NixCon 2023 Sponsorship Situation from the NixOS Foundation

Since the events took place, the foundation has been working with all parties to both understand and try to help resolve the situation. We wanted to share the context, information and actions we’ve gathered for full transparency and to allow those interested to help get involved/support.

Background and Context

NixCon 2023 faced an incident involving one of its sponsors. Following the announcement of the sponsorship as part of the general sponsor post plan for NixCon, a series of events unfolded, which led to the NixCon team’s decision to rescind the sponsorship from Anduril.

Community Structure

Similar to many other open source projects, especially those that are in the initial phases of rapid growth, the Nix community has many teams which are majorly volunteer-driven in a distributed structure. NixCon is one of those teams and is the organizing group for the yearly event. The NixOS Foundation serves as a fiscal host and supports the team. The Nix Marketing team helps out with social media communication. This was the first year that all three worked together.

What Happened (in short)

When Anduril became a sponsor in August, the NixCon team considered the issue and decided to proceed with the sponsorship and accept a talk submitted by an Anduril employee.

Volunteers from c3voc, who were responsible for live streaming, also considered the issue and decided not to distribute talks by Anduril or those containing Andruil branding, but otherwise cover the event.

Three days before the event, the NixOS marketing team promoted the sponsorship of Anduril on social media as part of a series of announcements provided for the sponsors. This created more awareness than the information previously available on the NixCon website and generated a strong response from some community members.

The event venue, TU Darmstadt, became aware of the situation and sought additional information to determine if the sponsorship was in accordance with their policies (this is when we learned about Civil clause - Wikipedia). The venue asked to fill paperwork in a very short timeframe (4 hours).

Given the close proximity to the event date (48 hours), the uncertainty about the venue’s policy, potential for further escalation, and risk to the event itself, the NixCon team made the decision to withdraw Anduril’s sponsorship. This decision was made to ensure the event could proceed as planned, as many attendees were already traveling.

This was communicated to Anduril via email, and to their employees who were going to attend.

Some miscommunication happened between the NixCon and Nix marketing team which led the marketing team to issue a statement on social media that wasn’t reflecting the previous point.

At this point, the NixCon team decided to leave things as they stood so they could focus on the core event.

Next Steps

The community is small but growing; this is surfacing new problems that weren’t there just a day before. While we are excited we also understand the importance of establishing gulidelines and taking action to help support the future of Nix. We believe that everyone involved cares for Nix, the community and the project and wants to work together to ensure its success. There are multiple efforts across the community and in the foundation, working on this very topic and wanted to share a few of the following actions that will be implemented:

  1. Formulating a transparent sponsorship policy after consulting with the community to clearly outline acceptable criteria for future sponsors.
  2. Enhancing feedback mechanisms to allow community members to express concerns in a structured manner.
  3. Upgrading internal communication systems to better coordinate among the various teams and stakeholders in our community.

Final Remarks

Despite this challenging episode, NixCon 2023 was a highly successful event. The NixOS Foundation remains committed to evolving in a way that best serves our increasingly diverse and growing community. We take this incident seriously and will incorporate these lessons.


Was this (mainly) because Anduril is a defense contractor?


Indeed, the message doesn’t state what was wrong with the sponsor.


@zimbatm thanks for that wiki link and it explains what I was after. Thanks again for this transparency


Thanks for the clarification here. This is a good statement, and I think covers well the pieces people weren’t aware of. It’s a good step! Thank you. By way of note, my feeling is calling it “the incident” and the vague references to “the issue” sidesteps what I’m sure is a bit of a hot-button: does the foundation plan to take a position on if users in the defense space are welcome to future events?


Do you mean this at the level of the individual (talks, attendance) or at the sponsorship?

I assume the former, but I felt like there was an implicit yes here since the talk by an anduril employee went forward. (That also feels like a fair place to draw the line, though I imagine opinions will vary here.)

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Given the close proximity to the event date (48 hours), the uncertainty about the venue’s policy, potential for further escalation, and risk to the event itself, the NixCon team made the decision to withdraw Anduril’s sponsorship.

That sounds like you gave in to social pressure.

I can’t imagine that accepting funding from said company did not make you think about potential controversy.

