Benj. Mako Hill


Like several of the other candidates, I am a Debian developer and an active participant in the greater free software community. While I maintain several packages and develop free software in my spare time, I like to think that I've added most to the free software community in non-technical ways. I am in my final year as a student at Hampshire College. My research aims to apply theories of collaboration drawing from free software philosophy to a critique of literary copyright.

I feel that I'm qualified for the position of SPI board member for two major reasons:

  • I have extensive experience promoting and advocating free software in non-technical ways and have demonstrated that I have the time and effort to follow through on my commitments in this regard.
  • I have interest, experience, and connections in the world of the non-profit organizations that SPI currently lacks.

Experience in Free Software Advocacy

In addition to my technical contributions to the world of Free Software, I've written a series of papers on free software available on my website -- at least one has been published. Most notably, these include the Free Software Project Management HOWTO. Additionally, I've given a number of talks on Debian and free software and founded and taken the lead in organizing events and acquiring funding for a Linux user group.

Within Debian, I have worked with the NM process and currently the delegate in charge of hardware donations. This latter job puts me in the unique position of coordinating transactions between the Debian project and individual Debian developers, SPI (through the Treasurer) and the donors.

Finally, I have a record of setting realistic goals and following through on my commitments. I've carefully weighed the decision to apply for this position and I am doing so because I've concluded to that I do have the time and effort necessary to follow through and accomplish what is required of me from the rest of the board and, more importantly, what I will require from myself to be happy with the job I do. I have the time and flexibility to consistently make board meetings.

Experience with Non-Profit Organizations

I think the most unique skill I can bring to SPI is extensive experience and connections with non-profit organizations and the world of US 501(c)(3)s in particular. In the past 4 years, I've been worked official with small non-profits twice in the US and am involved in the creation of a third in Europe. I am involved and associated with a handful of others and have friends and resources in a number as well.

As a result I have some experience with grant-writing, fund-raising, board meetings, newsletters and non-profit accounting, management, and bureaucracy -- though I am certainly not a bureaucrat. I've seen some things that work, and seen plenty that hasn't. I think that I am in a position to bring some of this knowledge and experience to work for SPI.

This experience has already helped me in my work with SPI. In my work as hardware donations delegate for Debian, I met with the accountants for the Free Software Foundation and another non-profit to find out what information SPI needed for hardware donations for tax and accounting purposes. Branden and I are in the process of setting up a process so we can quickly process donations from SPI's perspective.

My Vision

Ideally, I'd like to see SPI act less like a legal shell providing corporate and financial legitimacy to free software projects (although I think this is an important role) and more like non-profit organization actively promoting free software.

I think I have the skills both to help with existing and new board members to get SPI back on its feet. After we achieve this, I think SPI's name, history, and associations will put us in a good place to engage in meaningful fund-raising, grant-raising, and advocacy if we can muster up some support and involvement from our members. I hope you'll help let me join in helping realize some of our shared goals for SPI and for free software.