in a couple of areas. We don't see the fellowship grants as being something that necessarily is going to make a massive financial difference to most people. But it's worth reflecting for a second that those people who don't live in Western Europe or North America, actually $12,000 a month can be a pretty significant amount of money and it can enable them to contribute much more significantly than they are at the moment, or indeed give them a decent reward for the effort they're putting in already. The bigger question though, I think, is would the Rust project benefit from more people being funded directly or receiving that kind of full time salary in order to work with the project, and we're actually looking at how we can do that outside of the community grants program from our core budget rather than from the grants project. Joel - would you like to talk a little bit about the infrastructure team hire that we're planning?
Joel Marcey: Sure, yes. As everyone knows, the Rust language is supported by many teams and governance bodies, one of them being the core infrastructure team. Basically, it's utilized to support the underlying development of the language and one of the things that we want to do is hire a full time employee through the Foundation to help support that goal of providing good and efficient infrastructure for those that are developing the language. And we are planning to post that job posting, hopefully sometime this week.
Sage Griffin: Awesome, we'll be on the lookout for that. Bec, did you have anything that you want to add?
Bec Rumbul: Sure. I think - everything that Paul said there! Although I think there was a little slip there, it's not $12,000 a month.
Paul Lenz: Oh sorry! $12,000 a year, yeah.
Bec Rumbul: This was never meant to replace people's salaries. It's meant to recognise and demonstrate our appreciation for the amazing work that's going on in the maintainer community. It's also there to try and help people coming into the project. Obviously, we want to reward people who are already here and who are already doing good work. But, we want to ensure that Rust is sustainable and that requires a pipeline of people coming through being able to learn. So we're hopeful that this supports some new people to come in and be able to devote a bit of time to the project and also be able to shore up some of their other skills. So with the fellowship program, it's not just "here's the money, go and please yourself on your own"; it's part of a package and we hope that we'll be able to bring people in, enable them to network, get to know more people in the community, maybe get a bit of mentorship, a bit of training and potentially support them to attend an event or two as well. So we're hopeful that the program has maybe something for everyone. And as Paul said, it's something that we want to make sure that we're getting to quite a few people rather than just a chosen few.
Sage Griffin: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. As much as folks probably envision this being supporting some maintainers full time, ultimately, supporting a couple of dozen people full time on US salaries isn't realistic with the amount of money the Foundation has coming in. I guess I do want to follow up on that a little bit though because of course there's trade offs to every model that you could have for funding. And with this model that y'all have gone with, that does require anybody who's going to apply for it to be in a situation where either they're able to work on open source as part of their existing full time job, or have the time to do it outside of their jobs. Is that something that y'all considered in your decision making process, and is that something that you have any thoughts about?
Paul Lenz: It obviously was something that we thought about, and in part we were hoping to, as Bec says, be rewarding those already contributing - potentially where they have some flexibility in their working. If that gave them the additional financial security that meant they could reduce their hours because something that we critically want to avoid is burn out, for people to not work themselves into the ground, and particularly with the fellowships. We are hopefully clear (and we can make the wording clearer if it's not the case) that we're not expecting people to do an incremental 20 hours a month working on Rust. This is very much to be supporting those who are already contributing. Again, we would very much like to be able to do more of the full time funding. One of the challenges on us as a team, is to significantly increase the amount of funds that we have available to do that. So it's one of the challenges that we have over the coming years to see how and what we can do to further grow that pot. I would love to be sitting here in a year's time and say, actually we've got $1.5 million now and that means we can do things radically differently. And it's also worth noting that we know that we're not going to get everything right with this first grant program. It's the first time the Foundation has tried anything like this. And with the project grants for instance, where we've got the upper bound or $20,000 - we've got $175,000 for the first round that we're doing in April, and we're doing a second round in October - we're going to look and see what comes in and look at the feedback that we get and if it makes sense to make that top number $50,000 and actually think about giving out five-year project grants, then that's certainly something that we would consider doing. We're not claiming that we have a perfect knowledge of exactly what's going to work well, and what's not going to work well. I'm pleased to say that we've had a good number already of fellowship applications, so that's hopefully suggesting that it's at least somewhat appealing to those people who are contributing to the project already.
Sage Griffin: Bec, Joel, did either of you have anything else you want to add on that?
Joel Marcey: I'd like to echo what Paul said. This is what we felt was the best plan for the grant money that we currently have. And obviously as the situation unfolds and real world developments occur, we have opportunities to tweak how the grants program works in the future. So, yeah, what Paul said was exactly right there.
