NixCon NA 2024 is getting sponsored by Anduril, what to do about it


X-posting this as it’s probably of interest to the folks involved in that discussion:

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This is a sentiment which has been dragging out for quite a while now, but currently I feel it more than ever: The current foundation board increasingly feels disconnected from the community and its members. I am starting to doubt that the current cast is well suited for making meaningful decisions aligned with many of our contributors.

Setting aside the question whether or not military sponsorships are okay in general, given the debacle at the last NixCon, simply accepting Anduril was an unacceptable thing to do. I still have difficulties grasping how at all these stages seemingly nobody anticipated the community fallout (and the very real PR damage to the project as a whole) that such a decision would have.

And while yes the sponsorship selection was mainly done by the NixCon NA organizers AFAICT, the ball ultimately should have stopped at the Foundation.


They are making meaningful decisions aligned with many of the contributors. The only logically possible way to make meaningful decisions that are not objectionable to many contributors is to get rid of a significant percentage of active contributors. (Actively getting rid of contributors is required: the track record of bad decisions of various kinds sometimes being made in the project is long enough that clearly not everyone who objects to yet another decision will quit).

Or, alternatively, appreciated the need for a coherent policy and estimated that mimicking Apache, trying to establish a proper policy, and doing random calls at random will all cause fallout, but in the first case people will either quit or not, and in the other two people will burn out first and then quit or not.

(My own position is that I doubt Andruil actually reduces military budget dollars written off per one death — intended or unintended, and I don’t see how whatever NixCon decisions can change the operation budget of DoD, so I am with the «we need to divert more military dollars to something with civil applications, because that’s how technology scaling is typically paid for»)


About any sponsorship policies. The most basic legal ground has already been covered in [policy proposal]: Sponsorship · Issue #110 · NixOS/foundation · GitHub, so I am going to build on top of that. Most importantly to me, the process of selecting sponsors is as important as the actual policy itself, regardless of what the latter may be. Some point I’d like to see covered in general [rationale in brackets]:

  • The marketing team and the event organization team are mainly responsible for finding adequate sponsors. They may delegate that task.
  • Sponsorship candidates must be published two weeks before the sponsorship going live (i.e. start of the event) for community consideration.
  • The event organization team, the marketing team, the Foundation board and maybe also the moderation team are allowed to reject any sponsor each. [I have an obvious conflict of interest about the moderation bit, but also if things go south this *is* a lot of work so we kinda do have stakes in this]
  • Sponsorship of a company, by design, includes advertising for that company. Therefore, donations by a company (which are not tied to publicity) are a different topic of discussion and out of scope. [This is especially for the “let’s just take their money” camp. I know many people who would be fine with getting donations from companies like Anduril as long as it does not cause any dependencies or conflicts of interests, but would not be comfortable with publicly advertising for such a company]
  • Companies that are heavily or primarily involved in military, defense, intelligence or weapons manufacturing are not allowed to become a sponsor. [This is not a moral judgement on the companies themselves, just a reflection of the fact that a significant part of the community is not comfortable with advertising for them.]
    • No matter what, Anduril is out as a sponsor [Every rule has a story, I guess]
  • There are not additional blanket topic-specific restrictions for sponsorships for now. Sponsors may be rejected due to community feedback, and if necessary, more rules may be introduced. [Surveillance capitalism and for example Google have come up a couple of times in the discussion, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let’s rather focus on preparing ourselves for that day by building robust processes instead of trying to cover all possible rules right now.]
  • To protect the overall community, events that fail to abide by these rules and processes cannot call themselves official, and must adapt their branding accordingly.

After thinking more about the distinction I made in Should organizations relating to the defense sector being able to sponsor NixOS? - #158 by piegames, I noticed the following thing: the actual issue here is with advertisements and publicity for certain companies. And while I think that sponsoring inherently implies some form of publicity, this distinction does matter because somebody already proposed having special sponsorship tiers for such cases (which I’d personally disagree with doing, but that’s besides the point).

Another important reason to discuss this, is that we need to talk about how to deal with companies like Anduril being present at an event like NixCon, even when they are not a sponsor. At NixCon 2023, we had an Anduril employee attending at the conference and holding a talk as a community member, and I think that banning them would have been the wrong thing to do.

