Mendeley/Elsevier Donation

Dear all,

As most of you know, Sebastian and I have been doing most of the
maintenance of the CSL styles and locales repositories for quite some
time now. In particular dealing with style submissions by new
contributors can be time-consuming (although the automatic testing
with Travis CI helps a lot), and the number of submissions has been
increasing steadily over time. The work has become rather repetitive
as well.

About a month ago I contacted Victor Henning of Mendeley/Elsevier, and
asked him whether Mendeley could support Sebastian and me in our task,
either by reducing our workload or by providing some more motivation
for our volunteer work (I might have mentioned my 2008 workhorse
laptop is getting a tad slow). A few days ago Victor very generously
offered to make a $5000 donation to us two with no strings attached.

Sebastian and I quickly agreed that we should use the sum for a
broader goal: to keep CSL sustainable. In part, this requires that we
keep our volunteers engaged, since the CSL project largely runs on
volunteers: in addition to me and Sebastian, there is of course Frank
Bennett (citeproc-js, CSL development, citeproc test suite), Sylvester
Keil (Travis CI), Carles Pina and Charles Parnot (dependent styles),
and Bruce D’Arcus (creator of CSL, CSL development). We could also use
some of the funds for bounties, or to pay for infrastructure costs
(e.g. if we want to do some of our own hosting).

We realize figuring out a fair distribution of funds can be tricky. On
the one hand, we would like to reward people for past contributions.
On the other hand, we want to use the donation to make CSL even
better. Perhaps it is best if volunteers speak up for themselves:
would a donation help your motivation to work on CSL? Have you
incurred, or are you planning to incur any CSL-related expenses?
Personally, for example, if I could use these funds for a new laptop,
I’d be more motivated to stick around in my current roles.

On the logistical side: no money has changed hands yet. Sean Takats
mentioned that the Corporation for Digital Scholarship might be able
to act as the middleman, but I haven’t heard from him recently. And
once the donation is made, and we have figured out the destination of
the funds, we and Mendeley would like to make a public announcement
(likely a blogpost at Mendeley and a supporter badge on


Rintze and Sebastian

P.S. feel free to contact Sebastian or me in private to discuss things.

It’s wonderful to hear that all the hard work that you guys are putting
into CSL is getting at least some reward.

I don’t contribute much to CSL, so my opinion doesn’t carry much weight,
but here are some thoughts.

I don’t think rewards for contributing styles would work too well. I can’t
imaging the reward being more than $10 or so. Certainly some styles are
harder to code than others, which also makes it more difficult to award the
proper amount. But either way, I don’t think $10 is much of an incentive
for a person contributing 1 style. Usually, a much better incentive is to
be able to cite properly in the work you are writing. So for what it’s
worth, I don’t think this is the way to go.

IMO, $5000 can go a long way in terms of supporting development or covering
infrastructure costs. And if the core developers are happy, active, and
have the resources to get their work out to the community, the community
will be happy to be receiving prompt updates for features they need.

Personally, I volunteer my time to Zotero because I want an open source
project to be ahead of proprietary alternatives. That motivation is enough
for me. And because Dan and Simon are very responsive to community
contributions, it does not feel like I’m wasting my time. Would getting $10
for whatever make my day? Sure, but it wouldn’t change anything in the long

With all the hard work you guys are putting into this, I think you all
deserve to upgrade your hardware :wink:

AurimasOn Sun, Sep 22, 2013 at 11:43 PM, Rintze Zelle <@Rintze_Zelle>wrote:

Thanks Aurimas - just to be clear - we never intended this to be used for a
per-style-rewards system - as you say that doesn’t make much sense for a
number of reasons.
The main idea is to reward&motivate core CSL contributors and maintainers,
certainly not people who contribute an occasional style: while we’re
certainly thankful for that, given the high number of contributions by a
host of different people, motivating occasional contributors is not
something we need to be particularly concerned about - that’s something CSL
already does better than most other open source projects.
When Rintze writes “bounties” - we didn’t talk about this in detail, but
I’d imagine that if we were going to do this, it’d be a larger amount for
something more broadly useful.

