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: Sun, 31 May 2009 05:22:00 -0400
On 05/31/2009 04:27 AM, Dave Neary wrote:
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.
It's tricky. "Board received complaint from person █████ about person ██████
doing ████ in project ██████." is hardly informative.
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
The newly-formed travel committee is making such offers (accommodation only,
flight only, 50% flight, etc).
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?
The commitment part is where I don't agree. I'm fine with foundation saying
"Ok, we can cover 80% of your travel. Let us know if you can cover the rest."
What I'm not fine with is interpreting someone's decision not to pay for 20%
of their travel as lack of commitment.
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.
That's not my point of view. My view is that I should be free to choose how I
contribute to GNOME. *If* I decide to not spend money when contributing to
GNOME, that should not be interpreted as lack of commitment to the cause or
project or conference. That's all I'm saying.
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.
I paid to go to OLS in Ottawa while I was a student in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
However, after having been there for three years, I found that while it's a
great conference, it's not worth paying $1500 of my money, so I didn't attend
in following years. See my point?
Also, are we attracting enough new students to GNOME?
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 fully agree with making cheap accommodation available, and making
conferences more accessible. Lets agree on that part. And I already said I
the part I don't agree on: interpreting one's financial decisions as their
Now regarding Istanbul vs Gran Canaria, I have a few points to offer though:
- Previously we have been making location decision based on offers we had
received. If we want to have more influence on the location we either need to
encourage people in desired location to submit a bid, or change the process
completely and go shopping for hosts.
- Re Istanbul:
* It was our *only* offer,
* As far as I understand it was both very accessible and relatively
inexpensive. Yes, beer was more expensive than in Canada, but food was cheap
compared to other European locations I've been to.
- Re Gran Canaria:
* Again, we had two options for the co-hosting (that is, that both GNOME
and KDE were willing to accept): Gran Canaria and Tampere. Our assessment at
the time was that they are equally expensive and hard to get to, but living
expenses in Gran Canaria are considerably less expensive than in Tampere, and
that was one of the factors in making the final decision. To check how
accurate we were, three weeks ago when I was buying my ticket, I checked the
best price for getting to each from Toronto, and they differed by a mere $20.
However, based on feedback we have received from many companies, the major
problem with Gran Canaria is its *perceived* expensiveness as a tourist
destination that negatively affects corporate travel sponsorship, not actual
prices. I agree that it is a valid problem, so we should avoid places that
are *perceived* expensive in future.
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?
We discussed this in the board meeting on Wednesday. We have the gnucash file
but someone needs to removed the personal contact information of the Friends
of GNOME donors, and also walk through them and remove names for people who
chose to remain anonymous. Rosanna was asking for help to see if part of this
can be automated. We also discussed whether we should keep that information
off the gnucash file in the first place in the future. Point being, as I
said, at least right now it's not as simple as emailing out.
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?
Rosanna and our accountant worked hard last fall and sent in all the tax
returns that have not be filed properly in the period after Tim left.
Unfortunately we were fined for filing them late. The good news is that it's
all done and out of the way.
We are planning to go over both budget and our finances in the day-long
old/new board meeting the day before GUADEC, and fortunately Rosanna will be
there too. So, hopefully, we can iron things out and release an updated
budget and figure out where we stand in 2008 finances.
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?
Yes, I was on that board too. It was my first term, and I was also
dysfunctional in board matters for the first half. I was still learning, and
credit where credit's due: I learned a lot of JFDI from your actions. I'm not
criticizing you here, but saying that if you want much more control over what
the board does, you can get that by being part of it.
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.
As I said in my earlier reply, I didn't note before that you are suggesting
working on f-l *instead* of board-list. That's something we definitely should
consider for the new term.
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?
*Someone* should be responsible for what's released in the name of the
foundation. Since board is the only group of people *responsible* for what's
released in the name of foundation, I believe it's to the board to decide what
is said. Now the board may decide to delegate that to others, like the
release-team, membership-team, Mobile team, GUADEC team, sysadmin team, or an
individual. What can't be right is any member of the foundation be free to
speak on behalf of GNOME Foundation. We agree on that I guess?
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.
I have to thank you for that.
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?
Yes, you have been contributing in a variety of ways out of the board, and
that is highly appreciated. But if you think you can do a better job than one
or more of the board members, it's better to run. Before we hired Stormy, the
board work was so unpleasant that it was bordering on torture.
Fortunately that has considerably changed. If no one runs because they don't
think they can do the role justice, what we would get is 7 people who are not
the most competent to perform the job, but are only there because they care
enough not to let the seats be left empty. We are NOT in that position, but
my point is that if all the more capable people don't run, you end up with
people like me on board ;-).
In the past term, we have a good balance between us: Luis was responsible for
everything legal, Brian looked into a11y stuff, insurance, and working with
Stormy. J5 took over the role of treasurer and also worked closely with
Rosanna. Diego is already doing a lot of stuff, working with the travel
committee, membership committee, the LA communities, etc. Vincent and Lucas
have been working with release-team, Planet, web team, etc. I focused most of
my time on hackfests and events. And all of use shared various smaller tasks
here and there. Stormy was key in getting all the tasks that board members
had problem performing well previously, like communication with adboard
companies and meeting with them, talking to press, writing announcements, etc.
So I think we're in a much better shape than the year before.
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