Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: Some More Grants for Open Source Work:

This is a followup to my 2014 post on grants you could apply for.

Several foundations and funders are seeking applicants who are working on free and open source software projects. I am listing a small sample here to illustrate project eligibility and available funding levels. Any financial amounts are in US dollars unless I say otherwise.

About to open

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's Essential Open Source Support for Science. Open source projects that are in some way foundationally useful to biological and medical researchers.
Deadline: Next round opens 17 December (in 2 weeks). Expect it to take a few months to find out whether you've been selected, then finalize and award. (In the first round, we applied by August 1 and then learned of acceptance in October, with the earliest project start date possible being 1 December.)
Amount: between $50,000 and $250,000, for 1-year projects. In the award I just helped pip apply for, they awarded $200,000.

Currently open

Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) Awards. I have some experience successfully applying for the Foundational Tech track ("supports open source projects that Mozilla relies on, either as an embedded part of our products or as part of our everyday work"), but they also fund "open source projects that significantly advance Mozilla's mission" and "security audits for open source software projects, and remedial work to rectify the problems found".
Deadline: monthly, rolling applications. Expect it to take at least a few months to finalize & award.
Amount: historically between $5,000 USD and $150,000 USD; it's going to be pretty hard to ask for more than $250,000 USD. In the award I just helped pip apply for, they awarded $207,000.

Comcast Innovation Fund. Seeks to "Create or advance important open-source projects".
Deadline: rolling; not sure how long notification/payment takes.
Amount: $150,000, one-year.

NLNet. They are particularly interested in projects that improve the Internet (see their themes).
Deadline: frequently rolling; next is February 1, 2020; notification within a few months
Amount: up to 50,000 euros (about $57,000 USD)

Python Software Foundation. The PSF gives out grants especially for outreach and diversity work, but also funds some other open source work.
Deadline: Rolling. Request money at least 6 weeks before you need it.
Amount: "no set maximum, but..." plus more guidance is in the FAQ.

Open Technology Fund. Several different funds , including the "Core Infrastructure Fund" which "supports the 'building block' technologies, infrastructures, and communities relied upon by digital security and circumvention tools strengthening Internet freedom, digital security, and the overall health of the Internet." Also note OTF's Red Team for security audits.
Deadline: Varies. Initial submissions for the next round of CIF are due January 1, 2020.
Amount: Varies. CIF goes from $5,000 to $300,000. The PSF got $80,000 for PyPI improvements from OTF (I helped write the grant proposal).

OpenHumans. "Explore, analyze, and donate your data -- doing research together!" Grants are available if you "have a project that might help grow the Open Humans ecosystem".
Deadline: "No application deadline: This opportunity remains open while funds last."
Amount: Up to $5,000 USD.

America's Seed Fund -- National Science Foundation -- SBIR | STTR. "Since 1977, America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF (also known as the NSF SBIR/STTR program) has helped startups develop their ideas and bring them to market." "Small Business Innovation Research" (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) offers "Seed capital for early stage product development". I only heard of this because their funding supported Kandra Labs, the makers of Zulip.
Deadline: I think there are several different ones depending on the specific solicitation.
Amount: Up to $1.5 million.

Future/further research

The Open Source Center within the Digital Impact Alliance gives out grants. They're interested in helping both projects that specifically target humanitarian/international development needs and upstream software that undergirds that kind of work, funding (in a past round) "Enterprise-Level Quality Improvements", "Multi-stakeholder Collaboration", "Platform Building and Generalization", "Product Consolidation", and "Managing Upstream Dependencies and Downstream Forks". "For as many as 5 grant awards, DIAL anticipates providing up to $900,000 USD total and up to 480 hours total of complementary in-kind technical assistance through participation in the Open Source Center program. This award is expected to span six months of project activity, with an option to extend." They answered some questions in this OSC forum thread.

Maybe Segment will sponsor an Open Fellowship again at some point.

The Open Society Foundation gives out relevant grants.

The Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship applications open on 1 August 2020.

The annual Better Scientific Software (BSSw) Fellowship Program will open for applications in mid-2020.

