Re: Questions for candidates

Always fun to be one of the first to answer these questions. Provides
more information the others that way ("gee .. his answers were poorly
received, better take the opposite view"). But I'm sure that won't
happen here. :-)

On Tue, 2003-11-11 at 01:11, Telsa Gwynne wrote:
>  1 How do you manage your time and that of others? 
>    (murrayc)

I have found that I tend to work best with deadlines. Given an
open-ended task, I will usually put it off and put it off. Meeting a
deadline is routine, though.

As far as whether I have any experience at this (and reading the
extended disco mix of Murray's question, also referring to the ability
to actually get tasks completed by the board as a whole), I have fairly
extensive experience as a project manager and requirements gatherer for
software projects as part of my day job. They typically tend to have
deadlines and require hard decisions about when to cut something or work
towards a more pragmatic solution.

I have also spent a number of years of my life on various administrative
and organising committees -- often as the chair -- in the national and
international chess world (a hip and happening place that nobody has
probably heard exists). Those committees were usually a group of
volunteers with enormously vested and often quite selfish interests. And
yet we usually managed to get things done by dint of having a work plan
or agenda and trying hard to stick to it and not get side-tracked.

>  2 How are you going to treat your current Gnome work once you become 
>    a foundation board member? Will it suffer?
>    (towk)

I doubt it will suffer, because I currently feel I am not really pulling
my weight in a number of areas (i.e. it cannot get any worse). I have
tried to avoid becoming the maintainer of any significant modules (which
has not entirely worked, but is mostly a success) and prefer to dabble
around the edges and think in a more holistic fashion. As mentioned
above, I don't think I have problems meeting deadlines and assuming the
board work is generally only a few hours a week (possibly with periods
of more intensive efforts), this shouldn't be a hardship to fit into my
otherwise boring life.

>  3 Which parts of the Gnome project do you think work well and would 
>    like to encourage further?
>    (charlieg)

Thinking about this, most of my candidates for areas that work well are
places where we have sub-projects consisting of good coordinators and
people who work well together. We are developing a very extensive set of
high-quality user-level documents. Our internationalisation team are
world-class (and I am not using that term lightly -- realise that we
have better translation coverage in some respects than many, many
commerical products, including a lot of what corporations like Microsoft
put out). The release team mostly works; they have a much harder job
than the other groups, since they have to pull all the threads together
and coordinate the final product as a whole. Certainly without a release
team of the current quality we would not be anywhere near as succesful.

The question is a little ambiguous as I take it as given that all areas
should be encouraged further. But one area where I think it would be
worthwhile to put in a bit more effort are is in bringing more
third-party developers to the idea of building applications for GNOME.
Not applications that necessarily ship with GNOME, but things that work
nicely with our platform and that are done because of the strengths of
the GNOME platform and desktop. That is an area that is certianly within
the scope of the board (and is already happening to some extent through
the Advisory Board -- but I would like to see the work broadened).

>  4 The GNOME team has been working on several features to promote use of 
>    GNOME in small and medium business environments, which will potentially 
>    deliver GNOME many users. What are you going to do to promote the use of 
>    GNOME within these environments?
>    (Theo)

Looking at this from a GNOME Foundation Board persepctive, I see this
problem as one of marketing and communication in both directions. That
is to say, we should be listening to what companies in these situations
are saying, we should communicate these requirements back to the
developers in some fashion (using specially designed corporate speak to
developer lingo translators) and not necessarily taking "well, they'll
just have to change" as an answer. Part of this also involves working
(as I believe already happens quite nicely) with companies like Ximian
and Sun and HP, who are on a day-to-day basis involved with customers of
their own and continually getting feedback on what rocks and what sucks.
We should ensure that we listen to their comments and feed them onto the
right people.

We should also be getting the message out in the other direction. When
the GNOME desktop can do something that meets these requirements (as it
can already and more plans are in the works at the developer level), we
need to make sure that the people making the roll-out decisions for the
small- and medium-sized businesses know about it. This means attending
general conferences, having a presence at things like "open source in
government" conferences and round-tables, having whitepaper-style
packages available for people to pull off the website and hand to their
bosses. That kind of thing: being aware of the places where we can get
the message out and *using* them.

In my mind, both these avenues (business -> developers and vice versa)
are equally important. I have a vested interest here: I work in a small-
to medium-sized company which uses GNOME on most of the developer
desktops. I know it does not yet work perfectly, but it is getting
closer and is certainly already usable. I know it would be difficult to
think about rolling this out for our sales and marketing people.

>  5 What do you see as current threats to the future of a complete Free 
>    Software desktop? And what would you like the GNOME Foundation to be 
>    doing to address these issues?
>    (coriodan)

As a practical matter, software patents and various "information
protecting" legislation around the world is pretty much always going to
provide obstacles. The best contribution that a group like the GNOME
Foundation can make is to always be prepared to have a say in these
issues. We need to stay prepared for arguing against various positions,
to send position papers when public comments are called for and to be
available to the press when things get that far. Looking well-prepared,
arguing effectively and not coming off as crazed lunatics is something
that takes preparation and coordination and the board is well placed to
help manage efforts of that nature.

>  6 What ideas, if any, do you have regarding GNOME and the rest of the 
>    world (as in not USA and other "central" countries) ?
>    (mariano)

Obviously there room for GNOME in all countries. Certainly current
evidence suggests that there is a great place for open source based
software installations in many countries. With a few exceptions, most of
the work here has to be at least initiated by local groups who utilise
the GNOME Foundation as a whole (and the board in particular) as a

I think the best role the board can play here is to provide a contact
point for local groups who wish to spread GNOME further within their
area. Certainly, the Foundation can do some things such as I mentioned
earlier -- like trying to have a presence at various independent
conferences and trade shows. But a lot of the work is going to need to
be done by people on the ground in each area. The board is well placed
to act as a collection point for information and advice. It can provide
a credible entity for when a government or local organisation wants to
see that this is more than just a local flash in the pan. It cannot
necessarily do much in the way of pushing things directly, though: there
are not enough people on the board and the planet is too big.

