[Fwd: Resignation from GNOME Foundation Membership Committee]

Hey there,

I'm not sure whether I should forward this mail, but I think everyone
should read it, and have probably already seen the CVS commits [1].

This makes me incredibly sad - since Mike has dedicated much of his
spare time doing a job that seemingly no one was interested in up until
a day or two ago.

I would appreciate it if the people involved would apologise to Mike
over the next day or two. I only hope we have as many volunteers looking
to join the membership committee as there were to flame him.

I'd like to personally thank Mike for his work over the last year,
you've been great to work with.

				Glynn ;)

[1] If you haven't, Mike has removed himself and his membership from

--- Begin Message ---
Dear Board and fellow Membership Committee members,

This mail might get quite long, and will hopefully have some utility as
well as being a resignation. I'll get the personal bit out of the way
first however.

I'm resigning because I think that as the chair of the Membership
Committee I have been placed in an untenable position - defending a
policy I didn't write or vote for against attacks from people who mainly
haven't read it, certainly have never applied it, and definitely think
they could apply it better.

On a personal note I'm also resigning because I don't enjoy waking up to
a mailbox full of rubbish asking me on what basis am I qualified to make
decisions, why I hate some community member or other, why I'm part of
the gnome foundation when I can't write code, and other less polite
things involving all sorts of unpleasant things which I won't bore the
board with :) All pretty childish stuff. I could of course spend time
responding to the more sensible mails among these, but I somehow doubt
it would help.

I've spent a year working on the committee and mainly I've enjoyed it.
Its not a glamourous role - and its actually quite hard work. So perhaps
my qualifications as requested by some indignant correspondents are just
those - that I don't mind doing hard work for little or no recognition.
In recent weeks I've inherited the chair of the committee and we've
taken on new members to deal with the renewal influx. This has all been
positive - and I've enjoyed very much working with the new volunteers.
Elections are always fun, and I'm sad I won't be involved in the next

However, I feel somewhat 'hounded out' - the kind of treatment I've
received in the past 48 hours makes me want to not be part of the GNOME
community at all, which I think is incredibly sad. I'd also point out
that I don't take this decision lightly - having been a candidate for
election in UK local and national politics, and a trade union official
for many years, I've been on the receiving end of more than my fair
share of personal attacks :) This is different though, this is about a
community deciding who is 'in' and who is 'out'. 

I want to take the opportunity to thank the few board members who were
supportive during the difficult last couple of days. Also, Glynn Foster
has been amazingly supportive and helpful despite having pretty much
left the committee.

Having said all that I want to provide a few insights into the last
year, and more specifically the last few weeks from my point of view
which I think might be helpful, or at least interesting for thr future.

Firstly, the current policy by design is open - that remains a good
thing I believe. However, it has not been applied to the majority of
people who work on GNOME before. I'm pretty certain for example that at
renewal I would never meet the requirements. What is fantastic about
such an open policy is that the contribitons of documenters, graphic
artists, translators etc. can be included. What some people want - a
list of apps which qualify and ones which don't (the latter being a huge
and impossible list of course) - would make this very hard to do. Put
simply, the membership policy tries to be open to all forms of
contribution, whilst the membership themselves seem to want code and
little else.

Secondly, that every application is treated individually is also very
important to me. The committee has spent a lot of time checking people's
contributions and examining past decisions to ensure we treat people
fairly. No-one among us ever enjoyed making controversial decisions - in
fact I'm sure Glynn won't mind me mentioning how we both found saying
'No' very difficult at first. What may appear to be a bizarre decision
to others is usually pretty clear on examination of the application. The
recent business about Elliot Lee confirms this - people were apoplectic
about our response, but most of them didn't bother to check the fact
that he had returned a pretty useless and vaguely offensive application.

This leads me on to a third point. The community doesn't seem to want a
foundation at all - it seems to want a cult of celebrity based around
people who have done good things in the past. This is great - I recall
mentioning last night that my grandfather built a social club, so they
gave him a life membership. This isn't what I think the Foundation is
for however. As Foundation Membership becomes a gateway to more aspects
of GNOME participation (the GEP process, the Boston Summit etc.) it
becomes ever more important to remember that the membership needs to
consist of a broad group of people with different talents working
towards a common goal. That's why the foundation exists, and that's why
the committee exists I believe. The community perception seems to be
that we should be automatically approving anyone who has achieved a
degree of fame (notoriety?).

Also, its important to remember that this storm blew up over 'renewals'.
Why are we asking people to renew - and after all, its been part of the
policy and an intention since the Foundation began. The fact that
membership times out reflects that people move on, do other things, work
on other projects and (sad to say) lose interest. When we sent the 380+
renewal mails, 63 bounced. That is 63 people who hadn't bothered to
update their details, and hadn't been reading the various lists on which
we alerted people to the renewal. The turnout at the last election was
pretty appalling. The membership needs to consist of people who are
_actively_ working on GNOME in whatever respect. I would not expect to
walk back into membership of a professional association which reflected
the job I used to do.

As one mail I received stated - "I looked at the list of outstanding
memberships, anyone who sits on IRC or reads mailing lists could
pre-approve almost everyone on that in five minutes". Is that what we
want? If we are nostalgic for 'the old days' perhaps the board might
want to give 'life memberships' to some luminaries - this would avoid
the embarassment of people being rejected.

Some of the more constructive mail I've received has focused on issues
of privacy and accountability. Since we inherited the jobs, the new
committee has been eager to improve this. We planned to work on a more
secure and effective way of storing membership data, improving the web
pages and reviewing the policy and process. I sincerely hope all this
continues, and that the board will support the committee. I hope also
that the board realises that this doesn't happen overnight because the
day-to-day work of the committee is quite time consuming and not as
simple as it might look.

Democracy is hard to do well - the older I get the more my faith in it
is tested. However, I sincerely hope GNOME gets it right. There is so
much talent and so many interesting people out there. The danger is that
the community itself will alienate them - which is far more likely than
strictly applied membership criteria driving people away.

Mike Newman

--- End Message ---

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