as you all know, we have the openSUSE Members, a group of contributors through their sustained and substantial contributors that are eligible to participate in elections, have @opensuse.org mail and other perks. We have now about 600 of them, but as you can see in last openSUSE Board elections only 150 of them voted.
This could mean two things - either most of the members are not interested in elections or plenty of them are simply no longer around. I guess the truth is somewhere in middle. This is something we need to know when we take project wide decisions in order to correctly assess the communities interest in the topic.
This is a recurring topic that has been discussed at the openSUSE Board Face to Face meeting last year, oSC 15, and on this list several times over the last few years. Taking these into consideration, we (in the board) think it would be a good idea to implement something to help with ensuring our Membership list accurately reflects our current Membership. I have put together a tool which attempts to detect an openSUSE Members activity on mailing lists, OBS, bugzilla, maybe more. This tool will remember when we last saw openSUSE Member on any of those channels and if they doesn't show for 6 months, we will send them an e-mail asking whether they still wants to be a member. A response to that email will automatically count as activity and preserve the Members status. If there is no response within 30 days of the notification, the Member will be 'retired' and be considered a 'Member emeritus'. If someone is retired incorrectly, or a 'Member emeritus' returns to the Project and wants a restoration of their voting privilege, they will be unretired without question by the Membership Committee.
There are few implementation details to be worked out, so we don't expect this to go live overnight but consider this a "statement of intent" and an explanation of how we expect things to work before we start testing the process.
To answer some of the obvious questions:
Q: Shouldn't we retire inactive members anyway after measuring and evaluating their activity?
A: No, that would be too hard, too subjective and it could bother people that we cannot measure automatically. Automatic measurement is just an indicator that those people are no longer interested, but they might be just working on project aspects we cannot measure. openSUSE Members are members until THEY no longer want to be. We believe this system preserves that principle.
Q: Wouldn't it offend active contributors if they will be falsely accused of not being interested?
A: I hope not. If period will be long enough (6 months) and if we monitor even mailing lists, people will usually show up somewhere. We intend to word the 'ping' email in a way that is not judgemental, but just makes it clear that we have failed to automatically find evidence of contribution so want to make sure they are still interested in remaining a Member.
Q: Doesn't it change the meaning of the openSUSE Member?
A: Not really. So far once you got a membership status, it was forever without question. Now it would be forever as long as you are interested. No big change, just a little difference.
Q: What if mail with warning gets lost?
A: If you lose your membership by accident by losing an e-mail, you can still contact membership committee and as a retired member you will be reinstated immediately without voting/verification that takes time. And you should fix your e-mail in connect.opensuse.org in that case ;-)
Q: Will retired members retain their email & IRC cloak perks?
A: No, the intention is that retired members will no longer be eligible for @opensuse.org email addresses and Freenode IRC cloaks.