>  7 What is your commitment to transparency and open books? Given this 
>    commitment what steps will you take over the next year to realize 
>    your vision?
>    (acuster)

As much as possible the Foundation should be accountable to its members.
This should certainly include things like presenting financial summaries
and showing where members' donations have been used. Some business must
obviously be held in confidence for periods until it becomes public
knowledge -- otherwise the board would never be able to deal with
publically traded companies. Nevertheless, the board represents its
members and should be accountable to them. Being as open as possible as
promptly as possible must be a good thing and I would like to see it

Since I am not currently on the board, I do not feel informed enough to
comment on the current situation. I would like to have seen more
feedback, but I do not know if there were reasons or not.

>  8 What would you do to increase community participation in the GNOME 
>    community and GNOME elections?
>    (g2devi)

I am not sure that the small number of nominations for the board is
necessarily a bad idea. It is a little disappointing that there are so
few nominatees who are not already on the board -- since I would prefer
to see some continual turnover where each year's board contains some
returning members and some new blood. However, acting in an
adminstrative role is not for everybody and there are no shortage of
ways to help without being on the board.

As for participation in the GNOME community, again I am not sure of that
there is an emergency forming here. One area where we have dropped the
ball a little bit is in helping new people become involved; the result
being that it takes a lot of enthusaism for somebody to get from just
starting to active contributor. Non-foundation related activities are
happening at the moment to try and rectify that, so it's possibly going
to fix itself in a way (again, not something that necessarily requires
the board to help with).

All that being said, let me return to my hobby horse for a minute: I
cannot see how GNOME can retain credibility if we do not empower
developers to build applications that work on our desktop. This is not
talking about bringing developers into the position of building GNOME
itself, but building *for* GNOME. That is the community we need. That is
the type of community you see Apple and Microsoft and others talking
about: the third-party developers who are happy to use your
infrastructure because you provide something stable, working and
comfortable to use. I have covered ways to address this earlier.

>  9 Do you have any thoughts on how to expand the developer base?
>    (voz)

As regards, third-party developers, see above. In particular,
representation at conferences, offering professional tutorials,
offerring high quality developer documentation. All of these are
necessary. However, the board can only coordinate these efforts and
encourage the developers by pointing out the importance of such things.

Concerning developers of the platform itself, I think that is happening
by itself. Project maintainers, as a rule, are exceptionally receptive
to legitimate offers of help and will go out of their way to assist
newcomers. A small group is trying to help the GNOME Love project become
more active again. Another group are working on the website and
vacuuming out the cobwebs. Short of the occasional message from the
board acknowledging the effectiveness of this work (which should not be
overlooked), it seems that the process of attracting new developers is
going along nicely by itself.

> 10 [Long introduction I hesitate to summarise, but I believe the gist
>    of the question to be] how do you propose to fix the lack of apparent 
>    structure or direction which causes a loss of momentum?
>    (anonymous)

I'm not convinced that all the problems mentioned in this question are
legitimate. However I can see how the perception could arise. My answer
here is probably going to be very unsatisfactory, but let's have a

One consequence of our decision to do time-based releases and to make
the timeframe for these releases to be every six months is that we
absolutely cannot afford to go completely crazy in any given release.
Firstly, there is not time to destabilise and then restabilise each time
-- we must remain fairly stable throughout and this implies
evolutionary, rather than revolutionary changes. Secondly, our
commitment to compatibility across releases is for important practical
reasons -- not everybody can upgrade to the latest release the minute it
comes out, for a variety of valid reasons. You have to figure that a
reasonable portion of your audience is a release or two behind (they
wait for their distributor to package it, they check that it isn't all
horribly broken, they roll it out and they resolve not to do another
huge rollout for at least a few months since it's so much work).

Within those constraints, there is a lot going on in GNOME development.
But because this isn't the crazy time of late-2001 where everything was
changing and all was new, it may not always be obvious. Have a look at
the new features mentioned in the latest release notes -- a lot of them
are non-trivial and important to the people who need them. Have a look
at some of the features slated for GNOME 2.5 -- in particular, Nautilus
is having some not insignificant changes made. There will not be another
release quite as revolutionary as GNOME 2.0 until GNOME 3.0, but
individual areas of GNOME are improving over time.

With each GNOME release, a set of release notes comes out showing what
is new and what has been done. To the external user, I think that gives
a sense of structure and shows our level of coordination. For people
working day-to-day on the GNOME and always looking at what is going into
CVS, the bigger picture is harder to track. You need to track a few
dozen threads on as many mailing lists and then work out which ones are
relevant. Maybe something could be done about that, but it should be
done at the developer level, not at the board level. Maybe something
cannot be done about that -- it may just be the way that open source
development has to happen; certainly it is one way for it to happen,
because I thin our current system works.

Short version: I am not convinced this is a real problem. I am not sure
there is much the board can do to improve things (I guess that would
require me to understand that there was a real problem). I would hope
the board is able to communicate the direction and goals of each GNOME
release to the people they are dealing with. The current board members
and all of the current candidates are good communicators, so I cannot
see why this shouldn't be happening and continue to do so.


[Date Prev][Date Next]   [Thread Prev][Thread Next]   [Thread Index] [Date Index] [Author Index]