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The Unemployed Working on OSS Projects 524

Roger_Explosion writes "In Australia the unemployed have to fulfill a 'mutual obligation' requirement in order to receive welfare payments. What this means is that recipients of welfare payments have to be involved in some sort of activity that improves their chances of finding employment. Until now this has included various types of community service and training and education programs. Recently an organisation called CommunityCode has been established to allow recipients to fulfill this requirement by contributing to OSS projects."
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The Unemployed Working on OSS Projects

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  • by Thornkin ( 93548 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#12438938) Homepage
    It sure beats community service. I've long maintained that the way to learn to code is by coding. As someone who does hiring into programming positions, I know I would look highly at someone who spent his downtime working on OSS projects.
    • I'm going to take the contrarian view on this one.

      Yes, it'll help the job skills of the unemployed. But, who's going to keep those highways clean? Who's going to bring meals to the elderly?

      (Take it as Funny or Sarcastic. I'm too damned tired to know which hemisphere's in charge.)
      • The unemployment rate is high enough in Australia that all of these can be satisfied at the same time.
        • Haha, you sound a bit bitter! Although what you are saying is sort of true. The fact is, there will be a lot of unemployed people who dont even know what OSS is so they are the ones who have to do all the other work-for-the-dole stuff.
          • Wierd things is on the news this morning they had an item about how the Aussie government is so worried about the low level of skilled/semi-skilled workers they they're offering easy immigration and assisted passage to immigrants from the UK (probably other places as well). Apparently they need plumbers desparately and are very short on hair dressers. In the item they interviewed a guy who owns a car crash repair business in Wollongong, he said that he's so behind due to a shortage of staff that pretty mu

            • But we are short on plumbers in the UK too. It seems to be down to a long term decline in people training in the "trades" due to these skills being looked down on by the growing middle class. They would rather push their children to go to Uni to study for a worthless degree in Media Studies or the like than learn a skill that would actually provide them with a good income (have you seem how much plumbers charge?)
            • Apparently they need plumbers desparately...

              In the US we tried a covert plan to lure young people into the plumbing trade. The whole rap/hip-hop movement was to condition them to wear their pants at half-staff thinking that this would make for an easy transition and causing them to identify with those they dressed like.

              The plan has utterly failed though. Now the plumbers' rates are sky-high so that they might be able to purchase plenty of BLING to wear after hours. We think the key factor in subverting o
      • I'm too damned tired to know which hemisphere's in charge

        The story's about Australia, so the Southern Hemisphere, obviously.

  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:06AM (#12438940)
    Bludgers is such a great word
    • by Pyr05x ( 852964 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:23AM (#12439005)
      Don't mod this flamebait, because its not.

      "Bloody dole bludgers" is an Aussie slang phrase describing people on welfare ('the dole' here down under... not sure why we call it that) with no intention of trying to find a job.

      And I agree... Bludgers is one of the coolest words ever :)

      • dole
        1. Charitable dispensation of goods, especially money, food, or clothing.
        2. A share of money, food, or clothing that has been charitably given.
        P Pronunciation Key (dl) 3. Chiefly British. The distribution by the government of relief payments to the unemployed; welfare.
      • by !the!bad!fish! ( 704825 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:38AM (#12439073) Homepage
        ... not sure why we call it that
        Because that is what the word means. []
  • This is heaps good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by log2.0 ( 674840 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:07AM (#12438947)
    If I were to be unemployed, this is exactly what I would do! Imagine having all this spare time (since you have no job) to work on any OSS project you want.

    Having said that, the dole (what we call welfare here) is pretty low. I think its about 100USD a week? (for all those US people ou there)
    • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:19AM (#12438989) Homepage Journal
      As opposed to job hunting?

      That's only half-serious. I know folks that don't spend enough time looking for a job, and that's why they're still unemployed. Sometimes they enjoy being unemployed more than the paycheck that a job would bring in.

