Re: Board Meeting Minutes :: 29th March 2007

Thanks Jeff,

On Mon, 2007-04-09 at 23:42 +1000, Jeff Waugh wrote:
> So, that's convenience. Necessity? Some very simple examples:
>  * We often deal with commercially sensitive information, which Advisory
>    Board members (or others) provide in confidence.

This is exactly the kind question I would love the board to consider: in
the experience of the board over the past three years, can the board
list the advantages for its mission of that secrecy and do the board
members think that it's been worth it? 

>From this member's perspective, I don't see why the board needs to know
about the product being launched to grant a company its endorsement or
not on the use of the GNOME name for launch publicity. If they
distribute GNOME and have a prominent link to the source code of their
gadget, great. The board can decide ahead of time that it is not going
to endorse sex toys or decide publicly that it will not endorse any
product of company fooSCObar because of the damage they have done to the
community. None of the other arguments offered so far for this approach
have resonated with me particularly. 

Now I can't evaluate the *actual* work of the board by the very nature
of the secrecy; my only recourse is to trust you to auto-evaluate your
situation yourselves. I hope you can do that and then re-iterate that
you think it's best or necessary. 

>  * The Board is responsible for employees, who must be able to expect
>    privacy with regards to their management and remuneration.

I have no real way of evaluating this. I could easily imagine that when
Foundation jobs are posted that the job announcement include the fact
the remuneration will be public. Similarly I could imagine that the
board could isolate itself from the management of everyone other than
the executive director. 

Does the board continue to believe that having the pay of its employees
private outweighs the cost of not being able to make public the bank
account transactions of the foundation? A quick review by the board of
its policies would be nice.

>  * Community members should feel very safe to contact the Board privately if
>    they wish to raise or discuss sensitive community issues.

Again, I would be interested to see the board confront this issue. It
would be entirely appropriate to assume that private matters are brought
privately to individuals (board members or otherwise) and that public
discussions occur in the generic, without personal names or other
identifying information. If there is a community member that is feeling
unsafe such that they want or need such secrecy, I sure want to hear
about it right away---not the particulars but, for example, that in
March, two such cases arose and who acted or what was done to deal with
such issues. It ought to be possible to have privacy without
necessitating secrecy in a public body. 

Note that there are issues with secrecy which the board should consider
beyond simply having it vs. not having it. Take the private board
mailing list as an example. Such mail can be dealt with through a
foundation list or through personal aliases you board members create to
each other for yourselves. Having a secret discussion using the
distribution system of the foundation adds the risk of court subpoena to
the foundation. Is the current setup the best for achieving what the
board wants?

> In all of these cases, it would be extremely inappropriate to break that
> trust, 

Indeed, breaking someone's trust is always a bad decision but that's not
what I hope you will consider. I hope the board will review what
expectations of trust you set up initially. 

> and very limiting (given the role of the Foundation as a conduit) to
> refuse it.
> The (MINIMAL!) secrecy we keep is rarely convenient, but quite necessary to
> run an organisation such as the GNOME Foundation. I hope it sounds entirely
> obvious once explained in this way.

No, not particularly, but remember Jeff that you've seen a completely
different foundation than I have. You presumably also have a different
experience of secrecy in general and of foundation secrecy in

thanks for your hard work,

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