Re: Some perspective on the relative importannce of the board.

I should have written the subject as it is in the corrected version


On Fri, 2005-10-28 at 02:13 -0400, Nat Friedman wrote:
> 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
> make.
> So we have an elected board of directors with a de minimus rationing of
> power.
> 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.
> Nat
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