Open-source projects and good works done for the Internet ought to be rewarded. While the Internet culture of the past has been pretty good at recognizing talent and hard work and rewarding it with prestige in the community, the close-knit community awareness that sustained this implicit reward structure needs to be supplemented with more formal and explicit mechamnisms as the comminity's population explodes.
Accordingly, I think it's time to develop a more explicit reward structure. I would like to try to assemble a group of prestigious tribal elders of the open-source, Internet, and Linux/UNIX cultures to give out periodic awards recognizing achievement in free software and praiseworthy services to the Internet and its culture.
The model I have in mind for the Open Source Awards is the "Hugo Awards" of SF fandom. The Hugo tradition offers many procedural tips and half-explicit traditions useful for organizing an award that rewards excellence, affirms the community feeling of its constituency, and manages not to be stuffy.
A worthy goal for the Open Source Awards is that they develop a level of prestige, authority, and benefits for their recipients in the net culture analogous to or exceeding that of the Hugos within SF fandom.
To reward and encourage excellence in open-source software. To reward and encourage volunteer contributions to the net and the "hacker culture" in its broadest sense, including the Internet and Usenet and all places elsewhere that the hacker traditions of voluntary code- and information-sharing, creativity, and cooperative individualism reaches.
The Open Source Awards will be issued through the Open Source Initiative, a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation. OSI will recruit an awards committee composed of eminent members of the open-source and Internet cultures, who will issue the awards (generally based on recommendations received from the Internet at large).
The Awards Committee will require a part-time support staff. Membership in the Governing Board, Awards Committee and staff may and often will overlap. Practice of the organization will be patterned where applicable on nonprofit user-service groups such as Usenix and professional societies such as ACM and IEEE.
There will be three different classes of awards:
Excellence awards for specific open-source or network-service projects. These will consist of an engraved certificate and a symbolic small cash award (perhaps $50-$100).
Lifetime Achievement awards made to persons with an outstanding record of contributions to the open-source and Internet cultures. These will consist of a trophy or award analogous to the Hugo rocketship, a substantial cash award (perhaps as much as $1000-$5000), and an entailed invitation to join the Awards Committee.
Special awards made at the Committee's discretion. These will consist of a plaque and a moderate-sized cash award (perhaps $250-$500). The special awards will offer a way to experiment, and will be expected to sometimes lead to the development of new "regular" categories to go with the Excellence and Lifetime Achievement awards.
All awards will include a tasteful lapel pin in the form of a spider (the original netbuilder) suitable for wear at professional conferences and backyard beer bashes, and be recorded on the OSI website.
Rewards will typically go to individuals, but may occasionally at the Awards Comittee's discretion be presented to a project group as a whole.
To be eligible for an Excellence award, the candidate(s) must originate a program or information resource that is:
To be eligible for a Lifetime Achievement award, the candidate(s) must have made an outstanding contribution to the hacker culture and the Internet, through
Where Excellence awards are intended to confer fame, the Lifetime Achievement awards are intended to confirm a reputation already well-earned. Every Lifetime Achievement awardee should be someone of whom the knowledgeable will say "Well, of course!"
Special Awards may occasionally conferred at the Awards Committee's discretion in cognizance of the charter purposes of the Netbuilder awards, as a way of recognizing praiseworthy projects or conduct not covered by the existing regular categories and, experimenting with new categories.
In 1994 I discussed an ancestor of this proposal with Rich Morin, founder of Prime Time Software. He expressed the belief that many of the small companies now making money redistributing Internet software in CD and other form would contribute to an award program of this kind both for sound business reasons (to encourage a bigger crop of free software) and to express their appreciation of and solidarity with the culture that produces free software.
I have since received tentative expressions of interest from a very well-known software millionaire (no, not Bill the Gates!) who shall remain nameless pending a decision to become more involved. A few people in a position to help make this concept work have told me I can use their names to help stimulate more interest in it. These people include Richard M. Stallman, Henry Spencer, Rich Morin, and Mitch Kapor.
The Open Source Awards program as I envision it, cash awards and all, could easily be run on a budget of $75K a year (that includes stipends for two part-time positions to run the mechanics). I do not anticipate great difficulty raising this volume of cash.
If you are seeing the proposal at this early stage, it's probably because I want you as a member of the Awards Committee, or both; or, I think you can suggest candidates for these positions; or, I think you can line up an institutional sponsor; or, I think you otherwise have wisdom to offer.
So, please email me. Tell me what you think; tell me how you'd like to help. Tell me how we can make this concept work.
I think the early decision most critical to the effort will be who will be the charter members of the Awards Committee. For the award to develop the proper weight, all the members must have sufficient public prestige that any halfway-knowledgeable hacker reading the list would readily grant them them Lifetime Achievement status.
Here is my notion of an Awards Committee "dream team":
email@example.com (Marc Andreesen) James.Gosling@sun.com (James Gosling) Bill.Joy@sun.com (Bill Joy) firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Kernighan) email@example.com (Dennis Ritchie) firstname.lastname@example.org (Henry Spencer) email@example.com (Richard M. Stallman) Guy.Steele@sun.com (Guy Steele) firstname.lastname@example.org (Ken Thompson) Linus.Torvalds@transmeta.com (Linus Torvalds) email@example.com (Larry Wall) firstname.lastname@example.org (Guido van Rossum)