Bec Rumbul: You know, I suppose it's worth mentioning as well that we thought very deeply about that, Sage, but about a lot of things on this. As Paul and Joel said, this is our first go. We're not going to pretend it's going to be 100% perfect but this is where we got to based on consultation. This wasn't something where the three of us had a meeting and we were like, oh yeah, this'll be perfect! We did really try really hard. We did the survey, and we're very grateful for everyone that responded to that. We had a lot of calls with other people who have run similar programs. So yeah, it was definitely something that we put a lot of thought into, and we will continue to put thought into it, as Paul and Joel said.
Sage Griffin: Sorry, now that you've mentioned the idea of the three of you just going into a room to make the decision, I'm just imagining there were a lot of cigars involved, fake mustaches that could be twirled.
Paul Lenz: Big heavy cut-glass tumblers of bourbon on the table.
Sage Griffin: Exactly.
Bec Rumbul: Sounds like a great meeting!
Sage Griffin: So as these grants start going out, is there going to be transparency around who's receiving them and why? And how's that information going to be published?
Paul Lenz: Sure. So, we are going to be completely transparent about who has been awarded what, and for what, so we will be detailing the names of the successful grant recipients. If some prefer for reasons of privacy to go by their GitHub identity, then that's certainly something that we would look at doing out of respect for their wishes, but we would certainly want the recipients to be identifiable in the community, how much they are receiving, what work they will be doing, and the rationale behind why they were selected. Over the course of the grants period, we will be publishing updates, talking about progress, particularly for the Fellows. At the end of their fellowship year they'll be asked to write a brief blog post reflecting on the process and sharing it. As with everything we don't necessarily expect that every project is going to be successful. People are going to find challenges along the way they don't anticipate, so we want to be very flexible and open and respectful about how we can support people as they go through the challenges of creating their projects. I should add one caveat. One of the strands that we are awarding is for hardship grants, those are for members of the community who find themselves in sudden and sadly dire financial need. For reasons of privacy, we will not be making details of their grants public, and in fact we won't even be telling the members of the board who are receiving those grants. That's going to be kept confidential just within the staff team of the Foundation.
Sage Griffin: That makes sense. Joel, did you have anything you wanted to add?
Joel Marcey: No, the perfect answer.
Sage Griffin: Bec, did you have anything that you want to add?
Bec Rumbul: I just wanted to make it clear as well that we're not going to be publishing the results of the unsuccessful grants. We don't want to create a situation where someone has been unsuccessful, not because their proposal is bad, just because we may well have a lot of really good applications and they just miss out on this round. So we aren't going to be doing that because we don't want it to seem like we've made a judgment on those people which may affect their ability to get funding elsewhere. That's something that we won't be doing, not because we don't want to be transparent, but because we don't want to negatively affect anyone.
Sage Griffin: That makes a lot of sense. And when this information goes out, is it just going to be on the Foundation's website?
Bec Rumbul: Yeah, we'll publish a big list and, hopefully a short discussion of how we got there and the challenges that we faced, hopefully, trying to choose between a load of amazing applications!
Paul Lenz: I think also we can be keen to be celebrating the Fellows in particular, via Twitter, introducing them if they're not already known to the community or just highlighting the fact that they've become Fellows.
Sage Griffin: Makes sense. All right, let's move on to another question here. We've got somebody who asks, Are these project grants going to cause more work for the maintainers and reviewers, or at least more work than might be covered by the $1,000 a month that the maintainers might get?
Paul Lenz: They will almost certainly create some more work, but we also hope that they will reduce some of the burden because they'll be supporting additional resources for those teams. It's something we thought a lot about, and obviously the whole grants program has been developed in discussion with the board that has five project team members on there as directors, and this is something we talked through in some detail. It's something we're going to be considering when we're weighing up individual applications. One of the questions we ask is "Do you need external support in order to deliver your project, or with your fellowship?" to try and identify those who may be creating significant burdens upon the maintenance and development teams. And this is where we'll particularly be sharing anonymized applications that have those things highlighted, in order to get feedback from the teams. What we certainly don't want to do is have 20 applications that we approve that are going to be a ton of work for a single team which is already understandably just working incredibly hard to keep everything going at the moment. We also are looking for Associate Fellows. Again, these are people who are hopefully developing their skills. [We'll be] liaising with the teams who we think they're likely to be working with most closely, again to understand "Do you think us bringing this person on is going to be a benefit and asset to you, or do you think it's going to provide an overly onerous burden that you wouldn't be able to support?" and we're very keen, again, not to get into that situation. We do think there's going to be some incremental overhead on some teams, though obviously that would only happen with their consent, but hopefully that short term increase in overhead will be offset in the longer term by getting more people into being active members of teams and active contributors. Joel, if you could speak more to that?
