Re: Questions for candidates

[Before I start, many thanks to the people who submitted these, and to
telsa for finding them- this took a lot longer than I expected, because
they are very good questions.]

>  1 How do you manage your time and that of others? 
>    (murrayc)

"poorly." :) Just ask Dave. ;) Seriously, I'm not a great time manager.
I tend to make up for that by obsessively keeping TODO lists and
sleeping less than I should.

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

The reality of this (for me) is that since board is one of the things
Ximian lets me do, the more accurate question is 'how much time will my
job and my sanity let me spend on gnome and the board.' In other words,
board probably does reduce my bugsquad time, but by a few hours a week
at most. Work, in contrast, can cause swings of... well, 40-50 hours a
week :) 

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

I think the bugsquad model, in general, has worked really well, and I'd
like to see more teams/hackers actively encourage new participation and
the spread of knowledge like some of the bugsquad volunteers have done.

That said, the question that should have been asked was 'which parts of
what the board does...', since I don't think the board should really
meddle much at the team/hacker level. In that sense, I think hands down
GUADEC is the best thing that board does- it's pretty much all about
benefiting hackers/contributors and getting resources from corporate
sponsors to hackers who do cool things. And it tends to have the
side-effect of raising the profile of GNOME in whatever country we
attend. That's the model we should be following with everything we do-
benefit hackers and spread the word.

>  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)

Novell/ximian have obviously given this some thought ;) I've met with
small/medium business tech people, talked with them about their needs,
and all of that. That's my interest/potential feedback on the business
and technical end. As a board member, I think the role is more
organizational and marketing- help get hackers and SMB people together
to work out the technical details, and get out the word that GNOME is
ready (or nearly ready) for many in the SMB market. 

>  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)

Data, data, data. If all the good data is in some format we can't read
in a Free operating system (IE-specific Javascript, DVDs,
1337-new-Office 'features', stored on unreadable or otherwise unusable
devices) then we're going to lose. Period. 

During the last term, I asked the board to initiate some discussions
between various involved lawyers to make sure that gstreamer's licensing
was acceptable to all the involved parties. In the future, I'd love to
see GNOME become party to such discussions at all levels- not just with
the FSF or the corporations trying to provide free software, but
involved with the government as a legal and lobbying force.

Past this, the Free Software war is won, IMHO- we have a Free kernel and
we have a high quality and now pretty usable Free userspace. As long as
we can continue to run said kernel on new hardware, and open data that
we get from others so that we can benefit from (or at least not be
savaged by) network effects, the rest is details. Big details, but
details that we are sure to win.

>  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)

I know it needs to happen :) Past that, I admit I don't have good
answers to this question. I'm working (with Nat) on creating a GNOME
community in bangalore, india, but a lot of that has been played by ear.
Hopefully we'll learn things there that will help elsewhere. It's my
belief that we will have tons of users in 'the rest of the world' soon,
and we have to harness that if we're to be successful. If they just
fork, or can't contribute because of the language and cultural barriers,
that would be a huge shame.

>  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)

I think that the current state of things is abysmal.I'm strongly
committed to making our books and budget completely open- we've started
moving in that direction already by doing more stringent internal review
of the upcoming budget so that it is easier to present and understand;
the next step is getting it out there, and I believe the current board
will do that as soon as things are finished. You won't have to wait for
next term. :)

I also strongly believe that Tim needs to be more visible to the
community- in the average non-profit, the community knows the director
and the board is an abstract, unknown group. In GNOME, that's entirely
the opposite, and it is unhealthy. It should be easy for the community
to figure out what he is doing, and Tim should have a good grasp of what
is going on in the community as well.

>  8 What would you do to increase community participation in the GNOME 
>    community and GNOME elections?
>    (g2devi)
>  9 Do you have any thoughts on how to expand the developer base?
>    (voz)

I'll sort of lump these two together, as they are very similar.

Really, I don't think that this is the board's job very much- if the
board is deeply involved in development matters, we're probably doing
something wrong. Board's role should be support- the people who are very
directly, day-to-day doing the work need to be driving growth, or that
growth will be unnatural and unrobust. To put it another way, hackers
need to recruit other hackers- the board needs to figure out how to get
those new hackers to guadec once they are on board, IMHO. [Speaking with
my volunteer hat on, I have a number of ideas of how this should happen,
but I don't think it's relevant to state them here. You can google
bugsquad if you really want to know more :) 

The one exception to this is elections. I think the basic thing to do
with elections is that the board must prove that it is relevant,
important, and interesting. If we do that (which I believe is mostly a
matter of working harder/better on developer support and marketing)
we'll be able to point to concrete results, and concrete results will
get people interested in being on the board and contributing (ideally
people from outside the community as well.)

> 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)

First, I think we /are/ breaking new ground here. No free software
project has ever released software as usable, as API-stable, as
accessible, and as well QAd as we have. No, we're not following Bowie's
recommendations or anything, but we're still doing things that no one in
free software has ever done before, and I think that's pretty cool.

Second, I think you need to walk before you can run. In working for so
long on a solid foundation, we're preparing the ground for some exciting
changes- for example, if Seth's 'Storage' project ever comes to
fruition, the groundwork done in the past year to make gtk, nautilus,
epiphany and dbus better will make it easier to implement that in a
meaningful way. Similarly, because of the code cleanup and general work
that has been done, tying evolution into the platform and making us a
first-class collaborative platform is a possibility. Or, hell, look at

Third, it is not the board's role to impose structure and order from the
top down. Our hackers and other volunteers are our most valuable asset-
and our most independent-minded one. Leadership and structure must come
from that group, not from a bunch of board folk who all have our fingers
in too many pies already. We can formalize and give our blessing, but we
can't structure. I'd love to see more documentation, for example. But
the board going around and saying 'we need more documentation' will not
cause writers to fall from the sky- that has to come from volunteers who
are willing to sit down and do the work.

Finally... what can the board do? I think a lot of what you're
perceiving as a lack of momentum is basically a PR problem- I'm seeing
awesome strides and lots of work getting done. The board can help spread
the word about this work, and it can help recognize and reward people
who've done great work (getting new contributors to GUADEC, for
example.) We can't cause documentation to happen, but we can cheerlead
and reward when it does happen. Etc.

Anyway, I think that's most of it :) Hope I answered well- I think the
board has a lot of potential that we got close to but did not reach this
year, and I hope I can be a part of going that final distance.


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