[rescue] Private collections for the public good? (Was: Cheapest Cray?)

Phil Stracchino alaric at caerllewys.net
Mon Apr 26 20:50:40 CDT 2004

On Mon, Apr 26, 2004 at 04:38:35PM -0700, Skeezics Boondoggle wrote:
> On Mon, 26 Apr 2004, Jonathan C. Patschke wrote:
> /.../
> > I mean, the concept would be so cool:  Privately fund it, and have it
> > open to anyone in Austin to play with for a modest donation, on the
> > honor system.  Hell, reserve cray.ci.austin.tx.us for it.  Support it by
> > selling "My other workstation is a CRAY" bumper stickers or whatever.
> I was thinking about putting up some silly designs on cafepress for a few
> fundraising items of that nature...

I'm told that if you're serious about doing such things in any quantity,
there are places out there that produce far higher quality product than
cafepress and take a smaller bite out of the gross.  Frankly, most of
the people I've known who've ever dealt with cafepress said the quality
of their stuff is terrible.  It's the difference between, for instance,
CafePress inkjet-printing iron-on transfers for shirts, vs. other places
actually screen-printing the shirts.

> Anyway, Dave commented a week or two ago about how it sucks to have to
> spend so much time scrounging to make a living, when there are so many
> more interesting projects to be working on.  I've been thinking about that
> too, and how cool it would be if there were some way to form a grass-roots
> organization that would create fellowships, so that people with
> interesting ideas could take 6-12 months with a reasonable salary to work
> on some idea, without having to scrounge around for living expenses.
> I'm thinking it could be some sort of a not-for-profit foundation, an idea
> incubator, where we bootstrap it ourselves and own shares and vote on the
> list of candidates and ideas to fund.  It could operate like a VC fund,
> where in the case that a funded idea turned into a profitable enterprise,
> the foundation would receive a modest return on the investment, which
> would then help fund future ideas.

Four words for you:  Peer Directed Projects Center.

(It's in its relative infancy right now, but we're working on getting ot
further off the ground.  Right now, the main thing PDPC does is provide
freenode.net -- formerly openprojects.net -- to provide support channels
and coordination resources for FOSS projects, but one of the long-term
goals of PDPC, contingent upon developing the funding, is to be able to
prodive independent open-source developers a stipend to just go off and
work on some significant project.

I'm on the board, and can put you in touch with the rest of the board
and the founder if you want to get involved.

> The main thing is:  NO SUITS.  We'd hire the most non-suit suit types we
> know to handle some of the legal/accounting BS, but for the most part this
> would be a highly democratic, somewhat "blue collar" kind of organization.  
> We'd pick the ideas based on technical merit or usefulness, not on whether
> some marketing guy thinks they could make a fortune on it.

You're still describing PDPC.  :)

> I'd love to be able to build a proper datacenter space that could house
> other people's machines too, sort of a regional self-funded
> "supercomputing center" not reliant on federal dollars, but for
> applications like games, rendering, science apps, teaching, etc. -
> something the average geek could get into, not just modeling nuclear
> blasts or fluid dynamics or doing weather prediction or other high-end
> stuff that is typically too remote.  I bet local schools could come up
> with all kinds of interesting experiments that kids could run, and use a
> block of cycles to run their stuff.

Oh yeah.  I'd love to get into something like that myself.  Apart from
the preservation aspect, imagine its value as a learning resource.  Not
only could people in the general public learn that there's more to life
than Windows and Pentium 4.99999972s, not only could they learn about
systems like Crays, Origins and the like, they could actually learn to
use them and see first-hand the kind of things they can do.

> Just tossing out some ideas.  I should probably update the ol' resume
> (been heel dragging on that) but I might, just for giggles, make a few
> calls or send a few letters and see what starting a computer history
> foundation would entail.  Getting our collections out of the garage or
> basement and in front of the public (on the web or in a storefront or
> interactive exhibit of some kind) would be a pretty neat enterprise.  My
> old PERQ demos would totally blow minds. :-)

I re-iterate my offer to put you in touch with Rob Levin.

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