Joel Marcey: Yeah. Take the tactical situation where the folks that are accepted to be part of the program are doing code, writing code, submitting pull requests to GitHub. Depending on the nature of the pull request, the appropriate team might review that, and you'd consider that's a little bit more work for them. Other folks that aren't part of the community grants program also send a pull request and then people review that as well. What I will say is that there could be a potential to reduce work a little bit if, for example, we start choosing applicants based upon the nature of work that they're doing and they coincide with the roadmap that's just been published for Rust. If they're doing work that is associated with that exact roadmap that maybe alleviates some of the work that some of the current maintainers have to do to hopefully reach the goal of fulfilling that roadmap. So hopefully there's a give and take as far as work is concerned. We'll just have to see how that plays out as we accept applicants and the work happens.
Sage Griffin: Bec, did you have anything that you want to add?
Bec Rumbul: No, I think that was pretty much it. We were very, very aware that there was going to be a balance here. We spoke to a few people that were very enthusiastic about diverting some money towards getting lots of new people involved, and immediately it was very obvious that whilst that would be great in terms of more people being involved, the overhead, as both Paul and Joel have said, would have been too much. So we're really trying to strike a balance where yes, there will be a little bit of additional [work] but hopefully that will be offset by the other things that we're doing. Hopefully the cumulative effect will be more resources within the Rust project for maintenance in the future.
Sage Griffin: Great. Well, moving on to the next question. I'm not sure that we'll actually be able to answer this one because I don't want to ask you to speak on behalf your members; I'm not sure if this conversation has happened. The Foundation represents a ton of the world's largest companies. How is it possible that tiny companies sponsor Rust maintainers more than these huge companies combined? Are these companies planning on doing all of their sponsorship through the Foundation? Bec, would you like to start off on this one?
Bec Rumbul: Sure. I mean, I think you kind of nailed it where you said we couldn't really speak to that. We don't make the financial decisions that our members do. We're obviously grateful for all of the help that the members give us to support the Foundation and to support the Rust project. But we can't really dictate what additional resources we get from them, and I know that most of our members support Rust in various ways. The support for the Foundation is only one of the ways that most of the members support Rust. So, I'm aware that there are other programs, and it's fantastic that there are other corporations out there that are small that are doing a lot to support Rust as well. So, yeah, I can't really answer that on behalf of any of the other organizations, but I do think, even though the Rust Foundation very much wants to be the main source of support for Rust (and I hope we are, not just financially but in terms of all of the other infrastructure that we support) I think it's still amazing that we're not the only game in town. I think it's good that there's a plurality of places that provide support for our Rust community and provide it in different ways, so that we're not creating huge dependencies. Just because the way we give out grants is one way, it might not be suitable for someone. Another organization, the way they do it might be better. So I think, in my opinion, actually that's a good thing. We're obviously grateful to all of our members for the support they do give us, and we hope they continue.
Sage Griffin: One thing that might help clarify this for folks is just to clarify how the financial contributions of the Foundation's members actually work. I think some folks might be under a misconception of this being like a funnel where they continuously pour money in. Paul, would you like to explain exactly how that works?
Paul Lenz: Sure. So, there are about 30 to 40 members now, and they pay, effectively, an annual membership fee. The Platinum members pay significantly more than the Silver members, but that's a fixed amount of money each year. Then on top of that, we have had an additional $625,000 worth of grant funding. That amount is just for this year. We don't know if we're going to get that money next year. Obviously a lot will depend on the success of the program that we've just launched. So, it's certainly not a continual hosepipe of cash coming in, and as Bec says there are things in addition to the grants program that we support. So we pay Ferrous Systems to fund the on-call service for crates.io, for example, and we've already mentioned that we're looking at an infrastructure engineering hire, and we're continually looking at other ways that the membership fees can be used to support the Rust community financially, over and above what's going on with the grants program.
Sage Griffin: OK. So moving on to the next question. This actually looks like two separate questions. I'm going to split this one up. The first one is how was the specific amount of $1,000 a month chosen?
