Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-project (245 mails)

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Re: [opensuse-project] openSUSE Membership: a general comment
  • From: Pascal Bleser <pascal.bleser@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 09 Feb 2008 11:59:13 +0100
  • Message-id: <47AD8781.7090300@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
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Roger Whittaker wrote:
[...]
My original points were that "positional power" doesn't sit well with
the open source ethos, and that any wall or boundary separates those

Correct. Open Source communities function by merit, not by position.
We definitely don't want a political structure with a strong agenda that
isn't driven by merit.

At some point, which is equally applicable to similar structures, there
has to be a certain degree of trust towards the board members.
Indeed, we haven't been elected, we're a bootstrap board, but I think
that the people currently on the board qualify quite well in terms of
merit and experience.

I do know at least a few OSS projects that are seriously infected with
politics, which is very damaging and annoying for the people who
contribute to it -- no, I won't give names ;).
We don't want that, not by any means.

inside it from those outside it. It may tend towards creating
defensiveness from those on the inside and aggression among those on
the outside. It can also create doubt among those on the outside based
on lack of confidence ("am I good enough to join?"). These are
entirely general and, I think inevitable features of any such system,
but I think we've already seen them displayed to a small extent in the
discussion so far.

Right. As stated, we definitely don't want to create an isolation layer,
but to some degree, it can and will be perceived as such.

I really think the key issue here is the word "member".
As Francis wrote already, and we're very aware of that as we discussed
it a lot on board meetings, the term is far from being perfect but it's
the best we've come up with at this point.

The "member" status isn't exactly being "a member of the community".
Everyone who takes part into the community by some way or another is
obviously instantly a member of that community, which does not require
some sort of approval or explicit status.

Hence, not being a "member" doesn't mean not being a member.
While this sounds ridiculous, it certainly shows that we should work on
the term. The more I think about it, and the more feedback I read, the
more I think it's inadequate.

Other projects use terms such as "ambassador" or "fellow".
If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear about it :)

We really want it to be an inclusive process rather than an exclusion
process. It's not about stressing who doesn't have the status, it's
about giving visibility and recognition to active contributors.

Actually, "active contributor" sounds a lot better to me in terms of
capturing the essence and meaning (I just noticed it's the term I'm
using all the time to describe it), but it isn't perfect either, because
you can be an active contributor and not have it ack'ed by the process
and the explicit status.

Benji makes the point that if there is to be a Board, there needs to
be a body that elects that Board, and the membership is the obvious
body to do this. It's not been made clear exactly how this will work,
but Cornelius objects that there is an obvious problem with any system
where a Board is elected by people who have been selected by it. I
think he's right, and I think this is an insuperable problem with the
system as currently proposed / operating.

Again, note that the board never said that the "membership" is the
system to be used for elections. Benjamin wrote that twice at least ;)
It's just an example to illustrate that the membership could indeed be
used for other things. But there are no plans regarding that at the
moment. Right now it's only about giving @o.o and cloaks.

There are alternatives.
1) Membership open to anyone interested enough to want to be a
member. This is common in voluntary organisations, but the obvious
objection is that there can be "entryism": a group of people with a
particular political agenda all join at the same time to try to
change the aims and direction of the organisation.

I'm less concerned by that than by the fact that if anyone can get the
status, then it doesn't represent anything.
If I may stress two aspects once more:
1) meritocracy, and gratification for active contributors
2) speak on behalf of the project and remove the line between Novell
employees and the others

If an application is sufficient to receive the status, then 1 is voided
instantly. And 2 is open to anyone without conditions. Signing the
Guiding Principles must be obligatory, to the very least.

2) Membership open to anyone interested enough, but with a hurdle of
some kind to try to prevent the abuses mentioned in (1). For
example a wait of a period of time before membership is granted, a
nominal payment for membership, or (and I think this one is
promising in this case) a wait together with the possibility of a
veto for given reasons (either by members of the Board or a defined
number of other members).