I am 200% for getting Rintze and Sebastian a new computer. This is not just a “reward”, but plain common sense that an increased productivity from those 2 will have an immediate, direct impact on the CSL quality and the output of styles.

To be clear, since you list me in the email, Rintze, I don’t need any reward or additional motivation, because (1) this has kind of been my job, and (2) I don’t have much time to put into it at the moment.

As to how to best spend that money, beyond getting new equipement (and again, this is by far the best use of that money I can think of), I am not sure. A financial reward per style is definitely awkward (and I like better what Papers has done: a free license for each contributor, which so far represents maybe 50-100 licenses I believe; still valid, by the way!). Ideally, paying somebody to actually work on CSL styles at least part time, but for that, we would need more money.


I just thought of a low cost (I hope) “reward” for even the most casual CSL
contributors. Now that you guys have a nice CSL logo, you should make some
stickers! :-)On Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 3:10 AM, Charles Parnot <@Charles_Parnot>wrote:

I don’t need incentive payments, but the server carrying the CSL-m
styles and specification supplement runs on a little shared server
account that I pay for out of personal funds. It’s a small sum, about
$60 per year, plus whatever the domain costs. If that could be covered
by CSL (on the grounds that CSL-m development is meant to feed into
CSL down the line), that would be very welcome.

The University keeps me in computers, so there are no other
development-related out-of-pocket expenses at this end, really.

Aurimas’ idea about swag raises a collateral thought, though. If there
were a variant of the CSL logo that I could apply to the CSL-m line,
both projects could sell coffee mugs. Might be a nice way of
establishing that CSL-m is distinct but related (and cover the hosting
costs to boot).


I am 200% for getting Rintze and Sebastian a new computer. This is not just a “reward”, but plain common sense that an increased productivity from those 2 will have an immediate, direct impact on the CSL quality and the output of styles.

To be clear, since you list me in the email, Rintze, I don’t need any reward or additional motivation, because (1) this has kind of been my job, and (2) I don’t have much time to put into it at the moment.

same as Charles: no need to send any reward here a) I do mostly all
the CSL collaboration in working hours b) I don’t have much time to
collaborate outside my working hours… I do occasionally but often at

I feel that I’m in debt with the project. I like free software and
being able to work with free software components is something that I
really enjoy.

Consensus here makes sense, with at least $4000 of it split between
Rintze and Sebastian (maybe with whatever remainder set aside for
things like Frank pointed out?).

But thinking more broadly, I guess, being on the CDS board, I’m
wondering about the logistics point you note. It’d be good to get that
sorted out ahead of time, since I could imagine in the future more
funds that need a better plan (might, for example, support travel to
conferences, etc.?).


I see a number of issues here on the CSL and Omeka side. On the CSL side
of things, I would say that Sebastian, Rintze, et al should come to some
kind of a priori agreement as to what constitutes a sponsorship. Should
there be tiers? Is it on an annual basis? Is it pegged in some way to
for-profit, not for profit? What about in-kind contributions? Whatever
the resolution, the CSL authors should be in the driver seat.

The role for CDS is murkier. Right now we do handle payment processing
for the Zotero training that Sebastian conducts. But that’s essentially
fee-for-service, as is the case for all of CDS’s money matters
(primarily Zotero and Omeka storage). This is something different, and
it’s not clear how CDS can or should proceed.


Bruce D’Arcus wrote:> Consensus here makes sense, with at least $4000 of it split between

Sean - so what do you suggest on our end?

a) we forget about any relationship with CDS, and figure it out
ourselves (which we don’t have the expertise to do, I’d say)

b) you check into if there is some feasible relationship with CDS here
(you say you’re “not clear”; am not clear how literally to take that)

c) something else

Thanks everyone,
so let me summarize where we are so far.
Carles, Charles, and Bruce (if I understand correctly) have declined to get
a share of the money, as has Frank, though he’d like to get the csl-m
server/domain (~$70/year) funded. Aurimas suggests some swag - stickers,
maybe mugs.
I’d still love to hear from Sylvester, the Travis tests make our lives
much, much easier.
I think both Frank’s server and stickers for everyone are no brainers.