Paul Lenz: It was a number of different factors. One was that we wanted to be able to offer a reasonable number of fellowships. So there was a top level budgetary constraint as to how much money that could be. If it was going to be $10,00, a month, then we could maybe have 1.5 Fellows. And as mentioned earlier we were keen to try and have a diverse group of individuals. Having fellowships from a wide geographic spread was one of the objectives to try and bring more people on board, so that then put an upper bound on how much we could realistically have the fellowships for and be able to offer a reasonable number of fellowships without denuding the other grant areas. We then looked in terms of what we were thinking about the time contribution - be it incremental time or existing time - as I've mentioned before, this is not necessarily requiring anyone to change their behavior, and at 20 hours a month that works out at about $50 an hour. So that's a fairly reasonable hourly rate and obviously we take on trust the work that the Fellows will do, we're not going to mandate that they submit time sheets or anything like that, but we're thinking that's broadly the amount of time that we would hope they would be dedicating, and that feels, again, to be a reasonable amount of money. I've got the question up on my screen, "Did we talk to people actually needing sponsorship?" There's been email feedback prior to the start of the grants program from people in need of sponsorship. We also looked at sponsorship that other organizations are making via GitHub sponsorship for instance, and we did run everything past the board to get their feedback, and obviously they are much better connected with the community than, certainly, Bec or myself. And so, yeah, that's effectively how we came up with $1,000 a month. And again I think it's worth stressing my earlier point that $1,000 a month may not seem like a lot of money if you live in the USA, but if you are living in the Philippines or in sub-Saharan Africa, then it's actually significantly more than it is for the US or Western Europe.
Sage Griffin: Actually, I'd love to hear more about how much of the decision was based off of the feedback survey that you put out prior to launching the program, versus how much came from deliberations with the board. Bec or Joel, would either of you like to kick us off on that?
Bec Rumbul: A lot, I would say the majority, of our thinking came from the survey. As you can imagine, there was a very wide spectrum of feedback from that survey. We had quite a good geographic spread. We had a good spread of people with a lot of experience, and a lot of people that are coding in Rust and interested in doing more in Rust, but actually didn't really feel that they knew how to get more involved. So, the fellowships in particular seemed to those people like a good package because I think some people can be a bit nervous or not really know how to 'get in the front door'. Most of our thinking originated from the answers given in the survey, and we did a blog post about it as well if people want to have a look at that. We looked at all the answers, grouped things into "these are broadly things that people seem to agree on, these are areas of interest, these are areas that people think we should prioritize". So we started from there, and obviously we also had to make sure that we were designing structures that were fair and that would ensure some diversity, that would make sure that we weren't just putting everything into one area. As we said before, we don't want to inadvertently offer grants that are all to do the same thing, that would be madness. So yeah, we started from the survey and built up from there. As Paul said, yes, we absolutely had a lot of discussions with the board. The project directors on the Rust Foundation Board were fantastic. They spent a lot of time talking this through with us, reading drafts of documentation, to the point where I'm sure they were excessively bored! And they gave us a lot of really useful feedback, and a lot of scenarios that we hadn't thought about. So, all of that was really instrumental in getting us to where we are now. And as we've said, we are happy to look at things as they go and say, "OK, this doesn't seem to be working the way we thought it was going to," or "Actually, this has happened and we haven't planned for that." So we're definitely going to be iterating if we feel we need to, as we go along.
Sage Griffin: And some of the project directors, also, just having known them personally I know that a couple of them have quite a bit of experience with trying to get funding for their open source work on their own as well. Joel, did you have anything you wanted to add on this before we move on.
Joel Marcey: I'll just say, I think it's important to note that the grants program itself could have gone logistically in an infinite number of different directions. The fact that we utilized the survey in a big way, utilized feedback from the board, utilized our own thinking about how that should work - we had to strike a balance. "Do we want to fund a few people with more money?" "Do we want to fund just one vehicle or type of grant?" But we made the decision that we wanted to make it broad to start, different types of grants, seeing which ones work, which ones are the most popular. Assuming this community grants program is successful, we can potentially make tweaks to the program in years to come, where we focus on maybe different things or fewer things and it all, hopefully, works out.
Sage Griffin: Paul, did you have anything you want to add before we moved on?
Paul Lenz: Just to echo both Bec and Joel's points. Again, it's a subject we touched on earlier a couple of times. The survey was something that very much wanted us to try and have a broad base, both in terms of areas for the grants to be supporting and the range of individuals supported, because it's clear that there are lots of things that the community think are important. It's not like everyone just said "oh yeah, documentation, that's the only thing that needs sorting out", and then we could have gone "OK, well, we'll give three massive grants for people to work full time on documentation".
Sage Griffin: And then hey, we'd have great documentation after that, right?
Paul Lenz: We'd have fantastic documentation!
Sage Griffin: Everybody loves documentation.
Paul Lenz: But people think that there are other areas beyond documentation that need support as well.
Sage Griffin: So that actually segues very well into this next question. What are your plans in terms of how these grants are going to be split between bringing in new contributors versus rewarding the existing contributors who are already putting tons of their free time into the project?