      On the other hand, the obvious benefit to this kind of work is that you can build your resume and skillset by working in the field, even without having that job.
      • I can definately say that a lot of people on the "dole" are getting more per week in than I am (after tax). The way the system is geared here in Australia there's very little incentive to go out there and "have a go" because all that happens is that you end up with less money in your pocket and you have less time in your life to do the things you like.

        • WHAT? I thought the dole was bugger all? How much do you get if you dont mind me asking? :)
          • by inflex ( 123318 )
            The business pulls in a lot per year --- but I get nothing, I don't even have a wage (yet) :-\

            The trouble is this annoying thing called "expenditure" (oh and tax... damned tax... 47%... it's INSANE!!!). Profits will rise from the ashes in the next few months - until then it's been 5 years of hard work.


            • I forgot to point out, the TAX side of things is one reason I'd LOVE to get my hands on a few of these work-for-the-dole people; that way I'd feel at least that I've gotten some of my extort^Wtax payment back.
    • it is only a hundred or couple of hundred USD a week but one thing to realise is the cost of living here is a *lot* lower.
  • fine code (Score:4, Funny)

    by hool5400 ( 257022 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:08AM (#12438948)
    Stoners and dole bludgers, what wonderful code they will create!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:12AM (#12438964)
      I bet they'll just write a bunch of slack ware.
    • Re:fine code (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hugzz ( 712021 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @05:24AM (#12439520)
      From what I can gather, there are far too many skilled programmers around with no jobs because they lack a little peice of paper which costs them many thousands of dollars saying that they've been to uni

      This comunity code thing could let them use their real skills (rather than having to do mowing for their dole), and also will probably add something nice to their resume to maybe get them moving in the job market.

  • REDS! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jukashi ( 240273 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:08AM (#12438951) Homepage Journal
    What happens when the aussie economy does better with a legion of state sponsored oss programmers? Awesome!
    • Re:REDS! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MIcroswipe ( 149156 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:20AM (#12438994)
      Maybe the Aussie companies will keep more programmers employed since everyone you lay off will go out and code for your oss competitor.
    • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:06AM (#12439166) Homepage Journal

      What happens when the aussie economy does better with a legion of state sponsored oss programmers?

      I think it's worth considering that for any company that produces closed source commercial software, there will probably be many others that could benefit from and improve their productivity with good open source software, but can't necessarily afford to pay for the developers themselves, nor the commercial counterparts.

      Before jumpling to conclusions that it's state-sponsored competition, I think that this angle should be considered. The economy is made of more than just the commercial software production industry, just as the IT industry encompasses more than simply commercial software development.

      Is this worth state sponsorship? Perhaps, or perhaps not, or maybe it's at the very least a good place for interested people to be while they're between paid work, as the article suggests.

      Keep in mind that contributing to OSS while on a benefit doesn't release someone from their obligations of getting off the benefit, nor should it. It does give the appropriate people an activity in which they can maintain their skills whilst they're looking for other work. I think this organisation is mostly trying to formalise it, to make it a credible and understood activity for government agencies.

      • I think it's worth considering that for any company that produces and charges for motor vehicles, there will probably be many others that could benefit from and improve their productivity with free motor vehicles, but can't necessarily afford to pay for the motor vehicles themselves.

        And for every farmer that charges for produce, there will be thousands who would be better off if they got the produce for free.

        There appears to be a tiny flaw in this point somewhere, just cant put my finger on it.
  • by mph_az ( 880372 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:10AM (#12438956)
    however, I think that if you make it mandatory (no idea if tfa says either way) then I think this could create some very serious damage to any open source unlucky enough to get coerced 'help'.

    also, bear in mind that before you drool over the prospect of conscripts to do the grunt work in or kde that any program worthwhile would probably allow them to choose which projects to help out in; and if they all decide that the best way to spend their time is to develop and perfect a tcl front end to cdrecord, that's their choice.