Which gets us to the two harder questions:

  1. How to receive/distribute the payments logistically. Our hope was that
    the CDS would be able to accept the money on our behalf, pay it out in the
    way we agree (I don’t see why work on CSL shouldn’t be “fee for service”)
    and keep any reserve on its account. Would that be possible? If not, I
    could accept the money from Mendeley and write checks (though doing the
    taxes on this would be a bit tricky), but I’d really like to avoid keeping
    the reserve money. A third option would be to re-approach PKP about this,
    though they’d likely face the same issues as CDS.

  2. Sean and Bruce are right that we should come up with a general approach
    to this. How do we deal with sponsorship/support in general. First, to be
    realistic, I don’t think we’ll have a steady stream of donations like this

  • though I certainly wouldn’t object. But if we do get more money, my
    initial inclination would be to save that so that we have a good bunch to
    contract - either to someone here or a 3rd party dev - CSL related
    development (e.g. the preflight-quality check for style submissions or
    other ideas that have come up here).
    As for labels and whether we want different tiers - Mendeley prefers
    "support" over “sponsor”. I do think we should find ways to acknowledge in
    kind support as well, yes, though I’m not sure exactly how and where the
    threshold is.


Sorry for the late reply, I was out of town for a couple of days.
Needless to say, I’m glad to hear about any donation/sponsorship/etc. of

Carles, Charles, and Bruce (if I understand correctly) have declined
to get a share of the money, as has Frank, though he’d like to get the
csl-m server/domain (~$70/year) funded. Aurimas suggests some swag -
stickers, maybe mugs.
I’d still love to hear from Sylvester, the Travis tests make our lives
much, much easier.

I agree completely with what Carles, Charles, Bruce and Frank have said
before me.

I think both Frank’s server and stickers for everyone are no brainers.

As is providing new hardware to you and Rintze: I can’t think of a
single more efficient way to support CSL at the moment.

In response to Frank’s and Aurimas’ idea about swag, specifically for
CSL-m, let me remind you that the logo concept is based precisely on
this idea of extendability. In fact, Johannes did design a number of
extra letters already (I think we tried out CSL-EDITOR and CSL-RUBY at
some point) — I just checked, M is unfortunately not covered yet, but
I’m sure he’d design a suitable logo variant. Frank, perhaps you could
send me any ideas and thoughts you have on this? (i.e., what kind of
swag are you thinking about?) The more Johannes knows the better;
ideally he could send you the materials in the most suitable formats and
add instructions/recommendations for printing etc.

One thing that I already know may be problematic is a lower case ‘m’ — I
remember that it was quite important for Johannes to stress that the
logo works as kind of visual ‘block’, I fear that a lower case letter
would probably not work there. So it will likely be an important thing
to know whether or not a CSL-M variant of the logo would work for you as

signature.asc (198 Bytes)

Dear all,
happy new year! Just in time for the new year, we finally received the
Elsevier donation. It went straight to my account and I’ll have to pay
taxes on it as an independent contractor. So far, I’ve done the
following (consulting with Rintze, of course):
Ordered Rintze equipment valued $1962.94
Ordered 250 6*2 vinyl stickers with the CSL inverted logo:«CSL»-inverse.svg
for $72.96
Offered Frank money for his server, given what he has written I expect
to send him ~$200 to cover three years of server costs (haven’t heard
back from him yet)
Used $1950 for myself.
I expect to spend some money on sending the stickers to whoever is interested.
That leaves ~$800, which I’m going to save for taxes. If they end up
being more than that, Rintze and I will split the difference, if it’s
less I’ll let you know and we can decide what to do with the money.

Stickers: Anyone who wants some pretty CSL stickers, please send me an
e-mail with your mailing address and the number you want. I’m happy to
send individual stickers or reasonably large quantities - I doubt
we’ll run out quickly.

