I had a daughter on July 17th and I’ve been a bit busy these first weeks so I didn’t find out about Volkerding’s financial situation until a few days ago. I don’t think this matter received major coverage in Hacker News, but it was covered by LWN.net. As soon as I found out how bad things were, I sent a few tens of dollars his way via his PayPal link for donations.
It’s heartbreaking to read about his situation taking into account I used Slackware for 12 years before switching to Fedora and I got a Slackware subscription as soon as I was able to afford it. It’s saddening to imagine he was only receiving a small part of those subscriptions if any, so I felt compelled to send some money to himself directly. I urge any Slackware user to do the same if possible.
When I switched away from Slackware into Fedora more than 3 years ago (wow, time flies when you have children!) I explained my reasons and mentioned it was common knowledge he wasn’t making a lot of money on Slackware, but I could never imagine it was that bad. Maintaining Slackware is a full time job and worth a full time salary. It’s work thousands of people are benefiting from.
Taking into account the numbers he posted, he mentions Slackware 14.2, the last stable release as of the time I’m writing this, generated almost $100K in revenue, which means, at $40 per subscription, Slackware could have nearly 2500 paying subscribers. My guess is the majority of those are people who don’t mind paying $40 a year for Volkerding to continue working on Slackware. After all, they have a subscription so they would get charged that amount whenever a new Slackware release comes out, which may very well be once a year. Receiving the DVDs at home is fine but so would be receiving a thank you letter for most of them. There’s no reason those $100K could go directly to Volkerding every year or every couple of years.
As I mentioned in the past and some others mentioned in the LinuxQuestions.org thread, I think Volkerding needs to adapt a bit to the current times. It’s important to maximize revenue as the well dries progressively, as much as trying to stop the well from drying. In this sense, even if that means opening up your personal finances to everyone to the extent Slackware is a one-man project, people need to know about his situation, his revenue goals (Wikipedia style), his technical goals with the project and other needs that arise. It’s disheartening to read he could only recently get a hold of an EFI machine, for example (not to mention the situation of this home and family taking into account he has a daughter). If he was lacking that hardware I’m sure a handful of users could have put together a few bucks and send one his way. This is a minor but significant example, in my opinion, of things that could be done differently nowadays.
I’m glad to read the public response was outstanding as he thanked everyone in the Change Log entry from July 27th and I wish him, his family and Slackware the best in the future.
Thank you, Patrick, for all the hard work you’ve put into Slackware for more than 25 years that many people like me have directly benefited from. Best regards from a fellow dad and former Slackware user.