    Frankly, I'd prefer that OSS help remain completely voluntary. Getting half-hearted help is worse than getting no help at all.
    • A lot of times code has to go through a lot of strict review by the app's board before it can be implemented into the OSS. But, even if most of the learning coders' code wasn't implemented, they would still learn something which would be beneficial to their overall knowledge and ability to find a job. And there is always a need for people to write hardware drivers.
    • by awful ( 227543 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:17AM (#12438981) Homepage
      It wouldn't be mandatory - the way "mutual obligation" is supposed to work is that Centrelink is supposed to try and find you a position that matches your interests and skills. Of course if you have no skills or interests you run the risk of being put to work picking up litter by the side of the road.

      In my brother's case, he was interested in audio-engineering. Centrelink placed him as a volunteer producer in a community radio station, and from there he got a job at a mastering studio.

      So in the case of coding for OSS projects - it would be voluntary. And even if someone did provide half-hearted help (i.e. bad code) there's no obligation on the part of the project to accept the code.
      • I agree - I would like to give people the opportunity to get involved in my business via coding, however it usually carries a high risk factor for me (The amount of useless code generated is incredible even with full specs and requirements laid out). The way this agreement is setup I can take the risk, get some code and possibly afford to take the time to guide the coder to rework it over and over until it comes out /right/.

        Incidently, I'm not saying my code is perfect either, usually takes me a couple of
      • Centrelink is supposed to try and find you a position that matches your interests and skills

        Common misperception here - all Centrelink really does is administer welfare payments. Services like putting you in an interesting Work for the Dole program or helping you find a job are done by other service providers, mainly Community Work Coordinators or Job Network members respectively.

    • I missed it--where does it say that people are compelled to participate in open-source projects, or participate in volunteer programming at all?

      From TFA:

      Why? Recipients of Centrelink's Newstart allowance can fufil part or all of their 'mutual obligation' requirements by doing volunteer work for a community organisation; second is that it might be useful for students or other people starting out to get some "real live" development experience.

      It says over and over again that this is "volunteer" work, ri
      • It says over and over again that this is "volunteer" work, right? An OSS project can't exactly demand a certain number of programmer hours, can it? If people want to contribute, they do--and they get a check from the Aussie gov't, to boot. If they don't want to participate, they don't. They can make Access databases for their local church or boy scout troop, instead. It's essentially "volunteer" for an approved activity or get breached and have your benefits cut off. The requirements under mutual obligati
    • and if they all decide that the best way to spend their time is to develop and perfect a tcl front end to cdrecord, that's their choice.

      It probably wouldn't count - I would assume they would expect a project to be "established" or large enough (e.g. more than 2 developers).
      • I would assume they would expect a project to be "established" or large enough

        Depend which "they" you mean.

        Mutual Obligation can be fulfiled in a few ways. There are 2 that are primarily relevant to this program

        1. Training (i.e. Gain skills so you can get off welfare)
        2. Community Service (give something back in return for your welfare

        The government will require that 1 of those two are met. If can demonstrate that your front end to CDRecord was "training" then they'll be happy with that.


  • Maybe I can help (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mister_tim ( 653773 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:11AM (#12438959)
    I work in the Government Department that manages that Mutual Obligation policy and the main programmes around it. But I'm just an average public servant with an interest in IT - not a programmer or IT professional.

    Since they're ask for help from people who are experienced in dealing with our Department, maybe this is a way I can properly contribute to an OSS project for the first time.
    • Re:Maybe I can help (Score:3, Informative)

      by femto ( 459605 )
      In that case please contact SLUG [] or turn up to one of their meetings. The next meeting [] is on Friday, May 27 from 6:00pm to 9:30pm at the University of Technology, Broadway, Sydney. Once you are there, have a word to whoever seems to be running the show and they will point you to the relevant person to talk to.
      • The next meeting is on Friday, May 27 from 6:00pm to 9:30pm at the University of Technology, Broadway, Sydney.

        Hmmm, a three hour drive for one meeting? I think I'll email instead - if I still lived in Sydney then I may have considered it.