The issue is, that many people are attending the conference both as individual community members as well as employees of their company, and that companies usually put some form of ads or “we’re hiring” on the slides of the talks of their employees.

My proposal for a policy about employees whose companies we do not want to advertise for (regardless of what the rules for that will turn out to be):

  • They are welcome to attend any events as community members.
    • No company logo on badges (in case that is a thing at the event), no giveaway swag or flyers etc., no recruitment.
  • They are welcome to hold talks as community members.
    • The topic of the talk must not be inherently related to the company. Given that, talking about company related projects or work done on company time is acceptable.
    • No company logo on slides(?)
    • Mentioning the employer as part of the introduction is okay(?)
    • It is okay to use a company mail address if it is the most fitting one to use within the scope of the talk
    • It is okay to link to projects within company namespaces, if they are relevant to the talk
  • Customized rules and exceptions may be negotiated with the even organizers should this be necessary.

this does seem to be the most specific and concrete point, and the rest you outline seems reasonable.

regarding company-level criteria, things snowball. lacking measurements, consider this speculative, but plausible scenario:

  1. 20 NixCon EU attendees have strong ethical disagreements with Anduril sponsorship.
  2. various last-minute things happen and Anduril’s founder makes incendiary remarks that alienate 100 non conference-attendees.
  3. Anduril chooses to sponsor NixCon NA without sufficiently addressing this history, leaving 200 people disillusioned that Anduril in particular is harmful to NixOS.

ethics is one criteria, and perhaps an acceptable proxy for the rest. still, an ethically identical Anduril-but-with-a-different-face likely could have arrested that snowball before catastrophe. possible takeaways are (1) static criteria will not always be “accurate” (which is not to say it isn’t worthwhile) or (2) because of those downstream uncertainties, a formal policy which aims to be consistent may have to be more strict in denying sponsorships than one might initially expect.


I am going to suggest a controversial counter proposal: Don’t do anything.

I feel for the organizers who spends time and energy to create as good conference as they can make it, only to be dragged into heated debates about a topic that is subjective and divisive.
if you have opinions about the sponsor, by all means, let your opinion be heard. But leave the judgement and decision to the organizer. I think it would be more respectful to the work they put in.


This is why I so strongly want the community’s input to be part of the feedback process. The idea here is to establish a fairly minimal set of base rules, and then decide on a case by case basis, optionally expanding or adapting the rules as necessary.

I am unsure about what you mean with “consistent” here. Do you mean logical consistency, as in free of contradictions?

We literally did nothing after the last NixCon, and look where it’s gotten us. Not doing anything and hoping for the best simply is not an option anymore at this point.

I do feel for the NixCon organizers, especially since I’ve been close enough to last year’s orga to have seen how shitty a situation it was for everybody involved. The processes and guidelines for sponsorships which need to be established are meant to protect future conference organizers from such situations.

Also, I’d like to add that there is no rule which says that the conference organizers also have to organize the sponsors. It would be equally fair to declare this task to be delegated towards the Marketing team, or some other entity. But this too would require writing down at least something.


“consistent” primarily as shorthand for “not having to walk back previous decisions”. scenarios in which a sponsor is approved when you vet them, and then at some time closer to the conference told they actually shouldn’t attend, are not great. which means you likely want to apply stricter-than-necessary criteria at the time of vetting to counter that uncertainty.


Bear in mind that Microsoft is heavily, but not primarily, involved in military, defence, intelligence or weapons manufacturing.

“Empowering militaries. Improving operations. Protecting national security.”

Amazon and Google are also involved, and both companies also provide to the Israeli military as part of its “Project Nimbus”. Project Nimbus for example has been heavily criticised by those concerned with Palestinian human rights including employees, particularly since recent events in the region.

If you’re suggesting policy, you should probably have in mind exactly what the criteria are and what companies are and are not excluded. For example, one possibility, if you want to allow these companies but not Anduril (or, say, Lockheed Martin), you could drop the “heavily”, and permit huge defence contractors provided it is not the majority of their business. Or, if it turns out the issue is really about image and not substance, you could say “companies that are primarily known for”, etc.


