Re: What do you think of the foundation?
- From: Behdad Esfahbod <behdad behdad org>
- To: Dave Neary <dneary gnome org>
- Cc: Foundation-List <foundation-list gnome org>
- Subject: Re: What do you think of the foundation?
- Date: Fri, 29 May 2009 14:06:38 -0400
Note: this is a personal response. I may disclose information only available
to the board, but in no way any line in this message represents board's opinion.
On 05/28/2009 12:25 PM, Dave Neary wrote:
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.
I agree that an check for what foundation is and what we want it to be is long
overdue. I don't think this is the best timing though. Do you expect the
candidates to speak up and reply? Shut up? How does this relate to the
I think that the foundation should be more involved in conflict
resolution and policing the tone of the community.
Absolutely disagree. I think we are doing fine. Last thing we need is
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.
Ask them each to write to the board so the board knows. I'm not a huge fan of
making decisions based on "there are many, I know, but I can't reveal their
I think we're in a very different position now, compared to say, in 2000. I
expect we are mostly mature professional people who respect each other and
expect to be respected in return. I don't know which lists or channels or
blogs you read, but those I check are fairly clean, and if there's some bad
stuff is going on (which I've not seen in a while), well, I can always hit the
Delete button. No Big Deal!
Now if that affects the image of GNOME (project or foundation), that's a
separate issue. But then it should be discussed separately.
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.
It's not. But over the past year, we've got one or two such complaints. And
we have not ignored them. I don't think I have to disclose the details. I
don't see any benefits in making them public either. Or do you mean the
punishment should include public embarrassment? What if the person
complaining is found to be guilty?
Seriously, what are we, 8yr olds?!
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
You keep repeating this. And no matter how many times others do not agree
with you, you keep bringing it up again. It's becoming annoying. Let me
reply with my point of view on this now.
You've said in various places that you think only core contributors should be
sponsored, and you said you define core contributor as someone who will pay
out of his pocket to go to the conference if not sponsored. You have this
image that someone's contribution to GNOME is directly related to whether they
can afford paying out of their pocket going to GUADEC.
Maybe it is the case, if you live in Europe and are a self-employed contractor
who finds lots of business by going to GUADEC. But your test fails in each
and all of the following cases, which mind you, I might offer represents a
large part of the community:
- If you're a student with no income, you don't have 2000USD to spend. Period.
- If you have a wife and a 250,000USD mortgate to pay, it's hard to justify
a 2000USD trip. Period.
- If you have a wife and two kids to raise, it's hard to justify a 2000USD
- If you have to take time off work to go to GUADEC, it's hard to justify
paying 2000USD also. Period.
- If you work full-time on GNOME as your job, and contribute to it in a
thousand other ways too, and neither your employer nor the foundation pays for
you to go to GUADEC, it's hard to justify paying 2000USD. Period.
- If you are studying part-time and have to skip three classes you are
paying 400 each for, it's hard to justify paying 2000USD for the trip.
In other instances, you suggested people paying a minimum 200euros of their
trip. Your argument has been that foundation sponsorship should not cover all
the expenses of going to GUADEC. You know what, it *doesn't*. Eating for a
week at a conference costs a lot. There are also other costs that are not
covered by sponsorship. Hell, I had to pay so far:
- Visa application fee: $97.5
- Travel insurance (required for visa): 16.75
- Two recent photos (for visa): $22
Paying those and filling in five different forms and taking time off classes
to get to GUADEC and paying for food there is enough paying-out-of-pocket for
me. (My employer pays for my trip, but that's not the point.)
I would like to see greater financial and administrative transparency. I
don't see any reason why the foundation's gnucash file should be
I see: it's a lot of work to review it to make public, with little or no
material information in it.
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.
Sure, that's a good thing to have, and we've been talking about it. But
again, requires resources. It's not like investors need to have this info
quarterly. What's wrong with annual financial reports? We published the one
The 2008 ones are not ready. Our accountant works pro bono and does our
finances when she has time. We asked her for a formal review also and that
cost us quite a bit of money.
These things are nice to have, but cost lots of time and money. It's not like
they come for free.
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 don't know many people that decide whether to donate to GNOME based on which
specific people we sponsor. If that circle is as small as I think it is,
we're better off without their donation. If someone doesn't trust the board
to spend wisely, they shouldn't donate.
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 sounds like micro-management to me. If you want to have oversight on
that level, maybe you should run for board.
Oh wait, you were on board, until you resigned in the middle of a term with a
very disfunctional board that you were the most senior member of. Sorry,
couldn't help not mention this.
I want to see seven board members actively communicating,
We do our best. If you do better, go for it.
and I want to see the board be more reactive when a board member is
> inactive for long periods.
It has not been an issue as of late. We've been very conscious about this and
very functional recently.
There is no procedure for temporarily replacing an inactive
board member, or if there is, it's never been activated.
I don't know what you have in mind, but we have been replacing members, umm,
for the past three terms.
In all my boards, there were 1 or 2 board members who just stopped
reading (or at least replying to) board email for periods of months. I
recall one particular occasion where a board member, during a face to
face meeting, revealed that he hadn't read any of a thread which had
been ongoing for 6 weeks on the mailing list, and asked everyone to wait
while he pulled his mail and caught up.
That may have been the case back then. Most definitely an issue with a board
of 11. But has not been a problem recently.
This year, at least 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?
I don't think we need to answer that question, other than the problem was
identified fairly soon (before GUADEC even), and that there were valid reasons
for postponing any resolution. One for example was that we hired Stormy and
it's fair to say that for the Summer months, it was our top priority to make
sure we can work effectively with her than to replace Jeff.
How about the other board members -
how do you feel about your performance this year?
Everyone else has been very responsive IMO. Each of us have had our down
times, but in all cases, it was communicated with the rest of the board upfront.
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.
The board you describe sounds like it will have to take over all the mundane
tasks, take all the responsibility, AND have no mind or decision-making power
of itself. If that's the job description, I'm out. I have better things to
do in my life.
If I'm being elected to board to represent those who voted for me because they
believe I have the judgment to represent them, then I'm willing to put all my
resources on solving problems that need to be solved to make the community
more functional. I'm offering my judgment and thinking as well as my time,
it's a bundle.
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.
Do better if you can. You seem much more time than me for talking it seems.
I'd honestly highly really really really prefer to hack on code instead.
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.
Why look here only? There's a lot going on marketing-list, web list, infra
list, sysadmin list, etc. And why from board members only? The community is
more functional than ever, contributing in all aspects of the project. Your
idea of the board seem to be "seven slaves that are supposed to do whatever I
demand as member/donor". My idea is "seven people that the community chose as
their trustees to deal with financials/legal/facilitating/etc".
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.
No, I think the board knows. It's just that it's different from your
definition of what it's role is.
> Boards take themselves seriously,
Actually I think you take this all too seriously. At the end of the day, it's
still code that talks. The whole Foundation thing is *just* a legal entity
backing what the community is doing. The foundation was not born to police
the community. It was born to support it.
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
Most of the announcements come from membership already. Oh, you mean all the
"GNOME Foundation" announcements, the kinds that we clearly said only board
can make. Why not count release announcement, new project announcements,
things-that-actually-matter announcements? You seem to ignore all that and
zoom in the artificial thing.
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?
We *are* talking freely. Check PGO.
Sorry if my message was bitter. It sure reflects my honest opinion though,
and needless to say, no personal attacks meant.
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
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