The current hurdles are signing the GP and merit.
Merit is IMHO the best criterion, but it is also the most difficult to
apply as a metric (and even then, metrics don't always accurately
represent a person's contributions, as not everything is captured).

Another approach we've been thinking of is using a mentor-alike system,
where application and grant of membership is done through votes from
existing members.
While that approach would (or rather will, we think that we'll need such
a system at some point anyway) be more "democratic" because it isn't the
board that decides, it has a problem: it requires a bootstrapping
process to have an initial set of members that can vouch for candidates.
This is pretty much what we're doing now.

Also, I insisted in starting to grant membership right now with a less
"democratic" system that certainly is imperfect (the board decides)
because I didn't want to have discussions for 3 months to have a
possibly perfect system (that doesn't exist, but should be aimed for)
before we could start actually doing something.

Remember, the initial problem that has caused the whole initiative was
that only Novell employees had an @opensuse.org address, and that's
something very important and urgent to fix -- at least in my opinion.

My goal was to just get things done, see how it works, listen to the
feedback and ideas for improving it, and then adapt the process as it
goes along. It isn't carved into stone, and feedback is obviously what's
happening right now (and that's great :)).

It has been mentioned that having an email address associated with the
project implies that members will be speaking on behalf of the
project, which of course it does. That means that if they say things
that are deemed to be contrary to the guiding principles or code of
conduct, they will have to be disciplined, and, in extreme cases, have
their membership revoked.

Absolutely. While this hasn't been stated explicitly, I hope everyone
will have understood that by the whole discussion around the Guiding
Principles and the fact that they must sign them. Signing them obviously
means adhering to them. And not adhering to them obviously means revocation.
Arguably, we should explicitly write that down somewhere, indeed.

Hence there will have to be a process for doing this.

True. We haven't thought of a process yet at this point, but reporting
to the board is an obvious mechanism that doesn't require an explicit
process.

I would certainly want to have an autonomous process that isn't
bottlenecked by the board, for two reasons:
- - the board might not have enough human resources to process all the
requests and complaints (though hopefully, the amount of complaints will
remain low)
- - we don't want to be the "power that decides"; instead, our mission is
to support and help where possible [1], and act as a last resort to
resolve conflicts

[1] as stated on the board wiki page: "The board should provide guidance
and support existing governance structures, but shouldn't direct or
control development, since community mechanisms exist to accomplish the
goals of the project."

This obviously means switching to another process when it's worked out,
such as a mentorship system for proposing and granting membership
status, as well as possibly the same or similar system for revoking it.

But as said, we haven't been able to put much thought in it yet.
And we're definitely open for discussion and ideas :)

I think there are good reasons for concern about the
fallout from any such process, and how this should be handled needs to
be thought through now, rather than when it is too late and damage has
been done.

True, but I'm afraid that at this point, you're going to have to put
some trust into the board doing things properly ;)

We're never going to have a perfect system because a full-fledged
democracy is a huge apparel that would suffocate everything, and then,
democracies have their own issues (everyone can just look at how his or
democratic countries are being run). Hence, I think that indeed we
should work towards more open and autonomous processes (e.g. electing
the board, have as few as possible things having to go through the
board, use mentorship systems instead of board decision, etc...) but to
some degree, there has to be trust into the individuals who are on the
board. Electing the board should enhance that, but until then, we're
just human, we're contributors and developers who have been in the field
for quite some time and I think that we certainly qualify in terms of
merit. This doesn't mean that everything we do is correct by definition,
nor that it may not be criticized, but be seen in the light of good
intentions and doing our best to serve the community are things I do
think we deserve.

cheers
- --
-o) Pascal Bleser <pascal.bleser@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
/\\ http://opensuse.org -- I took the green pill
_\_v FOSDEM::23+24 Feb 2008, Brussels, http://fosdem.org
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