The Ford Foundation is encouraging public interest technology and points to other orgs doing that funding.

Applying does not have to be too scary

Everyone who applies for a grant has to at some point write their first grant proposal. It will often feel tricky for people who haven't done it before! But it is doable. Asking questions on any relevant forum, looking at sample documents and training resources, and talking to someone who's done stuff like this before (I have) will help.

Try translating application requirements into plainer language to help you understand how to answer them. For example:

"Proposal including Concept for project in consideration of grant objectives and merit criteria": what is it you want to do, and why does it suit the criteria we have set out?

"Budget and Budget Narrative": how much money do you need, and how will you go about spending it?

I do grantwriting, and you can ask me for a free 30-minute consultation to help you figure out what to apply for. Hope this helps!

: A Heritage: I was talking with a friend earlier today about how I've come to understand some different temperaments and skills I inherited from my different parents.

And the specific thing I am reflecting on now is how very into learning and teaching I am, and their two influences showed up differently in my childhood.

My mom was a teacher from the time she was a teenager. She developed curricula, she's worked as a teacher or as a volunteer for so many stints, she's gotten so much pleasure out of regularly meeting and working through a course of instruction with people and helping them grow more capable.

And my late father loved learning, and was an enthusiastic independent scholar of eclectic topics, and loved passing that knowledge on ... anywhere and everywhere was a stage for this sage. In writing, in formal and informal lectures, anytime -- he loved telling you stuff he knew. What a waste it would be not to!

And so here I am.

Filed under:

: My New Title, Improving pip, Availability For Work, And SSL (No, The Other One): A few professional announcements.

Seeking developers for paid contract on pip; apply by Nov. 22

One is that I helped the Packaging Working Group of the Python Software Foundation get funding for a long-needed improvement to pip. I led the writing of a few proposals -- grantwriting, to oversimplify -- and, starting possibly as soon as next month, contractors will start work. As Dustin Ingram explains:

Big news: the Python Packaging Working Group has secured >$400K in grants from multiple funders (TBA) to improve one of the most fundamental parts of pip: its dependency resolver.

The dependency resolver is the algorithm which takes multiple constrained requirements (e.g. "some_package>=1.0,<=2.0") and finds a version of all dependencies (and sub-dependencies) which satisfy all the constraints.

Right now, pip's resolver mostly works for most use cases... However the algorithm it uses is naïve, and isn't always guaranteed to produce an optimal (or correct) result.


These funds will pay multiple developers to work on completing the design, implementation and rollout of this new dependency resolver for pip, finally closing issue #988.

Not only will this give pip a better resolver, but it will "enable us to untangle pip’s internals from the resolver, enabling pip to share code for dependency resolution with other packaging tooling".

This is great news for pip and Python packaging in general. Huge shout out to @pradyunsg for his existing work on the resolver issue and guidance here, and to @brainwane for all her tireless work acquiring and directing funding for Python projects.

If you or your organization is interested in participating in this project, we've just posted the RFP, which includes instructions for submitting proposals, evaluation criteria and scope of work.

If you're interested, please apply by 22 November.

NYU, Secure Systems Lab, and my new title

Working at the new space on NYU Tandon's campus, left to right: Sumana Harihareswara, a volunteer with the PSF's Packaging Working Group, a contracted project manager for the Python Packaging Index, and a visiting scholar in NYU Tandon Professor Justin Cappos's Secure Systems Lab; Stephanie Whited, communications director for the Tor Project and visiting researcher in the Secure System Lab; and Santiago Torres, a computer science doctoral candidate working in the Secure Systems Lab. Photo by NYU publicity.In further news: I am now a visiting scholar in Professor Justin Cappos's Secure Systems Lab at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. And I get to use an office with a door, shelves, whiteboards, and so on (per the picture at right). If you contribute to Python packaging/distribution tools and live in/near or sometimes visit New York City, let me know and perhaps we could cowork a bit?

