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One Decade Down: Sponsorship

Part 10: The Well Sponsored World

Thu Apr 7 13:00:15 2016


This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I wrote ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down. All of these pieces were released throughout the whole of our 10th year. This is the final piece of that celebratory story.

Sponsorship is…

There is a level of debate that can be had about whether we need, or should encourage, sponsorship in open source, voluntary or civil sectors.[1] I like sponsorship, I like sponsors and I feel that you need to sponsor if you are in business. I think the act of sponsoring what are good ideas whether complimentary to your business activities or merely a remote, or passing, interest is a necessity.

For Shadowcat sponsorship is therefore just another way that you can contribute to your communities. Like submitting code, participating in conferences, giving up some funds, time or effort is a sponsorship. It makes most of the contribution given by the community a sponsorship or a patronage.[2]

Sponsorship is a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a property (typically in sports, arts, entertainment or causes) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property.
Wikipedia: Commercial Sponsorship

patron (Noun). Pronunciation: /ˈpeɪtr(ə)n/
(1) A person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause: a celebrated patron of the arts
(1.1) A distinguished person who takes an honorary position in a charity: the Mental Health Foundation, of which Her Royal Highness is Patron
(2) A customer of a shop, restaurant, etc., especially a regular one:
Oxford Dictionaries

Sponsoring Our Community

Shadowcat has sponsored a number of technical community events, projects and infrastructure over the last decade. At one time we supplied a huge level of the infrastructure for a messaging system and still are strong contributors. A somewhat simplified list would include:

  • Hosted IRC Channels and networks (daemons)
  • Hosted projects
  • Sponsored server services and Domain Name Services
  • Sponsored Domain Names
  • Hosted mailing lists
  • Sponsored Hackathons (Perl QA, Dbic-a-thon)
  • Sponsored Conferences (YAPC::NA, YAPC::EU, LPW, GPW, YAPC::Brazil, etc.)

Local and Broader Communities

As a responsible local company we have also played our part in sponsorship of local, or regional activities along with the occasional national project. Many of these projects were sponsored via Kickstarter or other funding systems, one or two were direct sponsorship.

Amongst the Kickstarter projects we backed were:

  • Sherlock Holmes, The Empty House. This was a project to produce translations of the Empty House Book. This book, featuring articles by a number of famous writers and broadcasters, was created to raise funds for a campaign to save Arthur Conan Doyle’s house for the nation and history. Matt and I are big Holmes fans and it seemed like a great left-field sponsorship. As it was we were the largest sponsors and the Kickstarter produced 6 translations, Shadowcat have a Preface in 6 Languages which was an honour for me to write.[4]

  • Jack Knight’s first art exhibition. As part of our relationship with Knighttime Creations who produced all of our recent caricatures we backed Jack’s show at the Lancaster Museum. Jack is a talented creator and we are huge fans of his visual style so it was great to be able to back his first foray into exhibitions and to purchase some original artwork.

  • Jane Binnion’s The Heart of Sales. Long time Shadowcat friend and local Social Media expert Jane Binnion released her latest book via a Kickstarter project. We at Shadowcat were proud to back the book and to help Jane in the project.


Shadowcat have acted as Patrons on a number of the projects, either via Kickstarter or by direct funds. We have also been patrons by contributing time or expertise. Amongst the many events we have been a part of:

Shadowcat were major sponsors of the first Lancashire Women’s Conference. This was an open event with women-only speakers. The idea being to give women a greater chance to gain experience of presenting and interacting at events.

We sponsored the [2014 EMF Camp] (Electro-Magnetic Field) that brought over 1,000 attendees to camping in fields while sharing fast internet and full power. EMF is all about emergent hardware technologies and open systems.

We are involved with the efforts of Pear Trading, LESS, Lancaster ESTA in creating sustainable local economies and boosting local trade.

10 Years Over

So this is the final article in the celebration of our first 10 years. We have done, and been involved with, a lot of great projects, events and phenomena in the last decade and this is just a snapshot of them. I wish I could thank every single one of the great people we have been involved with personally over the last decade, they have been fantastic.

I hope that we will be able to do as much in our second decade as we have done in our first and I am glad I have at least 9 years before I have to do as long a series of articles.

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[1] There are many conflicting arguments in the area of sponsorship, one of the strongest I know of is that it does introduce an idea of preference or preferential treatment. In an Open system everyone has an equal footing but if we have sponsors they often require a return, or are offered some bonus to match their sponsorship. This also brings up the issue that if there is less need the sponsorship goes away, if you rely on that sponsorship this may leave you in a poor position.

The deeper psychological issue may be that sponsorship becomes brand identity. So that when people see the item being sponsored they automatically make an association with a company that is it s principal supplier. This is especially true in sports where most of the research and understanding of this comes from.

[2] Patronage is still such a strongly parochial word, these days it has slipped into being a patriarchal term linked to an older form of establishment. I use it to indicate that a company can be a patron, an individual who lends support and in many ways gains in the manner that a client or customer might. That way we are all patrons of open source either as contributors to the ecosystem or users.[3]

[3] The original Roman meaning of the word was linked to slavery as a Patron was typically the former owner, and now supporter, of a freed slave. Once a slave was released from ownership they were sponsored in their citizen status by their former owners.

[4] It is a pity I don’t understand the languages the Preface was translated into.