Paul Lenz: Sure. So, in terms of the Fellows, we're anticipating that 14 or 15 of the Fellows will be existing contributors, and 5-6 will be what we term Associate Fellows. Those will be people who have some experience with Rust but are hoping to develop their skills and engagement. So, from the fellowship side we're looking at about 75% being focused on existing very active contributors, and 25% on active but relative newcomers not working at quite the same level yet. In terms of the project grants, my hope and expectation is that we will get a significant number of project grant applications from people who are already active members of the community so that we can support them and we can enable them to work on specific areas. We have a bar to entry in terms of getting a project grant which is that you have to have some experience of Rust, and we have to have the confidence both that what you're going to do is going to bring value to Rust, and that you have the skills and capabilities of being able to deliver the project. And 'you' in this sense can be an individual, a team, or an organization.
Sage Griffin: Bec, Joel, did either of you have something you want to add?
Bec Rumbul: I hope people don't think we're completely ignoring people who are already active in the project. That's absolutely not our intention at all, and I hope it's made clear in the documentation and if it's not, then we should obviously make that language a lot clearer. Because as I said at the front of this AMA, we want to recognize and reward the work that's already going on, and acknowledge just how much people are putting in. We're trying to create a good balance, and as we've said, we hope that we've got the right balance, but if we haven't we will look at it and try to figure out a way to create the balance.
Sage Griffin: Joel, do you want to add anything?
Joel Marcey: Yeah, I echo the sentiment about balance. Going into this, we felt, like, there'll be a pretty interesting split, or an even split, amongst people that are coming in new to the community or potentially want to be new maintainers, versus those that are existing maintainers or existing members of the community. Once we start getting the applications in and start reviewing them, we will utilize the system of evaluation to determine which ones seem reasonable to be chosen as members of the program, and my expectation is that there'll be a good healthy mix between the two.
Sage Griffin: Paul, you actually said something in your answer that I'd love to expand on a little bit. You mentioned that there needs to be the confidence that the applicants are going to be providing value to us. Is 'us' here referring to the Foundation or is that referring to the project as a whole?
Paul Lenz: It's referring to the project as a whole. It would be a bit church and state for the value to the Foundation to be separate from the value to the project. We exist to support the Rust project and to support the Rust community. So, things that bring value to the project inherently bring value to the Foundation.
Sage Griffin: Bec, Joel, did either of you have anything to add to that?
Bec Rumbul: Yeah, the benefits should be to the whole Rust ecosystem and the Rust community. It's obviously something that's going to be a little bit subjective, but it's why we're asking people in their applications to tell us what you think the benefits here are going to be to the rest of the community. Is this something that is only going to benefit you because you just want to work on this one little thing but it's not really going to have any other impact? Or is it going to genuinely help with documentation or moderation or... Is it one of those things that's going to have a wider impact? It's something that could be a number of different things. The benefits are very wide, and very varied. Again, because we only have a limited pot of money, we want that to have the biggest benefit for the most people. So as long as people can explain what that benefit is, we are going to be able to review it in a much more informed way.
Paul Lenz: It's worth noting that understanding the value is critical to us in order for us to then go back to the member companies who have provided these funds, and for us to be able to demonstrate what has happened as a result of this funding and how it's benefited people. It would be lovely if there was just some magic number of 'value to Rust', that would be automatically generated when we receive an application, but obviously, that's not the case. If we were comparing someone who says, I want to support or maintain this incredibly popular, heavily downloaded crate versus someone who wants to get support to maintain a crate that's barely used, it's very easy for us to make a value judgment between the two. It gets more nuanced when we're trying to look at, say, someone who wants funding for documentation versus someone who wants funding for reviewing pull requests, etc. But I think we're relatively confident that we can come up with something that whilst it won't be perfect, it should be fair and reasonable.
Sage Griffin: I'll tell you what, if there was a way to look at a proposal and magically come up with an objective number of how much value it would add to Rust, it would make the RFC process a whole lot simpler.
Paul Lenz: If I come up with something that works, I'll send you the algorithm.
Bec Rumbul: But just because it's not easy or not possible to come up with that number, that's not a judgment on whether you will or you won't get a grant. You just need to use your words, rather than a calculation, to tell us what these benefits are. Because we know it's really difficult to create metrics for these kinds of things. We don't want to create onerous monitoring or evaluation tools either. Obviously we want to be able to see benefit, but we do not want people to spend all of their time thinking about that, rather than actually doing meaningful work.
