Are There Plans For A GUI Overhaul?

John Ralls jralls at
Sat Oct 15 17:12:00 EDT 2016

> On Oct 15, 2016, at 11:40 AM, Paul Phillips <paul at> wrote:
> Hi John,
> It appears there's been a big misunderstanding.
> I don't accept that there is a conflict of interest. Why do you think there is? As you would be aware there are many examples of open source projects that have successfully adopted a commercial model.
> I'm offering to assist in accelerating development on the project in a way that complements the project goals, and not just coding: e.g. helping to create and maintain user documentation.
> I'm happy to discuss further with you and/or others in the development team.  Perhaps IRC or another medium would be best rather than the mailing list.
> If the consensus is not to accept my help, then I respect that, but it would be unfortunate if this opportunity passed merely due to a misunderstanding.


I don't think there's any misunderstanding. Rather I think you're trying to sell the development team on something and being less than candid about your motivations.

The conflict is very simple: From your Linkedin profile:
    "I'm the founder, director and developer of brings certainty, control and
     sustainability to Open Source Software, both for customers and developers, through a form of project managed micro
     crowd funding."
You also appear from Linkedin to have another company, SpikeSA, that is a project management consultancy.
The conflict should be obvious: You're offering to help with the contracting and managing on GnuCash's behalf of something that you're in business to provide. If you can't recognize that conflict then you're remarkably ethically challenged. The impression of ethical challenge is reinforced by the fact that you have approached us twice and both times failed to disclose your business interest.

But let's let that go for a moment. Let's also assume for a moment that we're interested in following up on the crowdfunding proposal and letting you run it. Apply for the job: Submit a CV and checkable references. I think the task involves the following:
1. Understanding the overall goals and priorities of the GnuCash development team for the next two release cycles (i.e., until 2020).
2. Analyzing those goals and priorities and developing concrete sub-projects to further them.
3. Writing requests-for-proposal for accomplishing those sub-projects.
4. Make credible estimates of the costs for contracting out those tasks and obtaining the requisite funds through crowdfunding, including whatever commissions/salary you'd require for performing this work.
4. Finding consulting software engineers and documenters with the ability to execute the sub-projects, get them to answer the RFPs, and select the best proposals.
5. Write contracts for the selected engineers and documenters to perform the work. Contracts need to include deliverables, concrete requirements for evaluating the acceptability of the deliverables, intermediate milestones for progress payments, and time frames for completion, plus all of the other legal stuff that goes into contracts like that.
6. Supervise the contractors to ensure that the milestones are met and administer payment.
7. Evaluate the provided code and documentation for good design, implementation, and correct language choice. Ensure that documentation and code is well-written, complies with GnuCash's coding standards, and is ready to merge into GnuCash at each milestone.

Your Linkedin profile suggests that your actual experience covers only items 1 (though not for GnuCash), 6, and maybe 7 (see below), and there's no real indication of actual proficiency there, it's just a bare CV. 

Oh-by-the-way, since your employment at CSC seems to have been as a personal services contractor to BAE Systems I don't place a lot of credibility on the recommendations of your CSC colleagues. After all, they weren't the end recipients of the work you did.

The next question is how do we manage you? Are you proposing to do all of that work as a volunteer or do you expect to be paid? If the latter, what are your deliverables, intermediate milestones, and payment schedule? How do we evaluate your performance to those deliverables and milestones? How do we control your solicitation on crowdfunding sites, collection of the money, disbursement of the money, etc.?

You profess to "love open source", but what have you actually done for open source projects? 

What about coding and code evaluation skills? Are there some significant features that you've implemented on major FLOSS projects that you can point to? Large pull requests or patch sets that you've reviewed? Mailing list discussions on a major project that you've contributed to in a meaningful way?

All of which falls far short of "adopting a commercial model", something that you haven't brought up before (raising more questions about your motivations). FWIW, Linas Vepstas, one of the original creators of GnuCash, tried that around 2000. You'll find vestiges in the copyrights on some of the older modules; look for "Linux Developers Group". It didn't work out. One or two developers have also tried selling GnuCash consulting and customization over the years, and that hasn't worked out very well either. It might be possible to build a business around GnuCash but past experience indicates it wouldn't be easy.

John Ralls

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