The Secure Systems Lab stewards The Update Framework (TUF) and related projects, and works to improve the security of the software supply chain. The Python Package Index is likely going to implement TUF to add cryptographic signatures to packages on PyPI, and so I've gotten to give TUF's developers some advice to help that work move along. (I won't be the manager on that project but I'll be watching with great interest.) PyPA may also choose to use more of SSL's work in implementing further security improvements to the package distribution toolchain, and I'm learning more to work out whether and how that could happen. Also, Cappos's research on backtracking dependency resolvers has been helpful to the pip resolver work.

Edited 19 Nov 2019 to clarify role.

PSF projects

I'm grateful to get to help connect the Python Software Foundation with more resources and volunteers. Changeset's current and recent projects have mostly been for the PSF. Last month we finished accessibility, security, and internationalization work on PyPI that was funded by the Open Technology Fund, and Changeset's work on communicating about the sunsetting of Python 2.x continues and will go through April 2020.

Availability for one-day engagements in San Francisco in February

But I am interested in taking on new clients for short engagements starting in February 2020. In particular, I will be in the San Francisco Bay Area in mid- to late February. If you're in SF or nearby, I could offer you a one-day engagement doing one of the following:

  • developing a contributor outreach/intake strategy
  • researching potential funders and writing a rough draft of a grant proposal
  • auditing and improving your developer onboarding documents

I'd spend a little time talking with you, then sit in your office and finish the document before leaving that afternoon. (Photo at right provides a sample of how I look while sitting.) Drop me a line for a free initial 30-minute chat and we can talk pricing.

: Art of Python Seeking Organizers for 2020: In May, I chaired "The Art of Python", a festival of arts about programming that took place at PyCon North America. People presented short plays, monologues, songs, and a video remix that explored how it feels to program and play with Python.

I am very glad I did it! But I have to concentrate on other projects now.

I cannot be one of the co-organizers for "The Art of Python" at PyCon North America in 2020; I hope someone else steps forward to lead it so it can take place again. If you want to organize "Art of Python" at PyCon 2020, please submit a Hatchery proposal as soon as possible. The deadline for Hatchery proposals is January 3, 2020. If you are interested but need help to do it, post about that someplace public -- your blog, Twitter, etc. -- and tell me, and if I hear from multiple people, I'll put you in touch with each other.

To help: I have written up a retrospective and HOWTO document about "The Art of Python". It's in two parts: "Why I Did This" and "How I Did This".

As I say in there: I saw a lack. I was not and am not a professional playwright, performer, or festival planner. But I didn't have to be, and you don't either. You don't have to be a professional performer to show what you experience when you're programming -- you just need a stage, and I wanted to create the stage. And now we have. I hope the show goes on.

Thanks to Kim Wadsworth and Leonard Richardson for editing help.

: Availability Update for October: I'm going to be off social media a lot between October 4th and about October 30th. Please email if you want to reach me - & have my address - but I will probably be slow & terse in response.

: The Breath Before: A few days ago, Leonard and I went to see a movie at our local museum/arthouse theater. We settled into our seats and turned off our phones and chitchatted, and I mentioned a funny line from a Paul Ford interview.

A curator came in to briefly introduce the film, and mention the film series this screening was part of, and to tell us that the director would be there in person for a screening of another film several days from now. An appreciative "oooh!" rippled through the crowd.

And then the lights went down and everyone hushed and looked forward and the movie was about to start. And then it did, and it was fun, but the moment I most treasure was that little tiny moment of civilization where we were all waiting together in anticipation.

Filed under:

: Cambrian explosion of discussions about the future of software freedom: In 2009, Dreamwidth user rydra-wong did the great favor of making link roundups to help people keep track of a distributed conversation happening on lots of people's blogs about a current controversy.

I'd love for someone to take up that kind of work ("linkspam" roundups) or point to something similar, a Pinboard tag or a TagTeam instance/tag/team, to help us all see people writing about the future of open source software licensing. This post by Molly de Blanc and this one by Karl Fogel, for instance.

Edited on 25 November to add: Thank you, Audrey Eschright, for doing this!

2019 December

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