Sage Griffin: So, Joel, I'd love to go to you to elaborate on this a little bit more. We've been talking a lot about proposals being valuable to the whole Rust project. What systems are being put in place to have some accountability into the process of making sure that the proposals that are coming in are in fact the ones that the project needs most, and also to hold the people who are receiving these grants accountable?
Joel Marcey: Right. So obviously there's many different layers of how applications are reviewed. There's a first level of review that we as the Foundation will do to siphon out ones that maybe don't make any sense, or may be spammy or, those sorts of things. That will be dwindled down to a set of applications that are reasonably well thought out and well geared towards what the mission of the community grants program is, which is to support the project. Then we'll be able to review those and come up with a reasonable idea of how any applications map to the Rust project roadmap that has been set out for 2022/2023, and try to balance which of those applications may be in best support of where the Rust project direction needs to go. Now there's some that we as the Foundation cannot reasonably make a good call on. We have a mechanism to form a council or a committee amongst various project members that will help make the call of whether such an application might be useful to the project. The goal here is to not burden the project with a bunch of applications to review. They'll have us help by making a bunch of decisions a priori, but we'll bring them in as necessary to make sure that, in any application that might be on the fence or that we might not understand fully, we're making the right call.
Sage Griffin: Are those processes going to be documented publicly anywhere?
Paul Lenz: The process that Joel's just described is on the Rust Foundation website, including the scoring mechanism, we've actually detailed the scoring mechanics. The grants will be scored on a scale of 1-15. We've hopefully made it very clear exactly what we're looking for and how we're going to weigh these. In terms of the people that we will then reach out to for additional advice, once the application window closes on the 30th of April and we get a better idea of the kind of people we need to speak to, we will then reach out to those people and we'll be public about who has been engaged with that process.
Sage Griffin: Bec, did you have anything else you wanted to add?
Bec Rumbul: We're hopeful that we won't have to burden external people too much with consulting on individual applications, but as Joel said, there's going to be an argument that these ones, we really do need a few external people to help us. As Paul said, we will make up that list once we actually know which areas we need the most help in. I would say, as well, that's one of the reasons why we've asked people not to lobby for their applications. We want to be transparent and we will make the names of the people that we're consulting public, but we're hyper aware that those people could then be inundated by private messages and emails that, while probably very well intentioned, may end up snowballing and creating an awful lot of work for those people to respond to. There is a process for that, and we have asked people not to lobby those people once the names are made public.
Sage Griffin: Right. A lot of folks want more information on this process. Paul, I believe you mentioned this is all documented on the website so folks can look?
Paul Lenz: Yeah, as I say, if people think that things are unclear on there, or I worded it badly, or if there just needs to be more elaboration on any of the points, I'm more than happy to amend or add to that. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or any way of connecting, or if you want to ask a specific point in the Q&A here that you think we need to address I'm very happy to go away and look at that. As I said, I've said many times, we're absolutely not going to get everything right first time, but I think the process is robust. Clearly if we haven't described it well enough, then that's something we can look at fixing.
Sage Griffin: Cool, let's move on to our next question. Some people are concerned that this new grant program is going to be all the sponsorship that the member companies are providing. Can the Foundation help people get sponsored by the member companies directly? Is there anything the Foundation is going to be doing to facilitate individuals getting sponsorship from, for example, Google or AWS or Meta? Joel, would you like to start us off?
Joel Marcey: Yeah. So, it's a tough question to answer because I feel as if our focus is to ensure that the community grants program is successful in and of its own right. So I guess maybe this question is geared towards like board members or something, that are part of the Foundation, how they might support individually. That's a tougher question for me to answer. Maybe I'll let Bec.
Bec Rumbul: "This is a difficult one, I'll just pass it to Bec"?! This is a program of work that we don't currently do. Matching members of the community with our members, potentially that would actually be a relatively big job as well. It's not something that our board members have raised with us as something that they would like to see from the Foundation. Whether that's because they specifically don't want to do that, or because it hasn't come up, I don't know. I can't answer for them, but it's certainly not something that we're able to do at the moment. As Joel said, what we're focusing on right now is getting this particular grants program right. I'm hopeful that this will be successful, and that we can make a really good case to our members for future funding, which might be a bit more, hopefully. So yeah, we'll see how it goes. But currently, this is not something that we can offer.
Sage Griffin: Of course I can't speak for the companies or the board members, but I actually have something I'd like to add here as somebody on the other side, somebody who spent several years trying to fund my open source work. It's actually extremely difficult to operate when you're being funded piecemeal as an individual by these large companies, just in part because there's not really processes in place within these larger companies to just give out grants. More likely you come on board as an independent contractor, which of course then most of these companies are based in California, which has very strict laws around all of this. It's just an absolute nightmare and I'm personally very much cheering for this grant program to continue expanding, because it makes much more sense for these companies to funnel their money into the Foundation and the Foundation be a vehicle to make sure that gets to contributors. It just saves so much headache, as an actual contributor.