  • by crusty_architect ( 642208 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:11AM (#12438960) Homepage
    I would be surprised to see many takers for this scheme here. The IT job market is on the way up in Australia, we actually have a coding skills shortage. If you are thinking of getting involved, please look for a job instead.
    • by kieronb ( 780769 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:19AM (#12438990)
      On the other hand, this could be a great way to get people other than coders involved in OSS.

      For example, all those projects where ther's little to no documentation because everyone involved is coding, not documenting? I'm sure there are lots of unemployed writers around.

      Or projects that need to market themselves better, maybe need a sleeker looking interface or website or logo or whatever? Tap into the starving artist workforce...
    • by Tannii ( 842656 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:21AM (#12438997)
      Where is this shortage?! I don't see it and I've looked.

      As a single mum who may end up having to full fill some of this mutual obligation stuff if Little Johnny has his way, this sounds like a dream come true. Upping my coding skills, contributing to the community and actually having hope that this will help you get a job .... Wait a minute! This can't be right, since when has any of these things been involved in mutual obligation for people on government payments? Mutual obligation tasks are menial, pointless and soul destroying. I expect that this program will be barred from being classed as such very soon.
      • Where is this shortage?! I don't see it and I've looked

        Sydney for starters. If you can't get a technical job in Sydney, either you think you're more qualified than you are, or you are the worst interviwee of all time.

    • > If you are thinking of getting involved, please
      > look for a job instead.

      why? why do you care? do you think people *don't* look for jobs?

      oh, now they will, you asked them to....
  • Well.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by BrianGa ( 536442 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:11AM (#12438961)
    Maybe they can hire some of our unemployed (pre-India) tech workers.
  • Good idea but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeathAndTaxes ( 752424 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:12AM (#12438963) Homepage
    I think it's brilliant, but I don't think it'd be too long before some software consortium/lobby group/group of "concerned citizens" pulls out the whole "don't use government resources to promote the anti-competitive forces of OSS" argument. I'd bet you can expect to see legislation drafted within a year.
    • Re:Good idea but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:36AM (#12439062) Homepage Journal

      I think it's brilliant, but I don't think it'd be too long before some software consortium/lobby group/group of "concerned citizens" pulls out the whole "don't use government resources to promote the anti-competitive forces of OSS" argument.

      I don't see that happening, myself. If it did, though, perhaps anyone who has a problem with it could put their money where their mouth is and volunteer to employ some of these people to work on closed source commercialised code instead.

    • I don't know how the welfare benefits are in Australia, but my concern here isn't that there would be litigation, but that people would actually just happily stay on the welfare rolls because they can then work on whatever project they'd like. I personally would love to see that happen, but it would be bad for the welfare program.
    • Re:Good idea but... (Score:2, Informative)

      by _undan ( 804517 )
      This is Australia we're talking about. I can only think of ONE shrink-wrapped product that's developed here that has made any impact. (MYOB)

      Whereas I know for a fact that the developer of Webmin is an Aussie, as well as one of the key contributors to OpenSSL. Plus, a few others I've heard about.

      Microsoft Australia is nothing but a marketing and publishing arm... no actual development is done here, AFAIK.

      Plus, what with the Govt publishing guidelines on using OSS, I can't see it being a bad thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:13AM (#12438966)
    Mutual Obligation has always been about punishment, not improving work prospects - unless the government knows there will soon be a massive demand for fence painters and tree planters.
    • Mod parent up (Score:2, Informative)

      by aussie_a ( 778472 )
      This OSS idea is the first time I've heard of people who have to "work for the dole" actually receiving beneficial tasks to getting a new job. The government likes to choose degrading jobs such as "paint this toilet until the paint bucket is empty." Not untily you've finished. If you finish and the buckets only half empty, guess what you're doing. You're repainting the wall.

      You don't need to degrade dole workers. Sheeesh. Because those who make a career out of it, just won't care. Whereas those who honestl
  • by boron boy ( 858013 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:15AM (#12438971) Homepage
    Great, I can imagine trying to explain this to the centrelink workers (the people to whom you have to prove your mutual obligation).

