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Community Facilitators

The OpenSolaris Constitution has a section outlining a role for Community Group (CG) Facilitators:
7.5. Facilitator. The OGB shall appoint for each Community Group a 
Facilitator. The Facilitator shall be responsible for ensuring that
Community Group records are properly maintained, communicating the
Community Group's status to the OGB, ensuring that communication from
the OGB to the Community Group is properly disseminated to participants,
and performing the duties of chair for meetings of the Community Group.
Nominations to the office of Facilitator shall be made by the Core
Contributors of the Community Group, but the OGB shall not be limited in
their appointment to those nominated. The Chair of the OGB shall serve
as the Facilitator for the at-large community.
To me this is yet another opportunity for leadership and contribution within the OpenSolaris Community.

Project managers from within Sun and also from outside Sun can help organize and run their CGs and all of the development projects within their CGs. That's a big deal. And the Sun-badged guys can help open their projects on to opensolairs.org since, presumably, they are already supporting the projects inside. Facilitators can also provide a valuable -- and badly needed right now -- communication channel to the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB), which is basically a policy board, not an operational board with the ability to run the entire community. I've advocated that we (at the very least) create a mail list for the Facilitators, so they can be easily found among all 40 or so CGs, and also so they can share information and actually run the OpenSolaris Community from an operational perspective. In other words, the Facilitators can do more than just communicate with the OGB.

We have plenty of process in OpenSolaris, but we have very few people focused on implementing the process in the community. Instead, we just complain about all the process and lack of leadership, while the Constitution quietly articulates all the leadership opportunities. The OpenSolaris Community needs more project management support. That's painfully clear. But there seems to be very little interest in seeing the Facilitator role as serving this purpose even though it's burned right into the Constitution. It will be interesting to see how long we can go not actively running our own community.

There have been some threads about the Facilitators (here, here, here, here) as well.
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Comments:

There are only two processes that count in open source software development, and that is engineering and development.

This OGB, constitution... It's an operating system and a whole bunch of freeware applications, not a state and not a government institution. Just attempting to read the OGB and the "constitution" is enough to make one's head spin.

That's not what freeware/open source software development is about. I can understand why lots of people are upset about it. If there's one thing that puts technical people off, it's unnecessary bueraucracy.

Here's my suggestion: OpenSolaris should be left out in the wild to evolve freely. If Sun sees something in OpenSolaris that Sun likes, they can take it and adapt it to fit their Solaris needs. The only processes necessary are that of how things are developed, how they are documented, and how they are integrated/commited into the main codebase. Everything else is pure overhead.

Do you disagree? I hope this doesn't turn into one of those "in retrospective, we should have handled it differently..." two, three, five years from now. Sun has had enough of those moments in the last seven years.

Posted by UX-admin on November 15, 2007 at 05:26 PM JST #

Yeah, I agree with UX-admin (for once).

I agree that the way the constitution is written facilitators are required, but all I can see these people as are information pushers up the chain. In Open Source development, the developers push info out to the entire world in the form of a small web site or a small email on a list.

In corporate-style development, following the waterfall model, information about project tasks need to flow up the waterfall back to all the stakeholders. In FLOSS, the stakeholders are the developers, so a facilitator is redundant.

The case is getting stronger for the constitution to be rewritten.

Posted by Christopher Mahan on November 15, 2007 at 11:29 PM JST #

Hi ... I don't agree. :) I think the Constitution is a remarkable document. In fact, it becomes more remarkable the more I read it and the more I realize that the OpenSolaris Community is simply not yet ready to lead itself. That's not a criticism, it's just reality. It can't lead itself yet. The vast majority of people and development and process and infrastructure for OpenSolaris is still inside Sun. You can't even see it. All you see on OpenSolaris is the top of the iceberg, so to speak. When the main kernel gate moves external and hundreds and hundreds of engineers follow and work in the open, it will be obvious how big and complex the system really is. Currently, the Nevada gate is home to more than 41,000 files being worked on by 1,000 engineers globally. Project managers (facilitators) are absolutely necessary to the development process, and the OpenSolaris Community will come to realize that. Core kernel engineers should not be "managing" projects. Their economic value is simply too great to be tied up doing too many non-engineering functions. One more point -- the #1 requirement from Sun's biggest customers about OpenSolaris was to \*not\* dump the Solaris development methodology as we opened the code and built the new development community. What we've done so far is open source. Next up in open development. Two very different things. As we make this transition, the Constitution will become even more important. It basically levels the playing field among Sun and non-Sun developers over time. And it will take time, too, for non-Sun developers to earn putback rights. But, then again, it takes time for new Sun engineers to earn those rights as well.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on November 17, 2007 at 10:14 AM JST #

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