Bec Rumbul: You know, we would be very happy as the Foundation, if our member companies, or indeed companies that aren't members but want to put money into this area, if any company wants to say, "Here's X amount of money, we would like you to," I don't know, "fund all of the documentation." We will be very happy to do that, we could definitely, definitely make that work. But we obviously would have to have them approach us to do that. That would have to be a decision on their side.
Sage Griffin: I'm sure everybody here agrees, if there are any companies listening who aren't already members, you really should consider.
Paul Lenz: Please join! Check out rustfoundation.org. We've got a members page, we will happily answer any questions you have.
Joel Marcey: Sage, if I could just follow up a little bit on what was asked earlier about this community grants program and who benefits. Obviously, the whole goal of the Foundation is to support and steward the Rust project and the Rust maintainers, and that's our focus and one mission. That said, if this community grants program is successful, my hope is that there's a positive snowball effect - "oh wow, this is working really well" - we might get more funding from other companies or increased funding from current companies. And then, you might have a situation where we might not have to be concerned, necessarily, about individual sponsorships from an individual company because the community grants program has been so successful that we can utilize that vehicle.
Sage Griffin: That actually segues really, really well into what I want to talk about next, which is: what are the specific problems that you see the grant program is trying to solve? Bec, would you like to start us off?
Bec Rumbul: There are lots of pockets of things that people want to fix, right. There's things that have just organically grown to be the way they are, and maybe there's not enough going towards this area or that area. Again the survey was really illustrative in bringing up all of the things that people think are wrong, or that they'd like to improve, which is a little bit overwhelming actually. It was unfortunate because it was like, "Oh, look at all these problems!" The survey didn't acknowledge how amazing lots of things actually are. So we looked at that: OK, these are things that people think are priorities. So, we'll try and help those things, we'll try and fund those things. What we're trying to fix in terms of the finance is trying to provide a bit of support. As we said at the top, this isn't meant to replace a salary for someone completely, certainly not a US tech salary. This is meant to recognize and reward the work that's going on, and to hopefully support some of those people that are trying to get a foothold as Rust maintainers. So, we're not going to solve the whole world's problems with this, we know that, but we're trying to plug a few holes and figure out which grants are the most effective. We hope that this grant program will be an annual thing. We hope that we will be able next year, if we are able to do so, to make it even more targeted, to learn from this year and say, OK well those are the things that work really well, and we can totally see that those problems over there are solved or there are more bug fixes going on now or this documentation has made an enormous difference to everyone working in this area. We know that it's not going to fix things like how you fund open source, right, we know as amazing as that would be, we know that this is not going to fix everything that's wrong with open source funding.
Sage Griffin: A notoriously easy problem.
Bec Rumbul: Yeah! I would love it if we figured out how to fix that. But I think even with this, hopefully we're fixing some small things, and figuring out how we go from there to maybe fix some bigger things in the future.
Sage Griffin: Paul, did you have anything you want to add?
Paul Lenz: No, I've just seen the next question that's made me quite excited! I shouldn't be looking ahead, I realize that.
Sage Griffin: How about Joel, did you have anything you want to add before we move on to the next very exciting question?
Joel Marcey: Yeah. There's maybe a grandiose vision of what I think the community grants program can, quote unquote, fix or help with, is that it brings in more folks into the development of what we all believe is this awesome, awesome language, awesome ecosystem, awesome community, and shows folks that their contributions can be valuable, and that we expand the reach of people who want to contribute to Rust. That can only serve to then help grow the language even more and that sort of thing, so making the Rust community more global, making it more amenable for contribution, and those sorts of things. I don't know, maybe that's pie in the sky type of stuff, but that's another thing I think this program can help fix as well.
Sage Griffin: Alright, well Joel we'll actually come back to you, because I'm pretty sure this was originally directed at you, even though Paul I know you're quite excited so we'll go to you second. How do you measure success? We've been talking a lot about if the grants program is successful. So how its success can be measured. Joel, let's start with you.
