Re: Questions for candidates - board processes & significance

On Mon, 2011-05-30 at 16:11 +0200, Dave Neary wrote:
> Hi all,
> I was away last week travelling, so I'm coming late to the election 
> campaign. I have almost decided who I would like to vote for, but there 
> are still a few things which are important to me when considering a 
> prospective board member.
> 1. If elected, will you seek a named position 
> (chairman/treasurer/secretary) on the board? If so, why?

As Stormy said, it will depend on who's elected and what they are
interested in.

> 2. Board meetings are minuted, and these minutes are published 
> regularly. However, the board also increasingly makes decisions on 
> board-list with the Apache +1/0/-1 convention. Would you support the 
> minuting of these votes, including recording any -1 votes?

Jeff Schroeder already did this question, my answer is here:

> 3. I think financial transparency is important. If you plan on applying 
> for the treasurer position, what changes (if any) would you propose for 
> the budgeting process? How often would you publish financial reports for 
> the foundation? Are you happy with the level of transparency in the 
> board's finances now?

I do not think somebody has to be treasure to propose changes that helps
to improve the process.  In fact, there was a good feedback on this
matter from one of the advisory board members back in 2009.

I think the budgeting process is not a one-person task.  Teams need to
think ahead.  For instance, the accessibility team has done a great job
planning their activities 1.5 years ahead.  The same I could say from
the Women Outreach Program, where Marina is already thinking in the next
editions of WOP.

When activities are planned ahead, the budget can be approved and
earmarked in the beginning of the fiscal year (October). It would avoid
discussions for approval and just tunning details.  Vote would required
for exceptional cases, such as requiring more funds than earmarked.

Regarding to transparency, my perception is we have four kind of
foundation members:
     1. Those who read the budget and formulate questions
     2. Those who read the budget and does not know what to ask (or how
        to read the budget)
     3. Those who look the big number, and trust in the board (and/or
        the treasure)
     4. Those who do not care, because this is just a flipping
        administrative thing.

My concern would be the number 2, but it is hard to fix it without more

Nevertheless, the fact you ask for more reports means to me that the
annual reports are fine, because you have higher expectations now.

> 4. Our relationship with a number of groups has suffered this year - and 
> one of the lesser known ones (but one I'm involved in) is the Libre 
> Graphics Meeting organisers (a group of people representing a couple of 
> dozen "free art" projects). Are you aware that the LGM organisers 
> withdrew all the funds that the GNOME Foundation was managing for them 
> this year, because they have been unhappy with the responsiveness and 
> quality of communication with the foundation over the past 2 - 3 years? 
> Do you have any thoughts on why this particular relationship degraded? 
> And will you commit to handling or delegating answers to all 
> time-critical queries which come to the board during your term?

There have been different issues. I remember also a public complaint,
which in my opinion was unfair. I do not discard it could be a matter of

Just to provide some context and examples:
      * The reimbursement process for *external* accounts is ad-hoc. The
        information/requests were different, incomplete information,
        missing receipts, etc.  This is source of frustration by itself.
      * Double complains when we refused to reimburse without receipts
        (contributor and authorizer). We explained several times we are
        required to prove where the money goes, and IRS has becoming
        more strict last years. It does not matter the money is not
        GNOME's money, if we handle it, we are in charge and we are
      * When we were blamed in public, we had not received neither the
        receipts nor the information to proceed with the reimbursements.
        Later we received the information with an apologize.  Still
        there was some information missing for some people, and they got
        even more upset when we requested them the missing details.
      * In the beginning, the managing was supposed to be receiving some
        donations from corporates for the conference, but later it grew
        up to receive also donations through PayPal. Until some months
        ago, transferring the accounting details from PayPal to our
        gnucash file was a *huge* pain.
      * All in all, I see managing external accounts as maintaining a
        module as a volunteer. If a contributor want a patch accepted,
        it has to be a clean patch. Before that, he should not demand to
        apply it because he says so.  Not every other day.

So, I would say there has been problem in both sides.

Managing external accounts that gets bigger and bigger are also an issue
to our non-profit status, because they increases artificially the funds
we carry from one fiscal year to the next one. We can not earmark those

In the future, it should not happen with external accounts according to
the minutes :

        "The board decided to no longer manage funds for external
        organizations. It is too much work, especially now that there is
        more of an interest for GNOME projects to get more involved with
        fund raising."

Personally, I would make an exception for projects that need to handle
GSoC funds.  But, if they become big enough, that should be re-evaluated

>3 years ago we did not have 10 or 12 hackfests a year and/or FoG
campaigns, and so on. I do think our effort must be concentrated in
GNOME.  It does not make happy to delay GNOME tasks (which I had to)
because of working on external accounts.

> 5. In general, as a board member communication is vital to keep people 
> outside the board informed whenever there is a delay or when extra input 
> is needed on something they're working on. For incumbents, are you happy 
> with the level of communication & reactivity in the current board? For 
> new candidates, what would you like to do to ensure that the 
> communication & reactivity of the board improves in the coming term?

When extra input is needed, I do not see a big problem in requesting the
information.  I could promise to keep everybody involved informed, but I
am afraid the situation is not that simple.

For instance, a process could be stalled because is required that board
members vote, a legal review, a verification with the accountant, any
other external variable.  When there is a delay, keeping saying "still
waiting for votes", "still waiting for review", and so on do not help to
deal with people's frustration; specially when they have put a lot of
effort to get their part of the work done as fast as possible.

For this situation keeping people informed might not be enough; making
the votes public, might not be enough.  Assigning roles for
communicating with external parties have helped to improve part of the
issue, also contacting facilitators.

I think it is important to have an Executive Director and a balanced
(old/experienced and new) board of directors.

> 6. Board members are ambassadors for the foundation. I think it's 
> important that board members be social, and be nice. Are you nice?

This is a subjective question.

Germán Póo-Caamaño

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