Re: Questions for the candidates

Hi Everyone,

I'm late to the party; man, did I ever know elections can be so exhausting? And so much fun?! Oh wait, I don't mean this one. I mean the Iran presidential elections on Friday later this week... Normally that even doesn't change my schedule, but for reasons that are better postponed to a PGO blogpost, it ate ALL of my weekend and is still giving me a fuzzy feeling this week.

Anyway, I apologize for replying so late. I was counting the number of people who have replied to da Q's and it always looked like "a couple or so". Time flies... So here we go.


  1. For outgoing board members: what have been the upsides/good things
from your previous stint at the Board which you would  like to see
carried forward into this term ?

As I noted in the previous threads, I think the current board had a very productive balance. Things where not falling on the floor anymore, no one felt burned out, and I personally felt very happy being on the board. Now, that's mostly because of all the trouble Stormy took off the board's shoulder, but also because as a board we developed simple rules and tricks to improve our own productivity, and that's what I like to see carried forward into this term. I give three examples:

- In previous boards (specially when there were 11 seats), there was this problem where decisions couldn't be made on time because not enough directors replied to a proposal. Durin the 2007 board we developed, and during 2008 we perfected, this protocol of replying with whatever comments we may have, but include one of "+1", "-1", or "+0" as our binding vote. When a decision receives four "+1"'s, the proposer automatically takes that as an approval and moves on. More recently we even started replying "+1=1", then next person would do "+1=2", etc. You get the idea. Problem solved.

- Da board typically meets every other week. In the past there have been times where people misremembered which week we were in "is it the off week or the on?", or totally forgot the meeting, or had the wrong week in their calendar because we ended up canceling a meeting because only two people called in... Anyway, to solve that, in one such meeting, we decided that I'll send a meeting reminder on the Monday of the week we are supposed to meet. I added a reminder to my calendar and have been sending the reminders, asking "Meeting this week. Who'll be there? New agenda items?" And that simple one-line email every other week did it. Now when we meet we know who is supposed to be there and who can't make it. Problem solved.

- I understand that it has been accepted for a board member to be away from board happenings for an extended period of time. But in the recent while, we've developed an expectation of people notifying the other board members if they cannot commit their fair share to the board for a period of weeks, and that has been very helpful not blocking on individuals and getting things done. Again, problem solved.

To summarize, while it feels so good to think "oh great, seven of these 10 slaves^Wcandidates will become directors and then everything is their problem to fix", it's simply not how it happens. We don't have any superpowers. At least I dont :-). What I can offer however is 1) keeping the board functional no matter how busy I am, and 2) offering my judgment.

  2. If you are a new candidate: what specific SMART
( goals would
you like to put for yourself? Or, in other words, how would you like
to measure yourself and, let others know how you are doing ?

Haha, don't have to answer this one :-D.  Poor new guys.

  3. What part of being a board member do you think will be most
difficult for you? How do you plan to compensate for that?

I've only been on the board for 2.5 years now, but when you think about it: I started as a first-timer in a board that had decision-making problems, 6 months in the treasurer resigned, and two months later the president. Same year I guess, I dropped the ball on the ECMA34 press release thing. And while jdub and other directors saved my a** by never pointing fingers at me, it left a deep mark on my mind. I like to think that I've learned a lot from that experience. And then, the board work is simply much lighter these days, thanks to Rosanna and Stormy taking over most of the non-hacker-friendly tasks. So I find the actual work quite pleasing these days. The biggest problem is still finding time for it.

I recently started a part-time MBA program on the side. So my *free* time is definitely nonexistent. However, in the 6 weeks that I've been in the program, I find myself Getting more Things Done. And when I look at it, it's obvious why: when I don't have much time at my hand, I actually weight things first before committing time to them. That has resulted in *way* less procrastinating. And let me assure you, board work is not something I used to do for procrastinating purposes. So, I think not only I'll deal with it, I probably be more determined, more productive, and generally make for a better director in my current situation. Plus, I'm learning a hell of a lot of skills that come handy (negotiations? accounting? integrative thinking? Those are the courses I'm taking right now.)

  4. Do you have any experience on management teams or boards at
non-profits? If so, can you give an example of a change you affected
in that role? If not, what makes you think that you will be a good
board member? What single change do you want to affect during your

I've been on board for 2.5 years. But the non-technical things I'm most proud of during my board tenure can be done without being on board. It just happens that no volunteers have enough will/time to do it, so a board member has to pick them up. They are:

- I organizes the Berlin GTK+ Hackfest. I went to the GTK+ maintainers, proposed the idea, chose the location, found local organizers, invited all developers, found sponsors, handled sponsorships, and went there and with tbf actually ran the event. There were a few glitches, but from what I've heard, I think it was a success.