Joel Marcey: There's various ways that you're going to measure success, and various vectors of what success is, right. There's the success of the process which the community grants program is utilizing to choose applicants. Was that a good [process], did we do that in the right way? There's, did we actually reduce the amount of work that the maintainers of the language might otherwise have had if we didn't have the community grants program. Then there's obviously the success of each individual applicant as well. Did they do what we thought they were going to do when we accepted that applicant as part of the community grants program? Did it help facilitate progress towards the future of the language, whether it's with code, documentation, or whatever it is? At any given checkpoint we'll probably have communication with the project directors on the board to say, OK, here's what's been accomplished; here's what people are saying about what's been accomplished. Was that a successful run for this segment of the community grants program? So, as we move forward we'll be able to determine better, how successful we are with those different vectors. That's how we're going to start measuring success moving forward.
Sage Griffin: Paul, how do you measure success?
Paul Lenz: I was reading this specifically within the frame of how do we measure the impact of the grant funding that we've given. I am a massive grant impact nerd and have been for many years, which I realize is somewhat a niche enthusiasm and it's not exactly one that you talk about at a bar on a Friday evening. However, I think everything Joel said is absolutely correct, and there are further considerations. Something we need to think a lot about is incrementality versus non-incrementality, or look at considering the counterfactual. If we hadn't given this person the grant, would they have done the work anyway? That would obviously have potential burnout issues. Or would someone else have done it? If we look at overall trends in the community - if we fund the creation of a lot of documentation in French, for instance, and we see a significant uptick in the people on the Rust survey who have French as their first language, how do we disambiguate the correlation from causation? We can see how many people read all those documents we produced in French, but how do we actually know that led to the uptick? Which is all an incredibly long winded way of saying it's really hard and it's really complicated. We've got quite a lot of thoughts, and hopefully we'll be able to share those publicly quite soon. We are keen both just because we want to try and do as good a job as possible as a team, and we want to know what benefits we are creating from the grants program. Also, we need to be able to evidence back to the funders that we have delivered genuine value to Rust through the grants program. So yeah, I could talk about this probably for another hour, but I will stop now because I'm mindful that time is running a bit tight.
Sage Griffin: Bec, did you have anything you want to add? How do you measure success?
Bec Rumbul: To be honest I think Joel and Paul have said it all. And, I guess, the fewer emails I get asking about funding, or saying that it hadn't been a success! This is something we're thinking really hard about, and we just have to figure out how we can balance trying to measure and record things, trying to demonstrate impact, without making it too onerous, or too superficial I suppose. It's very easy sometimes to pick a figure and say "oh, this definitely shows that this works". Maybe it didn't. Maybe that's not a good representation. So, yeah, we'll definitely be putting more thought into this and we'll put out a blog post as well, information on the website explaining exactly how we're going to go about doing this.
Sage Griffin: Well, we have a few more questions coming in but unfortunately we just don't have the time to really dive into any more at this point so I think that's going to be our last question of the day. If we did not have time to get your question live please keep an eye on the Foundation's website. We will be following up on some of them after the fact. Paul, did you have anything you want to say to close this out?
Paul Lenz: Just to say thank you to you, Sage, for hosting this so wonderfully. And to apologize if I talked too much or was insufficiently coherent at times. It's been great to do this and chat. And as I say, please do email us (email@example.com) if you've got any more questions, please do check out the grants pages on the website that then links out to the application systems. If you've got any questions or queries around those, then do let us know.
Sage Griffin: Joel, any closing words from you?
Joel Marcey: I'd like to echo the thanks, Sage, for hosting, again, the AMA. You do a wonderful job. I'm looking forward to seeing how this community grants program actually shakes out, and reviewing all the applications that come in and seeing what type of work people think is actually important to the project. I think that's one benefit that's going to come out of this community grants program. For those that are not currently maintainers for example, those that are new, it'll be interesting to see if what the project thinks is important meshes with what other folks think is important and see if they all align. It's going to be a very interesting year, I think, to see how that plays out. Thank you.
Sage Griffin: Bec, I'll give you the final word. Anything you'd like to say to close us out?
Bec Rumbul: Thanks. Yeah, just to say we're really excited about this, we're here and we're doing this because we really do want to support the Rust community. Let us know how we can do that. Submit an application. We're here to work with you and hopefully do some really exciting stuff together, so yeah, we're really looking forward to working with people. Thank you very much Sage, and I think you have an important announcement to make?
Sage Griffin: Yes, OK, I guess I'll be making the final word! Even though this AMA has been focused on the community grants program, I did want to briefly pivot to something else the Foundation is involved in, which is RustConf. It's happening! It's a thing this year! It's going to be in person and online! It's gonna be great and our CFP is open today, so please please please come submit your talk proposals, cfp.rustconf.com. I can't wait to see everybody again, I have missed having this conference, it's gonna be great. And with that, I think that is everything. Thank you everybody so much for attending, and thank you to our panelists for joining me.