Why I voted YES


First off, I'm delighted that the referendum has generated such a lively debate - it's the first time in years that there's been open discussion among the membership as to what the foundation and the foundation board's role is.

I can encapsulate the goals I'm hoping we'll achieve with a saller goal like this: more personal responsibility, a faster moving decision process, less government, and a greater capacity for change.

Fewer members on the board means less waiting for some kind of "OK, that's fine" 'decision' for something like a request to use a modified logo. You can't rely as much on someone else getting an issue. It also means that we will have an easier time reaching resolution. And a resolution, even a wrong one, is better than "we're discussing it".

I agree with the many people who have said that the GNOME Foundation should do less, and delegate more. Several people have attributed a desire to "get stuff done" to me. I have said exactly the opposite on a number of occasions, such as http://mail.gnome.org/archives/foundation-list/2005-September/msg00109.html

Dave Neary said:
The board [...] should not be the place that people get things done,
but the place where people know *what* is being done, and who is
interested in which issues. The board should be a conduit for
information, and a place where the buck stops for decisions that need

The board needs to do less, and delegate more. A reduction in board size logically requires this change, which is a good thing.

Finally, a smaller board will be more flexible and adaptable. We are a young organisation, but in governance, we are quite conservative. Reform is not the enemy. Mistakes are not the enemy. We must evolve as an organisation, and as a community, or we will become irrelevant and die. A smaller board steering the SS GNOME, with an enthusiastic and involved community behind them, will inevitably be more flexible in the changing world of free software.

From the arguments people have brought up for voting no, three in particular stick out:

1. Fewer board members means less representation

This argument, brought up by Fernando and Jeff, is the one which gave me the most pause. On the surface, this seems inevitable - 11 > 7 and so an 11 man board is going to be more representative than a 7 person board.

But then, let's look closer. This year's board has 7 North Americans, 4 Europeans. 11 males. 9 caucasians, 2 hispanics. Last year's board had 8 North Americans, 2 Australians, 1 European. 1 women, 10 men. 10 caucasians, 1 hispanic. The year before, we had 7 North Americans, 2 Europeans, 2 Australians. 11 men. 10 caucasians, 1 hispanic.

Is there a way we can be less representative than this?

The referendum we had last year to have anonymous voting was designed to reduce the peer pressure effect - in passing the referendum, the community recognised that peer pressure was capable of playing a role in who people voted for. I believe that this referendum is a compliment to that one - it will require people to be more thoughtful with their vote.

Another proposal (from Alan Horkan) last year was to use PR for foundation elections, rather than the multicast ballot without order of preference. Who's to say that Owen was not everyone's 10th preference last year? Or that everyone who voted for Anne would have voted for her even if they only had 2 or 3 votes? We really don't know what the dynamics of a 7 seat election will be yet, but I believe they will be interesting, to say the least, and that we will have more chance of having a South American, a Spaniard or an Indian on the board than with an 11 man board.

2. Are we solving the wrong problem?

One argument is that reducing the size of the board is addressing some issue, but not the important one(s). Jeff is voting no because he believes that having an executive will better address the problem of things that the board *should* be doing slipping through the cracks.

I agree with Jeff that a voted executive is a good thing. I agree that this will go a long way towards having a place where the buck stops.

I also believe that reducing the size of the board will help towards this goal.

Anne Oestergaard and Liam Quin believe that what we really need is a well defined decision making process, with review periods and voted decisions for proposals that the board needs to decide on. While I'm unclear as to particular situations where this would have helped, I don't see why this couldn't be done (unless it suddenly made the board a burdgeoning bureaucracy). But it's certainly not incompatible with a reduction in board size.

3. We could be making a *HUGE* mistake

As I pointed out earlier, there is nothing in the by-laws which requires a referendum to increase or decrease the size of the board.

It is entirely possible that the board would co-opt community members to make up a bigger board if it becomes obvious that 7 is just not working out. Remember a small board will be more capable of making this kind of decision, should the need arise.

For the 4 reasons I stated up front - less government, a more nimble executive, greater personal responsibility of board members and a faster decision making process, I hope you'll agre with me, and vote yes to reducing the board size for next year.


David Neary
bolsh gimp org

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