NixOS Board Call meeting minutes - Sponsorship Discussion - March 13, 2024

Notes 2024-03-13 (1660 UTC)

Recap (10min)

  • NixCon EU Anduril sponsorship announced by marketting team, leading to “bunch of things”/outcry and venue asked NixCon team to provide additional detail prior to the conference. Sponsor was dropped.
  • During and after conference resulted in discussions in Matix and Discourse. Proposed policy by @tomberek, roughly summarized by requiring legal status.
  • Proposed policy does not limit Anduril sponsorhip via host (SCALE), US (location), and Netherlands.
  • Nixcon NA organizing team accepted Anduril as a sponsor for the event at the rate of $5000.
  • Subsequently, NixCon NA team also accepted.
  • This resulted in an open letter signed by members of the community.
  • A board meeting discussed this, the decision was to use the existing proposed policy, as outlined here.

Question period (45m)

  • Question: What was the previous policy?

    • There was no existing policy during 2023 NixCon.
    • There was some stuff in the CoC, but nothing was concrete on this issue.
  • Question @delroth: "Why was a policy decided upon that clearly did not match the community’s discontent at Anduril’s NixCon EU sponsorship? How is this not a complete slap in the face to the community’s concerns back in early Sept 2023? "

    • Interim policy that we used since there “was no interim” policy after this was proposed.
    • Shouldn’t be the final policy, as it is still open.
    • “We don’t want to hide behind the fact that there is no community consensus.”
    • “If we start deciding which companies should be excluded… I don’t think we should be in that position.”
    • People are always going to be excluded.
  • Question @piegames: “Last time there was the idea to publish the sponsors list beforehand for community discussion.”

  • Question @Jo: “Should there be a anonymous sponsorship tier? So no advertising for the supporting company…”

    • Anonymous donations to NixOS Foundation are possible. Anonymous donation to NixCon is also possible, but was not part of the published tiering.
    • Open to discussions
    • Decided to make sponsorship this year less visibible.
    • Anduril will not be announced anymore on social media.
    • Less of advertising material, more “like a donation”.
  • Topic: donation vs sponsorhip vs endorsement vs advertising

    • Anduril is one of the top donators on Open Collective, for instance, which was equated to advertisement, in a way.
  • Question @jonas: What is the context for this sponsorship?

    • Is there a difference between events where this sponsorship would have been appropriate at a different event?
    • There is no discinction right now. Foundation sets a baseline policy. Organizers of indvidual make additional, more restrictive policies, after that.
  • Question @ajax: What is the exposure provided to sponsors?

    • NixCon North America - Sponsorship Tracks
    • This was an experimental nixcon
    • Looked for a venue
    • Scale jumped in to help out, allowing us to co-locate with them.
    • Co-located with Scale. They are fiscally hosting this.
    • Launched sponsorship
    • The NixCon NA organizers are “not relying on Anduril funding for this event to exist”.
    • Anduril sponsored this event for $5000
    • Anduril met the venue/SCALE’s requirements for sponsorship.
    • The sponsorship transaction is:
      • Their logo is put on the website.
      • There will be a virtual slide where their logo will show up, among others.
      • There will be physical assets at the conference without anduril.
    • For the NixCon organizers, it is considered that sponsorhip != endorsement
  • Question @ajax: Risk assessment or branding, image, conflict?

    • Want sponsorship decisions to be based on something that is “actually sustainable and scaleable”.
    • There was an attempt to make a policy in the past, which was used as a interim policy when deciding.
    • The NixCon organizers didn’t realize that the Anduril sponsorship would be as devisive as it is.
  • Question: topic is contentious, open letter.

    • Whether the policy is accepted or not, there will be fractures.
    • The foundation team feels that they need to fall back on an official policy.
      • Having to make hard decisions without a framework leads to burnout, a feeling that organizing is a “shitty job.”
      • NixOS Foundation struggles when people are “shouting over each other,” hard to make considered decisions on behalf of the whole community.
  • Question: “maybe it could also help to reword the policy a bit to make it more clear that the foundation allowing event organizers some freedom does not mean endorsing any of the sponsors? Or did I misunderstand?”

    • “We are not endorsing any sponsors at all”
    • The NixCon organizers viewed sponsorship as: in exchange for sponsorship income, your logo is published.
    • This is something we need to set inside the official policy.
      • Straying into policy disucssion, tabled for later.
    • The basic idea behind sponsorship, in the view of the board:
      1. A company gives money to support something.
      2. Conference organizers acknowledge that the sponsoring company helped organize that event/helped the community in some way.
        • “Very different from endorsing what the company does in general.”
    • @tomberek:
      • In this space, sponsorship is very rarely seen as an “endorsement.”
        • Not about exposure/impressions, in contrast to advertising.
      • More of an “acknowledgement.”
      • NixCon 2023 Google, NixCon 2022 DGNUM were brought up as examples of companies that were sponsors that some feel are “shady.”
    • There should be, as part of the policy, that we don’t advertise/endorse any sponsors.
    • How do we feel about scaling? How do we sponsor “$1 millon” of infrastructure costs, if we need it?
  • @hexa: tension between policy and revenue

    • @ron – adamant about making policy. Sponsorship helps make conference happen, but is not load-bearing. The conference could happen with or without Anduril.
    • Bottom up vs top down policy setting
  • Question (@janik): What does the board think about the suggested policy in the open letter of banning any mic company from sponsoring (note: specifically sponsoring not donations)

    • “(The letter) doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. It should be a community-wide discussion.”
    • The most important thing is the policy.
    • @elco? Where do we stop? Should we reject PRs from MIC?
      • Elco doesn’t want to be the arbiter of what companies should be right or wrong.
    • Hexa clarified that it was decided that everyone contributes to Nix on their own behalf.
    • They didn’t feel equipped to make a decision. Didn’t want to start looking into every company
    • @jonas If we don’t accept any MIC contributions, worried we are “shooting ourselves in the foot.”
      • “credible and reliable partner”
      • Don’t want to be seen as an organization that always flakes out last-minute
    • @janik, for nixcon 2023, many people cancel their donations and many sponsors pulled out (a specific example was given … link here …)
  • Proposals:

  • Proposal (@tomberek): Prioritize continuing to write down a policy to escape this “interim policy” situation.

    • Have to write our stance down in order to appear reliable to future sponsors.
    • We dropped the ball on following up on the policy after NixCon 2023.
  • Question (@tomberek): Is this clarification between what sponsorship/endorsement is, sufficient? Does it address the open letter?

    • Issue of communication. It is very telling that an open letter was seen as the way to get results, rather than going to the foundation. Something is broken in the system if this is the case. We clearly want the NixOS Foundation to be a trusted partner to the community.
    • No clear answer to this question.

Action Items (5m)


Not if you run your conference with --extra-experim—*tackled by security*