    Centrelink: so what jobs have you applied for in the last two weeks?

    You: None, but i've been working on doing OSS development.

    Centrelink: what?

    You: I've been doing free software work to get experience and stay a productive member of society.

    Centrelink: That's all well and good but I've got a job available at a chicken slaughterhouse I think you should apply for.


    • by mister_tim ( 653773 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:11AM (#12439176)
      I know that you're being funny, but in all seriousness the way to do it would probably be get it set up as a Work for the Dole [] project, by becoming a WftD sponsor []. For it to satisfy requirements for Mutual Obligation in its own right - that would be more complex and it would pretty much need to be an official Government programme.

      The other way to get ahead would be to apply for the project to apply for resources (i.e. money) through the Employment Innovation Fund []. If it was accepted there, it would be a quick way of getting some official Government recognition and money behind it. Overall, it would go a long way if it could show that it had a training component as well as just extra experience for people who already know how to code.
    • by _undan ( 804517 )
      It's not that bad. I lasted 5 months on Newstart applying for jobs I had no qualifications for in order to make my quota. They didn't blink.

      A guy I knew who had been on it for three years was placed in a voluntary position developing websites for a community organisation. He'd never done HTML in his life, but he was interested in computers.

      Another friend who had dropped out of Uni also receieved funds to pay for textbooks and non-HECS fees to go back and finish her degree.

      Centerlink does actually work, i
  • by wcitech ( 798381 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:17AM (#12438978)
    The problem with this idea is that you will get the lower possible quality workmanship from the majority of people who contribute. Anybody who's ever done mandatory community services (and didn't get paid) can vouch that their heart wasn't in it. This might sound "fun" to an unemployed geek, but the quality of work is going to be signficantly lower than, say, somebody who WANTS to write OSS.
    • Given people's lacking ability to properly predict what is going to happen in the future, I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating (or whatever this english expression goes).

      Wait and see. The world has been shaped by people who try new things, not by people who stop things before that.

  • Out of work? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eastshores ( 459180 )
    So these people are out of work and can possibly implement OSS as a benefit to their community and therefore collect unemployment? Are you kidding me?

    Perhaps if they were employees of a gov program that got cut that would make sense, but why would we start paying those that jumped on the high risk bandwagon 80% of their salary. I know a lot of slashdotters are going to be upset at that, but give me a break! Be compoetetive.

    IT work means a lot of different things to diff people. I'm interested to see how i
  • Disturbing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:23AM (#12439004) Homepage Journal
    This might seem like an odd perspective, but if people are put out of work by the availability of open source competition and are contributing to the problem simply to remain 'on the dole', doesn't this system effectively screw professional programmers?

    It's like all the negative of outsourcing without the positive of improving someone else's economy.

    • Re:Disturbing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by martinX ( 672498 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:37AM (#12439067)
      Given that Aussie programmers would be more likely to be out of work because of (a) PHB buying off-the-shelf software (usually made in US) or (b) having their job outsourced to another country, I'd say that the number put out of work by OSS would be less than one. At a guess.
    • Not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jesterzog ( 189797 )

      This might seem like an odd perspective, but if people are put out of work by the availability of open source competition and are contributing to the problem simply to remain 'on the dole', doesn't this system effectively screw professional programmers?

      It's an interesting perspective to take. At the very least, though, I think that any argument along those lines would have to be weighed out against arguments that:

      • The improvement of improved open source products, which are available for free,
    • Re:Disturbing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:54AM (#12439132) Journal
      This might seem like an odd perspective, but if people are put out of work by the availability of open source competition and are contributing to the problem simply to remain 'on the dole', doesn't this system effectively screw professional programmers?

      That's a pretty big "if"... Statements like this betray a basic concept that there's a total of NN software that needs to be developed, and that any amount satisfied by OSS is that much less bread to eat by developers

      However, demand for software neither fixed nor predetermined. How many jobs have been lost as a result of the free availability of communications by the Internet? See, the cost of international, interpersonal communication dropped through the floor with the Internet - what about all those lost jobs in telecommunications?