PR together with Mendeley. Rintze and I have been working with Alice
from Mendeley on posts for ours and the CSL blog, I have attached .txt
files for the version that Mendeley is going to post and the one we
expect to put on the CSL blog. We’re looking at posting them in a week
or two.

Please let us know if there are any concerns and don’t forget those
stickers. They’re blue. And pretty.

CSL version.txt (2.32 KB)

Mendeley version.txt (2.16 KB)


you’re right. Rintze and I are well aware of this, of course, but it
just got lost with multiple people editing. We’ll put something better
Sorry about that.

No worries :slight_smile:

Hi all,

There was some media coverage today regarding the Mendeley/Elsevier
donation (with yours truly showing off some Mendeley and CSL logos):

Thanks again everybody for making this possible,


This is great, thanks again to Mendeley!

Dear all,

Sebastian and I were informed that Elsevier/Mendeley wishes to support
the CSL project again this year with another $5000 donation, for which
we are very grateful.

In separate news, we’ve been pursuing membership to the Software
Freedom Conservancy ( This would allow us
to receive tax-deductible donations, in exchange for a 10% cut of any
donations received. They seem legit, and offer some legal support and
liability protection as well (see However, since it might
be a few months before we’re accepted as a member (if at all), it’s
probably best to keep the same arrangement as before, where Sebastian
accepts the donation as a private person, and distributes the funds
that remain after taxes.

As for use of the funds, we think there should be two goals.

First, to reimburse people who either incurred personal expenses
related to CSL (like the purchase of style guides), and to reward
those who recently volunteered considerable effort in developing and
maintaining the project (excluding those paid through other means).
Project roles are largely the same as last year. While development of
CSL has been quiet before the flurry of activity we expect once Zotero
starts revisiting its metadata model, Sebastian and I have again put
in a reasonable amount of work in maintaining the style and locale
repositories. In recent months Philipp Zumstein
( has been kind enough to lend a hand as
well. In the past year, I also created and worked on documentation. Let
me know if I have missed any other significant volunteer

Second, to fund future projects. We contacted Sylvester Keil, who
previously helped us for free to set up our Travis-CI testing
framework. He is willing to develop a validation bot for $1000 (+VAT),
which Sebastian and I find very reasonable. This would allow him to
dedicate two full weeks to this project (we’re getting a steep
discount on his usual rate). Such a bot would automatically generate a
human-readable validation report for every pull request and any
subsequent commits. This would save us a lot of work and quickly
provide users with detailed feedback on their style/locale submissions

Other bounties could e.g. focus on improving the CSL visual editor. We
could also spend on marketing CSL, and e.g. pay for attendance fees
and travel costs to conferences where we can showcase CSL (Carles once
proposed FOSDEM, Or we could pay for travel
costs to allow CSL developers to meet in person, especially if they
already happen to be in each other’s area.

We currently don’t have any significant recurring expenses, since most
of our infrastructure is either available for free (GitHub,, Read the Docs) or sponsored by Zotero (hosting and running and
Mendeley (hosting

Last year’s donation of $5000 was effectively split between Sebastian
and myself in two shares of $2000 after taxes. Our proposal for this
year is to reserve approximately $1200 as a bounty for Sylvester Keil,
and support myself and Sebastian with circa $1250 each. We also
suggest a $200 reward for Philipp, but he still has to check with his
employer whether he can accept one. We might make some adjustments to
Sebastian’s and my payout based on Sebastian exact tax burden, and we
might save some money for future expenses. We would also renew the
offer to pay for Frank’s server expenses related to MLZ/CSL-m. His
side project is a significant boon to CSL development, both via
citeproc-js and as a testing ground for new ideas. Frank didn’t accept
this last year, but we’ll keep trying.

Let us know if there are any objections to this general spending plan.
As before, we welcome any thoughts on the way these funds should be
used, especially since we don’t want to unfairly benefit ourselves.


Rintze and Sebastian