- I chaired the GUADEC program committee in 2008. It was actually the most painful task I've performed in GNOME. Ok, maybe this year's is worst. Anyway, not because it's hard to review proposals, but because we never had the tools (website, ...) to be productive. And it fell upon me, as the chair, to make sure things go forward no matter how painful. Fortunately Ryan Lortie took over more than half of the pain this year, but that didn't stop me to receive all the blames :).

- Finally, I conducted the DVCS survey. The idea was brought up in various discussions, with the board, with Owen, and other prominent hackers. But no one was doing anything. I'm not particularly good in git. Nothing compared to Owen or krh or federico or Elijah. But I figured I can do the leg work to conduct a survey. So I just did it, and I think that proved helpful breaking the impasse.

What single change do I want to affect? Umm, I really don't know. Unlike last year, I probably want to stay away from GUADEC organization. I'm already burnt out in that department. For the next few months I'm focusing on hacking, cleaning up the text stack etc, so I can't say I can commit to make major changes (like, revamping the website which is what Lucas is leading, or revitilizing the marketing team, which is what Stormy is doing, or leading the GNOME3 effort, which is what vuntz, andre, and owen are doing, etc). But as I said, I can make sure things get done, I'm an open person and very good with dealing with individual community members, I never leave email unanswered, and in general I *care* about GNOME more than most things in my life. I bet that was too much drama for this simple question.

  5. What are the specific areas of the Foundation's focus and strategy
where you think you can contribute as a change agent ?

I don't plan to focus on any major change this term, other than, well, trying to figure out with the others, what GNOME3 actually *is*, and how do we execute that. I think as a community/foundation, if we can answer that, and our website doesn't suck by that time, that's more than enough to achieve.

I do like to see more mobile stuff (moblin?) come towards GNOME proper. But that's something I think the board is supposed to leave to the Mobile Committee, and lets face it, I don't have any background/involvement in the mobile space.

(Yay, half way done)

  6. Do you think we need to make the being a member of the Foundation
feel more valuable, and how do you think we should do that? What would
you change about the Foundation to make it more useful to members.

This is a recurring question every year. In short, no I think we are doing ok. The foundation membership (or lack thereof) should not affect a contributor's day to day involvement with GNOME in a measurable way. Now, prioritizing foundation members in the travel committee is something I like and is happening already I guess.

  7. Do you have any plans on how can the board help bring the GNOME
platform and desktop in the top of opensource desktop and mobile
application development?

No concrete plans other than I always think about it. One thing I know though, that *that* problem is HARD. I don't think board takes much responsibility there. Let me use an example: we all know it helps us to have readily available win32 and Quartz packages for all the platform, to have installers for them, to have better bindings, etc. But can the board "decide" that? Not unless the board has 2 million dollars to spend on it. And so far the money the board / foundation can allocate to those kind of things is at least a couple digits short. Point being, foundation simply doesn't have the money to put where it's mouth can be in most techy cases. Gets us back to Luis's recent discussion. But I don't think this is something we can fix this election or the next. The long long term idea I think is that by expanding our relationship with the rest of the (techy) world through Stormy's excellent skills, five / ten years down the road we may be a totally different foundation, one that can make decisions, and fund it, and move on. But right now, we aren't.

  8. Do you think the GNOME Foundation and the GNOME projects get
enough representation at events? If not, how would you fix that?

We do ok. The events we attend though are mostly Linux / Open Source events. Obviously because that's where we're most welcome and our volunteers are most happy to represent us. But I believe that those are also the events that we get least out of. Depends on the context, for sure, a lot, don't get me wrong. But if we want to get something different / more than what we've been getting, we need to do something different from what we've been doing. If we only go to conferences that everyone knows what GNOME is, how many people have learned about GNOME from that event anyway? I think Stormy is already doing a *great* job representing GNOME in places way out of the comfort zone of our hacker core, and I like that.

  9. What, in your view, are the top 5 requirements (from a strategic
perspective) for the GNOME communities world-wide ?

My mind is shutting down after nights of not much sleeping. I have no idea what this question is supposed to mean to be honest, and I resist the temptation to write funny answers.


Also, RMS asked:

Here's a question that I would like to ask the candidates.

What do you think GNOME should do to support the
broader cause of free/libre software,
and the freedom of computer users?

I think the "look, our source code is Free Software" argument has lost a lot of appeal in where GNOME has headed in the past and continues to head. Free-ness is just one of the multiple reasons why GNOME is "Good". Usability, a11y, i18n, etc are equally important. So I don't think GNOME can afford supporting the free/libre software cause more than, say, FSF does.

On the freedom side however, that's where GNOME cares. A lot. Open standards, open formats, no lock-in, etc, are *very* important to achieve our goals of usability, a11y, etc, and I like to see GNOME work more closely with FSF and other parties on fighting against free standards issues as well as freedom of owning one's data.



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