I believe a better decision would have been to review the situation properly after the NixCon, formulate a sponsorship policy and then review all sponsors against it. Instead, a hasty decision was made and you can’t even explain properly to the sponsor why you did pull… because you got no sponsorship policy yet.


I mean both. And, their attendance as employees was not really welcome as I understand it: their badges had Anduril removed, and my understanding is the only allowed mention of Anduril was in their email address.


Fair. I guess we’re using different definitions of welcome. It seems like they were ultimately welcome to attend and participate as individuals, but I agree that the different treatment does mean they were not as welcome as individuals employed by other companies.


Yeah, I mean really what I’m wondering is: what does the board think?

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Would that help? I can ask, but it takes a while to synchronize. Our next meet is Tuesday in two weeks.

From the NixCon side, the badge and slide changes were part of the measure the team felt were needed to not fall under the Zivil Clause of the University. This is something I made sure was communicated in person to the attendees. There aren’t any restrictions on who can attend NixCon and this is not what is in question here.

And I think I can speak in the name of both teams to say that we don’t want something like this to repeat, ever. If there are any restrictions on the sponsors, the policy will be clearly communicated beforehand. Looking up what the host’s policies are is also something that we should add to the big checklist of items before booking a venue.

Also more generally, please talk to us (EDIT: not directed at Graham). Outrage is super toxic to communities and this is not how we should go about things. I understand that there was an element of surprise and that some people felt hostage of the situation, but still… Even if it didn’t affect the decisions, it still affected aspects of the events negatively. Let’s do better next time. I was especially surprised because often I find myself being impressed by the level of thoughtfulness and measured response that participants have in these difficult conversations.


For what its worth, while I know some folks feel outrage I don’t feel any. It was a really unfortunate circumstance that I also hope never happens again.

I think it would be helpful, because I think it is valuable for the foundation to have an opinion about what kind of community it is trying to foster. This may also influence venue selection. For example if the foundation has a position that attendees like Anduril need to be welcome. Or if the foundation doesn’t take a position, then the policy for a given event is defacto delegated to the team that picks the venue.

And to be clear, I don’t have a vested interest in the outcome either way. I’m asking because I think the foundation should have an opinion, and may already have a vague notion brewing already.


@zimbatm Thank you for all the thought you’ve put into communications here (unless you can write like that without any thought, in which case you’re a genius)


Written down and longstanding policy of a venue is not just social pressure. Neither is the property of longstanding policies to come with complicated stories of actual-interpretation (even more so in Germany). This is a genuinely complicated question, and one would need a much larger team with much larger funding to even begin considering covering all the complicated questions of a large conference organisation at a redundancy levels that allows for full reliability.


Can we see the civil clause? that’s a link to a general description of a civil clause.

If you look a bit closer, that site specifically references TU Darmstadt’s civil clause as an example, and links it in a footnote: EK - Mission – TU Darmstadt


13 posts were split to a new topic: Considerations of accepting donations

I am curious about the Civil clause and how it is applied at German universities. Does it mean that if for example a student organization arranges a job event where companies can meet students to discuss hiring opportunities, companies from the defence industry are not welcome?

It is not obvious to me it would be so, since the linked page that describes the Civil clause mostly mentions research and teaching. But perhaps it is applied much broader?

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To bring this back to a policy, we don’t have to figure this out from scratch. Lets look at an example:

Here is how the Apache Software Foundation does it:

Roughly, the sponsor is legal by the law and is committed to open source software. Please read the whole thing. I think this is a reasonable starting point for a sponsorship policy.


Since the ethical concerns about potential sponsors should be considered on a case-by-case basis, it seems like the most relevant aspect of such a policy would be the process by which the sponsors are approved. The ASF Sponsorship policy explicitly avoids having such a process:

Because The Apache Software Foundation Sponsorship Program needs to apply its policies quickly, fairly and equally, without the need for exceptions or board votes, we have tried to maintain this document at the most basic level. However, the Foundation reserves the right to decline any sponsor without providing a reason and at our sole discretion.

For a different example, the Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency has a sponsorship policy that includes a clear process for Sponsorship Approvals: ACM FAccT - 2022 Sponsorship Policy

In short, to ensure conference sponsorships advance the FAccT principles, everyone on the steering committee for the conference has a say over whether a sponsor is accepted and the policy outlines a clear process for the necessary notifications and decision-making.