Re: What do you think of the foundation?

OK, I'll bite.  I was going to run for the board but I haven't been particularly active due to work and school combo.  (although I must object that mailing list participation as indicator of how fit you are as a board member, talk is cheap)

My comments inline:

On Thu, May 28, 2009 at 9:25 AM, Dave Neary <dneary gnome org> wrote:
Hi all,

So - this is perhaps not the best time to start this discussion, but then again maybe it's absolutely the best time. This is a call to foundation members who are happy, unhappy or disaffected to say what they think the foundation should be doing that it isn't, shouldn't be doing that it is, and generally what you've been unhappy & happy with over the past number of years.

It is always a good time to have a discussion as a sort of a health check on our community.  So I appreciate you bringing this up.

Me first!

I think that the foundation should be more involved in conflict resolution and policing the tone of the community. I have talked to too many people who don't read pgo, or have turned off individual blogs, don't use IRC any more, or avoid certain mailing lists, because they are unhappy with the tone & content of discussions & posts. If someone is behaving in a way which is negatively affecting a significant portion of the GNOME community, the board should be the place to go where you can complain, and have your complaint publicly recorded (in the minutes of a board meeting, for example) with anonymity, investigated and evaluated, and if necessary, have the guilty party censured and/or punished. Currently, this social policing role has been completely ignored by the foundation and its leaders.

What would you do then?  I guess ultimately I don't know what happens to change the tone.  In general, GNOME does a pretty good job of self policying and there are a lot of decent people who do attempt to change the tone in the mailing list if it does turn ugly.  It's nothing compared to the old days when most of us were all a bunch of 20 somethings.  :-)

In the end I think it will cause more problems than it solves.  It's not a board issue, but rather those of us who know better should simply step in and defuse the situation.  You want people to be a statesman, but certainly I don't think it's something that should be discussed in board meetings or put in minutes.  That just makes people cynical.

I think that the foundation should be more frugal, and I expect the board to transmit the frugal values to the membership. I was a supporter of being much firmer in asking people to pay part of their travel when being funded by the foundation, or to seek other funding elsewhere (from conference organisers, for example). I don't think that being funded by the foundation should be a due or a reward, foundation funds are an enabler.

In these hard times, we should do whatever we can to keep ourselves in the red.  Being part of a conference committee I can well understand what it means on deciding on what is important to spend money on.  Money should always be spent on either 1) getting important people who to conferences that can advance GNOME or the free desktop 2) spending money strategically that either provides a monetary return (friends of gnome) or creates greater market share.

I would like to see greater financial and administrative transparency. I don't see any reason why the foundation's gnucash file should be private, for example - and if there is, then at the very least there should be a quarterly financial update summarising everything that's happened in the last quarter. As a donor, I would like to know where my money is going, who's had travel funded, for what purpose, and so on. I want to know that we're planning to spend 15,000 on conference t-shirts so that I can say "hold on, I know a t-shirt supplier who might be cheaper - let me get a quote".

That's assuming people are in that mind frame. :)  Others could react by "woohoo, I'm going to make sure I get one for my entire family they are making a lot!"  But transparency is always good.  I'm all for that.

I want to see seven board members actively communicating, and I want to see the board be more reactive when a board member is inactive for long periods. There is no procedure for temporarily replacing an inactive board member, or if there is, it's never been activated.

This I agree with 100%.  If you commit to the board then we expect that you will put in your time in and move the platform forward.  It shouldn't be used as some kind of resume filler or a way to show self importance.  One of the things that really annoys me about foundation/board stuff.  I expect them to sheppard good projects so that they are a success.  Sometimes I wonder what the hell people do...

looking at the attendance lists of the available minutes, it appears that Jeff was regularly missing meetings from March on, and he was replaced in early December. What happened in between? How about the other board members - how do you feel about your performance this year?

There should be some kind of method of releasing a board member from duty due to non-activity and let someone else have a stab at it.

In short, I would like a board of which the community has the ear, working primarily to improve the social and financial condition of the project, and doing so in the most complete transparency possible. I would like not to have a board member who is so busy that they don't have time to blog, or ask for opinions here, or publish minutes & meeting agendas in a timely fashion.

Not electing board members who code on important pieces of GNOME is a good start.  Unfortunately those are the people who have the most visibility but they aren't the best since you really want someone who can look at the project from a much higher view IMHO.

I would like to see consultation happen in such an informal and regular fashion that we don't refer to questions from board members as "Requests for Comments", which make it sound like you have to polish content for an hour and "publish" the "document", going through board approval before you go public. I'd like to see the 7 most frequent posters here be the board members, on lots of topics, related to GUADEC, the Summit, hackfests, budget, marketing, Friends of GNOME (and I'd like to commend Stormy on the way she's been leading on this) and more.

Not sure what you're talking about here.

I don't want to pick on anyone here - times change, boards too, but what I feel is that the board (any board) currently doesn't really know what its role is. Boards take themselves seriously, try to present a united front, don't fight in public, and publish/announce/... - in short, broadcast to the membership what they're working on. I would like us to move more towards a mode where most of the announcements coming out of the foundation are coming from the membership rather than the board, and where the entire foundation shares in the difficulties that the board has borne on their shoulders for the past few years. The GNOME project is small enough & intimate enough that we can talk freely, no?

I agree.  But i don't think foundation members really know what they are supposed to do either.  I certainly don't.  What is my contract when I'm part of the foundation? 

The KDE eV solution to this is to make the foundation members list members-only (private archives) - should we consider doing the same thing, if that would allow more board business to be conducted on this list?

This seems to be in conflict with the "greater transparency" argument you made earlier.  Or are you saying that there are things that the foundation does that is "ears only"?


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