Board Member Application Mini-HOWTO

		 Board Member Application Mini-HOWTO

			Federico Mena-Quintero
			    November 2006


In pretty much all the elections for the Board of Directors of the
GNOME Foundation, it has been inevitable that the "rock stars" who
nominate themselves are eventually elected.  The rock stars are the
most prominent hackers who contribute to GNOME.  They know that their
contributions are valuable, and they wish to give even more of their
valuable time to further GNOME's goals:  this is why they nominate
themselves for the Foundation's Board of Directors.  And since
everyone in the Foundation knows who they are, they get elected.

I have been a Board member of the GNOME Foundation for three or four
non-consecutive years.  I am also a pretty visible member of the GNOME 
project, and a busy hacker at Novell.  My personal experience in being 
a Board member is that I never have time to do all the little 
administrative things that are part of being a Board member, and I 
end up feeling terrible about myself.

This is not a problem only for myself.  Other Board members, if they
happen to be busy hackers, also suffer from this problem.  They never
have time to do all the little things that one must do for the Board,
and the Board is seen as a nebulous entity that accomplishes nothing.

Would you be a good member of the Board?

* If you are a rock star hacker (or a busy non-rock star hacker at
  work), you will not be a good Board member.  Don't think that you
  can squeeze in a couple hours each week; you won't be able to.  In
  the Board you have to do little tasks like answer mails, take
  minutes, send minutes to the public, be in contact with the
  companies in the Advisory Board, make plans, etc.  If you wouldn't
  normally have time to participate in a volunteer organization where
  you do paperwork, the Board is not fit for you.

* If you are a hacker, your GUADEC experience will be destroyed.
  GUADEC is about meeting fellow contributors and talking to them in
  person.  It is about having lunch with them, discussing the
  technology or your favorite brand of beer.  If you are a Board
  member, during GUADEC you will be in meetings literally all day
  and you will not be able to talk to fellow hackers.  Forget about
  the parties; you will be too tired to go to them if the meetings 
  are even over by then.

* You need 1 hour every two weeks for the regular meetings.  You need
  about 1-2 hours each week to deal with minutiae:  your assigned
  actions, writing mails to people, figuring things out.  But this is
  not 1-2 hours of well-defined work.  It's a big context switch from
  your regular activities, and if you don't like interruptions for
  paperwork, you'll dread having to do it.  If you are the kind of
  person that forgets what you talked about two weeks ago, you won't
  be a good Board member.

* The Foundation will not reimburse you for the conference calls.  The
  calls are invariable hosted in the USA, so you may have to do
  long-distance calls every two weeks.  We haven't done any work to
  make the calls through VOIP or anything.

So who would be a good member of the Board?

* People who have had experience in running other volunteer

* People who have had experience in administering other people's money.
  I.e. you could be the Treasurer for the Foundation.

* People whose daily jobs don't extend beyond "normal work hours":
  hackers tend to keep working on the stuff from their job even after
  they go home.

* People who are good at paperwork, following up in communications,
  and who don't mind frequent meetings.

But don't let me discourage you

I am not trying to discourage all hackers from nominating themselves
for the Board elections.  I am just pointing out why being a Board
member is not the best idea for everyone.

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