      I'm sure the Internet has cost SOME people their jobs, but how many new jobs popped up out of nowhere, doing web design, Intranet sites, database work, RPC and "middleware" based on this "free" Internet technology?

      OSS works much the same way. Rather than create a condition of scarcity, it instead creates an environment of plenty - plenty of ideas to explore that otherwise wouldn't due to prohibitive cost, many of which will turn out to be very profitable.

      Commonly addressed needs get commoditized by OSS software - Mail servers, databases, web servers, operating systems are all or are becoming commodities. The value, then, moves up the food chain a bit to providing services on top of these commodities.

      You don't make much money selling tomatoes, but you might do very well selling food cooked with tomatoes at a restaurant. Same ideas with OSS software.
  • Microsoft Beware! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by D_Lehman(at)ISPAN.or ( 799775 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:29AM (#12439035) Homepage Journal
    Bill Gates is pushing for more H1-B's, even with the US computer engineer unemployment rate higher than the national average (which is the real reason colleges are seeing fewer apply for CS degrees). Beware Bill and every other software company out there, if the US ever followed suit. They might just get paid by the state to code your competition.

    I wish I could fill out an application to be an (oxymoron) paid/unemployed OSS worker. :D
  • OSS Chain Gang. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Recently an organisation called CommunityCode has been established to allow recipients to fulfill this requirement by contributing to OSS projects."

    Well hey! Why not have prisoners work on OSS? They have plenty of time on their hands.
  • Let's get all the homeless coding software that benefits society. That would give a new definition to "hidden workforce" and "underground economy". Of course, Bill Gates would have a problem with this if they're not programming for Windows and the Almighty Dollar. There is a difference between communism and capitalism.
  • Good Idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by katana ( 122232 )
    Because what's better than a nation of exiled convicts? A nation of unemployed construction workers writing libfetchporn 0.9, that's what.
    • Re:Good Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      Wrong on both counts. Australians were never "exiled", we were and still are proud members of the British Commonwealth. And Australia was not originally discovered with the intent of making a penal colony, the convicts were sent a little later to perform labour and farm work, because England had no more room for them.

      And as for us being a pack of halfwits, check out some famous Australian inventions []. Not bad for a nation of 25 million people.

  • by inflex ( 123318 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:39AM (#12439075) Homepage Journal
    As a small business developer, I would love this sort of thing.

    Quite often it's very hard to get people to do some work without forking out large amounts of money and you're not always sure about the end results (I've had some really terrible code handed in by contractors - worse than even mine).

    I have quite a handful of projects, all openSource which would definately gain from this sort of interaction.

  • excellent (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:41AM (#12439084)
    I wouldn't mind being payed to live a VERY simple life and work on OSS projects that would benefit many. Many countries already have programs where they pay individuals to keep traditional arts alive (Chine/Japan) or keep ancient religion traditions alive (Isreal), so why not keep code alive?
  • Seems like a plan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonno317 ( 807642 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:53AM (#12439130)
    It seems that the comments thus far have been centered around the idea that the unemployed are being forced to work on OSS. I think it is more the idea that working on OSS is an acceptable form of community service and the like. I don't think that the arguments against the idea because of the lack of volunteering hold much water because of this. Those who choose to work on OSS to fulfill their community service responsibilities would be just as much volunteers as the rest of the OSS community. It's no different from an OSS person putting their development onto their resume. It's just using the volunteer work on the software for dual purpose.
  • by Noviota ( 209813 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:03AM (#12439158) Homepage
    Could the volunteers write documentation, design web sites, graphics etc. There is a lot more to an OSS Project than just the pure code!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:12AM (#12439183)
    I used to do something like this, in Australia. I did my "mutual obligation" (slave labour for dole payments) at Computer Bank [] Victoria [].

