Re: What do you think of the foundation?

Hi again,

Behdad Esfahbod wrote:
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 names", sorry.

I was hoping a public discussion would give the silent majority the opportunity to speak. I know many of those I've talked to no longer read the general mailing lists regularly for the reasons I've referred to, and others have left GNOME altogether because of it. Indeed, in the future when this subject comes up I will indeed encourage people to mail the board with their concerns.

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?

I wasn't even aware that there were complaints. That's the kind of thing which, while keeping names out of it, the membership would be interested in knowing, I think.

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.

No, I haven't said this.

I have said that the foundation has a role to enable people to attend conferences. In the special case of GUADEC, we are very generous in that role. But I think we've been too generous - just because we are enabling someone to attend a conference doesn't mean we should pay 100% of their travel costs. Paying 80% of their travel costs is not a punishment, but it might indeed test their committment to attend the conference - if it's not worth covering 20% of the costs from their own pocket, how committed are they to travelling, really?

I get the impression from you that a GNOME developer has somehow "paid his dues" in time spent on the project during the year, and that the foundation owes him his trip to GUADEC. I absolutely disagree with that framing of the situation.

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 trip. Period. - 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.

Back in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, when the foundation spent a *lot* less getting people to GUADEC, there were still hundreds of GNOME hackers paying their way to get to Paris, Copenhagen, Dublin and Malaga. What's changed? We had *more* students and young professionals back then than we do now.

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.

You're making me cry.

Let me repeat the core of my thinking on this issue, which you so vehemently disagree with.

The foundation is not a charity. We have a little money, which we have a responsibility to use wisely. We have a core goal of enabling people to attend a conference. If I was being nasty, I would say that we have an organisational obligation to choose conference locations which are cheap to travel to & stay in (unlike, say, Istanbul & Gran Canaria). And so yes, eating is not free, drinking is not free, and it's not free where you come from too. So let's ensure that we have a campsite or youth hostel option for GUADEC, as we did in Stuttgart and Villanova. Let's not put sponsored participants in a hotel, where they're forced to eat out every day. But the role of the foundation is not to save people from poverty or pay their way - we should offer as much as we comforatbly can, taking into account the trade-offs involved, and then let the person decide whether they can justify paying the rest or not. As you said, what are we, 8 year olds?

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.

Bearing in mind that the gnucash file is *past* expenses and invoices, it is information which should be disclosed by the foundation at the end of the year in any case. Why not get a head start and have it disclosed in real time?

It saves you the time & effort of doing quarterly reports.

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 from 2007:

Ah, it's been published. I hadn't seen it yet and I don't recall seeing its publication announced here.

My main problem with that report is the lack of detail. "Conference expense: $31K" - what's in that? Is that travel expenses? Or other stuff?

Also, it's missing some big line items I'd expect to see there - we have conference expenses, where is the conference income? Is there any GUADEC line item from 2007?

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.

I had understood that we were paying for an accountant since 2006/07, after we needed to reconstitute the accounts of 2005 and 2006. When I left as treasurer those accounts still hadn't had all the issues resolved - what's happening there now?

 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.

Let me restate: as a donor, I want to be sure that the board is spending my donation wisely. Trust is earned.

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.

Yes, I resigned from the board, was it that dysfunctional? There were certainly two board members I was in constant conflict with, and another board member who was very busy with his job & proposed resigning himself soon after the election, and I had just changed roles in my day job and found travelling weekly to Paris, handling 3 small children and keeping track of board tasks more than a handful. So yes, I resigned before GUADEC, rather than deprive a new board member of the opportunity to meet with the rest of the board at GUADEC.

That year, I recruited several candidates for the executive director job (and I was the only board member to do so) - including one we offered the job to. And I have provided continuity everywhere possible since leaving the board - I helped Vincent prepare the 2008 budget, have continued to assist with GUADEC organisation in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and have continued to partticipate actively in GNOME Mobile. That was also the year we hired Rosanna.

Oh, and I was treasurer, not chairman, so not the most senior member.

Oh - and weren't you also on that board???

What exactly are you criticising here?

I want to see seven board members actively communicating,

We do our best.  If you do better, go for it.

I obviously need to elaborate:

If the board is working on foundation-list, the membership will be aware of what's happening, who's working on what, where they can help (very important). You've had to work on several boards with people who take responsibility for things and then simply don't repond to email for weeks on end - that should be just as unacceptable to you as it is to me.

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.

That's a poor understanding of what I'm proposing.

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.

This is one vision for the foundation.

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.

"we clearly said" - When? Where?

"only the board can make" - why?

Sorry if my message was bitter. It sure reflects my honest opinion though, and needless to say, no personal attacks meant.

It certainly came across as bitter - and quite honestly overly defensive. "No personal attacks meant"? Really?

Anyway - I hope I managed to avoid any if those unintended attacks and concentrate on the core of what you've said.

Like I said in my other mail, this is exactly what I expect from an election campaign. Your vision for the foundation (and your way of talking to people, if I'm being honest) is what I want people electing you for, not your reputation in the community.

I would gladly propose myself as a candidate for the board again if I felt I could do the role any justice, but I don't think I can. Isn't it less selfish to take on tasks outside the board, ask the board to be transparent in respect to those tasks, and use what little GNOME time that I have in the best way I can?


Dave Neary
GNOME Foundation member
dneary gnome org

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