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

In general, I think Nat's points are well taken.

There is one other major function of the board Nat overlooks: liaison
with other organizations and companies.  When working with one of them,
one often almost has to be a board member, as it may involve items that
must remain confidential (temporarily, usually, if things go forward to
a conclusion; permanently if such discussions do not make progress), and
may involve speaking and negotiating for the foundation as a whole.  An
example was my negotiations with Bitstream over Vera fonts.  How much of
a burden this is, is an interesting question, though I bet as we gain
more traction on the desktop, that the amount of this work will
increase.  I make this bet, as, just in the font case, I now know of
four different organizations/companies involved in similar situations on
fonts alone, that have come to my attention over the last 6 weeks.

Part of why I'm recommending a bit more structure to the board while
retaining its size is to hold officers to a higher standard on time
availability, while acknowledging that some of the board has less time
available, but may be able to bring wider experience, representation and
viewpoints to the board.
				- Jim

On Fri, 2005-10-28 at 09:32 -0400, Nat Friedman wrote:
> I should have written the subject as it is in the corrected version
> above.
> Nat
> 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
> > 
> > 
> > _______________________________________________
> > foundation-list mailing list
> > foundation-list gnome org
> >
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