Re: Another question for candidates.
- From: Bart Decrem <bart eazel com>
- To: Martin Sevior <msevior mccubbin ph unimelb edu au>
- Cc: foundation-list gnome org
- Subject: Re: Another question for candidates.
- Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 09:51:59 -0700
OK, so your hypothetical could be that I'm on the board of the Foundation,
that I work for Eazel and Eazel gets hired by Intuit to port Quicken to
Gnome, thereby creating a competing package to GNUCash.
In and of itself this situation doesn't create an inherent conflict of
interest. The conflict arises if a specific issue is brought up for
discussion on the board. The conflict would arise if an issue was brought to
the board as to wether GNUCash and/or Quicken For Gnome were an official part
of Gnome. The charter states that one of the responsibilities of the
Foundation is to determine which packages are part of a Gnome release (that's
mostly how we define whether something is an official part of Gnome).
This issue would present a clear conflict of interest. The conflict is
actually no different from deciding whether, say, Nautilus or Evolution are
including in a specific release of Gnome. The Steering Committee has
actually been dealing with both of these issues recently, as I recall.
Now the question is how to deal with these conflicts of interest.
There's a famous saying in Silicon Valley among venture capitalists that goes
"no conflict, no interest", which means that conflicts of interests are often
a good thing, because they mean you have a stake in an issue, and you want
issues to be decided by people who have a stake in them (in favor or
My understanding is that the current practice on the Steering Committee is
that conflicts of interests do arise, and the issues get slugged out, and you
try to achieve consensus, and people with conflicts don't excuse themselves
from those issues, but the rest of the group kind of accounts for the
conflict as they weigh their position.
So for the board, I would think that, unless it becomes obvious that the
current way of dealing with this is no longer workable, we use the same
rule. If there's a conflict of interest, you, as a board member, should
remember that you're supposed to represent the interests of Gnome, not of
your employer, but then you should dive in and argue your case. The rest of
the board will account for your conflict of interest as it makes up its mind.
So in the example above, I would probably state my opinion on whether Quicken
for Gnome and/or GNUCash should be included in a release of Gnome. But then
I would step back a bit and let the entire board make the decision without me
being the one to drive that issue in an inappropriate manner. In other
words, I would be sensitive to the fact that I had a conflict and try to make
sure that I am not imposing my conflicted view on the board as a whole.
If it becomes obvious over the next year that conflicts of interests are
leading to decisions that are bad for Gnome, then we should articulate a more
formal conflict of interest rule. But until then, we should minimize the
amount of formal rules. All things equal, a smaller foundation is better
than a bigger foundation, and less structure is better than more structure.
Martin Sevior wrote:
> HI everyone,
> Here's a question that I hope will address the issue of
> transperency which is another goal of the Gnome Foundation.
> Suppose a Foundation Board member works for (or holds shares in) a company
> that develops code for Gnome. Suppose also that another company hires this
> Gnome company to port a software package to the Gnome platform. This
> package will compete directly with a current Gnome project which is making
> good progress.
> Is the Foundation Board member in a position of conflict of interest?
> Do you think that others might perceive the Foundation Board member to be
> in a position of conflict of interest?
> Are there actions you think the Foundation Board member should take when
> this situation arises?
> Thank you,
> Martin Sevior
> foundation-list mailing list
> foundation-list gnome org
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