Quick heads-up (this was already mentioned in other related channels, but making sure that folks don’t miss it):

  • There’s an open call next Wednesday which will be the occasion to discuss a lightweight short-term policy that we can use right away;
  • Several people asked how they could make sure that this was followed-up on and wouldn’t just die-off once the tide is over. Beyond the general discussion (which risks to die-off indeed), I think that the best way forward is to open a a pull-request to GitHub - NixOS/foundation: This is the home of the NixOS Foundation with a draft proposal.
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I think either “majority of their business” or “primarily known for”, could, for some 90+% of businesses, find a consensus fairly easily as to which side of the line they’re on. Neither is perfect, but either is at least some kind of starting point.

Biggest concern with regards to “Primarily known for” is that it’s subject to geographic disparity. Especially in the case of a military supplier, people from two different countries could “know” the same company for extremely different things.


I do feel for the NixCon organizers, especially since I’ve been close enough to last year’s orga to have seen how shitty a situation it was for everybody involved. The processes and guidelines for sponsorships which need to be established are meant to protect future conference organizers from such situations

I don’t think processes and guidelines alone can protect from this happening again. I also think a fair share of introspection will be needed by the community itself.

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This is unfortunate. As someone who has seen how “traditional” defense procurement and development is done: seeing Nix used to solve a myriad of packaging, configuration, and integration problem is a super compelling story for Nix. I’m sure a lot of industry would be interested in how custom hardware, firmware, software, and services can be packaged and configured to deploy devices. Including per-customer modifications and extending a common “prototype” to many different variants. This is a massive headache in purely civilian contexts as well.

Without Nix, this would require probably a dozen different tools, and significantly more integration pain would be present at each abstraction (hardware, firmware, software) and service layer.

Not trying to shill a company, but rather “Nix is a super power”. And people should hear about it being a super power.


Why would you need a company logo on your badge/giveaway swag/flyers/recruitment to tell people about Nix being a super power?


This is a good point. One of the best things about Nix is that it has potential to be a game changer in just about any field that uses computers. There are definitely many commerical/industrial cases where a little reproducibility and stability would do us all some good.

Though to be clear, @piegames’s suggestion was that this sort of ban would apply to just “employees whose companies we do not want to advertise for” (putting aside, for the scope of this comment at least, how we determine which companies that may or may not apply to). So it’s not a total ban on businesses advertising themselves. In that sense, I think it’s a reasonable proposal.

And naturally, all of this is in the context of officially-branded NixCons. “Blacklisted” companies are of course free to talk about how much Nix has helped them in unofficial Cons, or conferences for their own industry. So I hope that being shut out of this one venue wouldn’t be too much of a hinderance on Nix adoption.


I agree with your goal but I don’t think I agree with your conclusion. My proposal for this is to explicitly not approve sponsorships until the sponsorship candidates have been vetted by the community. You may still view this as a form of “walking back previous decisions”, but personally I don’t see this as a problem as long as the process is defined and communicated clearly to the involved parties. Expectation management is key here.

I don’t disagree, but also that’s not what I’m stating. I merely say that doing this is necessary, not that it will be sufficient.

It looks to me that you got what I was saying precisely backwards from what I meant. I meant that we do not want to advertise for certain companies. I did not mean that certain companies should not advertise for Nix.

My proposal is explicitly aiming for a policy where everybody can contribute to Nix and Nix conferences and shout how great it is for them from the top of the roofs.


Moderation notice, for this thread as well: A couple of users complained here about not being able to edit their messages because of the slow mode. I initially could not reproduce this, but that is because the system apparently does not enforce timers on me as a moderator.

I have now found and disabled this feature, and edits will not be counted as part of the slow mode message timer anymore. The message cooldown is there to prevent the discussion devolving into a messy real-time chat. I trust you all to be considerate with your message edits and to not abuse it to reply to people who posted after you.


Anduril is an explicitly political project. In previous discussion,@jonringer has lamented “making everything political”. I don’t think it is appropriate for Nix to be sponsored or led by political organizations: Nix should stay focused on its mission of technical excellence and prevent its contributors from being derailed by politicking in the project. For the record, if it were a similarly political Chinese or Russian sponsor I would make the same argument.