Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-project (245 mails)

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[opensuse-project] openSUSE Membership: a general comment
  • From: Roger Whittaker <roger@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2008 08:13:59 +0000
  • Message-id: <20080208081359.GA6218@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
I've been following the thread about openSUSE membership with some
interest. This is a general kind of meta-comment on that discussion.
(I'm a Novell employee and SUSE old-timer, a constant user and
promoter of openSUSE, a list-lurker, but not a contributor.)

People who write about organisations often distinguish between
personal power (which someone gains by virtue of their abilities,
reputation, personal charisma and so on) and positional power (which
someone has as a result of their job title, their place in the
hierarchy etc).

Open source projects have traditionally operated mostly on the basis
of personal power: someone's position depends on what they have
achieved, rather than any formal title or status.

It's clear that a project like openSUSE (or Fedora, or Debian) needs
some formal (and ultimately legal) system of governance, and a Board
is welcome and necessary as a way of providing that, so long as its
workings are transparent and open.

But I'm slightly uneasy about the whole membership concept.

When I try to analyse the reasons for that unease, I see that it's
because a form of membership that has to be applied for and granted
seems too much like positional power and therefore doesn't quite "feel

Roger Whittaker
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