    The goal of the project was to provide cheap (free) hardware and software to underprivledged people in Australia. We used Debian [] for single installs, and the KDE [] wm.

    It was a fantastic experience - I learnt all about the insides of computers and how to put them together, com ports, (seemingly) thousands of types of cards (video, audio, nics) and how to configure them, etc etc - all common knowledge ot people here, but you need to start somewhere...

    We started a project to give thin clients away to poorer groups (libraries/community groups/refugee action collectives or whatever) which we built from the ground up using common knowledge and the wonderful xserver. I think they have since expanded the project, but now use Mandrake/driva.

    A lot of the forced vollies didn't want to be there, but for those of us that did, it was great - I spent my first month testing printers, mice, speakers and doing the last check on systems going out the door...

    There are plenty of these things around, and it sure beat weeding public gardens....

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:23AM (#12439214) Homepage Journal
    "You see sir, if you fire me, I'll still get paid to work on a FREE product that will compete with yours."

    • Ahhh... a touchy subject....

      I have worked on a "commercial" project that had to be closed down due to OSS "competition", so now I could/should start working for the other OSS project that "killed" us, to receive welfare payments.. right?

      Who is paying??

      My cats breath smells like catfood... :)
  • by Infinityis ( 807294 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:35AM (#12439240) Homepage
    I can see it now...

    1. OSS developers write custom management/accounting software for Welfare Program.
    2. Welfare department welcomes cutomized management/accounting software with open arms (after all, they *sponsored* software).
    3. OSS developers exploit a secret, built-in backdoor system
    4. PROFIT!!!

    No ???? needed
  • by wrmrxxx ( 696969 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:46AM (#12439266)

    I'm glad to see on their web site that the program is open for 'any Free Software'. If it ever turned into an arrangement where you had to work on the projects they suggested, I'd have a real problem with it. If you were an Aussie company and wanted some software developed on the cheap, you'd just fire all of your developers. They'd be forced by Centrelink onto the work for the dole scheme, and end up doing your software development for you at $4/hour or whatever the effective rate is for the 'mutual obligation' scheme.

    The work for the dole system has lots of potential to be misused. It's a good thing we can trust our government to only ever do good things...

  • Code (Score:4, Funny)

    by Phidoux ( 705500 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @03:51AM (#12439287) Homepage
    if (unemployed) {
    dole = dole * 2;
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @04:33AM (#12439415) Homepage
    I hope they also include options for writing documentation and proof-reading.

    That is an area that is often lacking in OSS projects.

  • you're kidding... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @05:11AM (#12439492)
    ...if you can't get a very well paying job as a programmer in australia at the moment then you must be a technical moron who shouldn't be let anywhere near a computer or open source software. Companies are experiencing a massive skills shortage over here at the moment...the only people this is going to attract are morons that think they can get out of doing manual labour...and that means crap code.

    What a wank
    • Re:you're kidding... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by trawg ( 308495 )
      I dunno, I think that's a worst case scenario.

      I could see myself between jobs and taking a couple of months in relative relaxation, doing nothing but writing open source software to meet my dole requirement, and then spending the rest of my time doing whatever else it is people on the dole do (drink? relax? whatever).

      Its quite possible that it might lead to great code, because people are coding for run, with no deadlines, no boss looking over their shoulder, no (serious) responsibilities, no fear of your
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @05:29AM (#12439535) Journal
    Mutual Obligation (aka work for the dole) is a system where after a certain time on unemployment payments, (note: disability and old age pensions are also "welfare"), the recipient must either, volenteer for a govt approved position or enrol in govt approved education (the govt then counts you as a student so thier unemployment figures look better). If a recipient does not comply then payments are curtailed or cut off. The idea is to give you some basic skills to make you more employable, it is not intended as punishment for being out of work. As far as I know picking up rubbish is NOT an approved activity.

    Community service is a system where a court orders a petty criminal to do something unpleasant, like picking up rubbish from the roadside. The idea is that work is more equitable than fines. If you screw it up the court can inflict further punishment (eg: jail time).

