Some perspective on how unimportant the board currently is.
- From: Nat Friedman <nat nat org>
- To: foundation-list gnome org
- Subject: Some perspective on how unimportant the board currently is.
- Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 02:13:15 -0400
The board of the GNOME foundation is populated by elected directors.
These people are elected to make decisions.
But, the board has almost no decision-making power.
In fact, about the only power the board has is to spend money. For
example, hiring Tim Ney. Or, firing him. Right now, Tim is already
working for the foundation. So just about the only thing the board can
do is fire him.
In theory, another power the board has is to decide where GUADEC is.
In reality, only one or two groups apply to host GUADEC every year and
it is usually immensely obvious which one is better suited.
Even so, this decision can take weeks and weeks. Why? Because the only
thing the board can do is to decide to fire Tim Ney or choose where
GUADEC is going to be hosted. And naturally, the board has to savor
this power. Quick decisions would just ruin the fun! Besides, there's
nothing else to do but argue over the one or two decisions the board can
So we have an elected board of directors with a de minimus rationing of
That what the *board* has.
What the *foundation* has is work that needs doing to promote GNOME and
make it better. Lots and lots and lots of work to do.
Work to make the GNOME web site better, work to market GNOME better and
explain it, work to solicit sponsorship and endorsement of governments,
work to organize global training seminars like Trolltech does for Qt.
And on and on and on. Jeff Waugh has summarized this work nicely a
number of times.
Right now, much of that work de facto falls on the shoulders of an
elected board. Most of the people on the board are very busy and cannot
do that work. And because the board of the GNOME foundation is a set of
elected positions, the set of people who are first drawn upon to do that
work *is limited to the set of people who were elected*. It is a
limited set. It cannot grow.
Electing people to positions makes them feel good about themselves but
doesn't necessarily motivate them to do a bunch of boring work. It
would be better to find volunteers to do all that work, and remove the
silent chilling power of the board to discourage people from
"officially" taking on the work of GNOME.
Another thing to do would be to give the GNOME board more power.
The original idea of the GNOME foundation was as a way of funneling
money around. In 1999 GNOME won $30,000 in the beanie awards and it was
stored with the FSF because there was no GNOME foundation. So we said:
let's create a nonprofit that can accept and direct money.
You could give the board more power by giving them money. Then they'd
have to figure out something to do with it. They're good people, they'd
probably work out a way to make GNOME better.
That was the original idea, after all.
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