    "Dole bludger" is a derogatory term for someone who recieves unemployment payments, commonly used by self-rightous morons, right-wing politicians and current affairs reporters. All of whom have never had the soul destroying experience of dealing with a Centerlink office.

    Centerlink does not run the work-for-the-dole program it is simply there to fuck up your payments and conduct endless "interviews" where they ask the same questions over and over again (eg: Are you having sex with your flatmate?). The irony of Centerlink is that it keeps thousands of unemployable busy bodies off the dole by giving them the job of handing it out.
  • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @07:28AM (#12439922) Journal
    I do not see why any young American would want to stay in America....Why not invest your future in a country where the wealth is shared more equally? Anyone with a tech or science degree and who is younger than 45 can move there.

  • by wackysootroom ( 243310 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @08:59AM (#12440422) Homepage
    If you're involved in a couple of high profile Open source projects it looks good on your resume.

    The person responsible for hiring you can see exactly how well you code, which along with making a good impression in your interview will convince that person that you know what you are doing.

    Think about this also, if you need to hire someone good, what sets them apart from the crowd? Certs? No. H1B? No. This person worked on the linux kerenel? Wow, call him in for an interview, now.
  • by lcsjk ( 143581 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:10AM (#12440501)
    You could soon have an abundance of programmers to work on OSS.
  • by PenguinBoyDave ( 806137 ) <(gro.reyemdivad) (ta) (divad)> on Thursday May 05, 2005 @09:28AM (#12440616)
    When I was unemployed, working on OSS projects gave me a purpose. After spending hours a day for nine months and slipping into depression, OSS gave me a new purpose, and a hope. I was keeping my skills sharp. I was contributing to the community. I had a reason to get up in the morning. OSS kept me sane when I thought I was going to go nuts.
  • by Anonymous Meoward ( 665631 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @10:25AM (#12441113)

    Certain once-large [] organizations have shed a lot of (and will soon shed all ) folks around here, and others [] are threatening [] to do the same. Not surprising, since RTP has been so telecom-centric, and unlike Silicon Valley, concentrates its employment base in a handful of large companies (vs. gajillions of startups).

    The upshot is that there are a lot of unemployed techies around here who need re-training. Enter TechEngage []. The proposition is simple: if you're unemployed, you get to attend a certain number of classes for free (or close to it), and in return, you donate 40 hours of your time to the cause.

    I really wish the public sector would wake up to this effort. Oh, sorry, that would be socialist. Can't have that. Unless of course you're an unemployed textile worker in the western part of NC, without even a high-school diploma. Then our state legislature bends over for you, even though you could never contribute as much to the tax base once employed (grumble)..

  • by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Thursday May 05, 2005 @02:23PM (#12443831) Homepage

    In corporate America it is not going to help.

    So, you are unemployed looking for a job. That is bad. Now you want to do something with OSS. You polish your skills, come up with something new while hoping that you'll get a job. What you don't understand that you're still nobody in a corporate world. You have better skills, but, guess what, the rest of the world will acquire those skills as well. If you're not willing to work for less, then you'll be replaced again. Go start working on another OSS project. Software engineers are quite common these days. Corporations will outsource and find workers willing to work for the lowest possible wage. As one CEO said, "...The problem with Asia is not the price, it's the fact that they [Indians, Chinese] can't work for free."

    You can study and do whatever you want; however, as soon as there is somebody else who is willing to do the same for less money, you're out. Nobody gives a flying fuck if you are an OSS contributor or a genius if you don't fit the price tag. One of my friends is desperately looking for development gigs online. He found himself competing with Indians who are willing to work for less than $10/hr. Unless he lowers his price, he can't really work.

    The sooner you realize your pathetic state, the better off you'll be. Instead of doing something that the rest of the world can do, try something new. Whatever you do, make sure that you have skills that are not related to IT. That will increase your chance of survival.

To err is human, to moo bovine.