Friday Jul 11, 2008

Roles for the Reorg

Earlier this week the OGB voted to create a committee to specify the roles and overall community reorganization we may attempt when the new webapp is implemented. We need the new webapp in place to do the reorg, but work on the webapp is dependent on the OGB specifying up front any changes in the current roles or organization. We've been discussing this for a couple of months now, and we all agree that we want to start small and make incremental changes as needed. So, after the meeting on Monday, I posted to ogb-discuss some of my thoughts about specific roles and an overall organization, and I tried to focus on an extreme simplification of three roles and three collectives. I knew full well that that was too simple, but I wanted to start from there and work up as needed. There was some discussion during the week, and I just posted an update to the proposal with Alan's and John's comments. It's just a start to keep the process moving.

Some previous blog posts on this issue are here and here.

Sunday Jul 06, 2008

Moving Faster

It's great to some of the core open development issues really starting to heat up now. You can hear Tim Cramer, Stephen Hahn, and Dave Miner talk about these projects at the OpenSolaris Community Strategy Planning Meeting (slides and audio). At the 21:35 minute mark of the audio, which is slide 6 in the deck, you'll hear Tim talk about the movement of kernel development (gate and tools) to Mercurial and then outside the firewall. See the preliminary schedule and the SCM migration project here and here for more details. Anyway, back to the call: lots of install from Dave and lots of packaging from Stephen. Good stuff. I slept through this meeting, so I'm glad it's all online.

Thursday Jun 26, 2008

OSDevCon Presentation

Here are the slides from my talk at the OpenSolaris Developer Conference in Prague earlier today. From an information perspective, the slides are pretty much useless. They are just full bleed images with almost no content whatsoever. I talked about community building from a governance perspective and made up much of the specifics as I spoke. I had a specific outline in mind, of course, but I just tried to tell some stories about what I've experienced on the project -- including the things we've done right, some of the things we've done wrong, and where I think we're going. I was more assertive about my own opinions than I've ever been, which was intentional, so I hope it came across ok. I was a bit long winded (as I am in writing), so I think I have to improve that. I'm the only non-technical speaker at the entire conference, though, so I figured I'd try something new with the full frame images with very few words. I think I'll continue this technique for a while because I have a lot of photos I can talk about and that offers a remarkable amount of flexibility to improvise during a talk.

But this was ultimately a discussion about getting involved in the OpenSolaris project -- either in governance itself or in any number of roles that will help you earn Membership and Core Contributor status in the community. In many ways, governance is just another form of community development, and there are many social, strategic, and technical factors involved. The governmental systems on OpenSolaris are still evolving, though, and some of the issues have been controversial. This is normal. It's simply the evolution of a complex and unique engineering project, one in which a multi-billion dollar corporation is opening its core product and is building a global community while still maintaining critical business operations.

There have been three clearly definable phases of governance on the OpenSolaris project:

(1) Sun's role in creating the CAB from within the Pilot Program, the development of (and confusion about) the Charter and Constitution, the redefinition of the CAB to OGB and the expansion of its mandate and extension of its term, and the ratification of the Constitution and election of the first OGB. This period of time ranges from late 2004 to March 2007.

(2) The first elected OGB begins normal operations with a Constitution that doesn't necessarily reflect reality, but many people on the board and in the community make a good faith attempt to make things work. The OGB controls no resources and key parts of the project are still internal to Sun. A community reorganization is specified and attempted but stalls due to disagreements and inflexible infrastructure issues. Trademark disputes over a new Sun distro lead to more arguments about the project's lack of openness in some areas. This second phase was March 2007 to March 2008.

(3) The second OGB takes office after a significant community argument with Sun. Most members ran on a platform to reform the governance and reorganize the community for two key reasons: the OpenSolaris community and Sun need to be in sync about the project, and the structure of the OpenSolaris community needs to reflect the reality of how the community actually functions. The re-org can now take place because the OpenSolaris engineering infrastructure team has resources to update the website, move the gates external, and finish the work necessary to make OpenSolaris an open development project -- which was the goal all along. The reorganization is not fully specified yet, and the discussion moves slowly. Sun's executive engineering management engages with the OGB as well as the community. This current phase started from March 2008.

The Reorganization

Currently the OpenSolaris community is structured around Members, Community Groups, and Projects. Community Groups sponsor Projects and grant Membership status to Core Contributors. There are some odd groupings, as well, such as user groups, which we have stuffed into Projects due to site constraints. Also, we have many Community Groups that were crafted back in the Pilot Program that really ought to be Projects today or consolidated into other Community Groups. And Sun has yet another grouping called Consolidations, which doesn't fit the Constitution. The website doesn't reflect the Constitution, too, since the site per-dated the Constitution and its evolution stalled due to resource constraints. So, the OGB's community reorganization has to address all of these issues.

To begin the process of discussing the issue, the OGB recently proposed interpreting the term Community Group to mean a class of groupings in the community, not a group itself. In other words, Projects, Consolidations, Special Interest Groups, and User Groups could potentially make up the new groupings and they could have relationships with each other in a web-like structure instead of the current hierarchical structure. To establish some consistently across the community under this proposed system, a new OGB committee would be formed to create standards for granting Membership status.

The reorganization idea has already generated several counter proposals, but the general concept is moving in the direction of offering more flexibility for different types of groups and crafting a system that reflects how OpenSolaris developers work rather than imposing an artificial structure on top. The reorganization and the infrastructure work necessary to support the changes will probably take a year, so there is plenty of time to get involved and contribute. The site can not be changed rapidly, and neither can a governance decision. The site's current monolithic architecture is being updated in stages to a new modular architecture, but it still must support current operations. And the community will have to participate in and finally approve any new governance structure.


The OpenSolaris governance process should define how the community operates. Therefore, it's at the core of how people participate in the project. It should not get in the way of participation, but it should offer opportunities for many people to contribute in many ways.

That's it.

Update: Here is the video of my session:

part 1, 30 mins

part 2, ~40 mins

Saturday Jun 21, 2008

OpenSolaris Requirements Call: Slides and Audio

I missed the OpenSolaris requirements call the other day. Damn.

It was 6 a.m. for me in Tokyo, so I had to get up around 5:45 or so after an wonderfully restful three hours of sleep following my 1-2 a.m. meeting earlier that night. Or early that morning, I guess. Whatever. It's just all one big hairy 24 hour day now. Anyway. I wanted to hear Stephen and Tim and ask some questions, and then quietly go back to bed. I did two 22 hour days this week, so I didn't think I could swing the planned three hour meeting on only three hours of sleep after staying up for 22 hours. It takes me a few days to recover from my regular 22 hour Tuesday, so repeating it on Friday would be tough. The 22 hour bit is necessary since I have to catch meetings in California at the end and at the beginning of what is for them actually two different days but it's one day for me. But as it turns out the conference call system didn't work for me when I got up at 5:45, so I got up for absolutely nothing -- other than a healthy dose of searing anger and frustration, which is always helpful in getting back to sleep, right? So pissed.

Anyway, Glynn recorded the session, so I'll take a listen this week. Excellent. You can, too. And the slides are posted on the wiki, so check 'em out if you missed the call. Tim is trying to gather requirements from all interested parties for the next OpenSolaris distribution, so take him up on his offer. Also, if you want to get directly involved with the engineering effort, go to the indiana-discuss or pkg-discuss lists or the Indiana, Installation and Packaging, and Image Packaging System projects. There are many more links at those pages, too.

Friday Jun 20, 2008

The OGB Breaks Wind

Sam Varghese scratches out a very humorous quote here -- Hey FOSS project, what's your pedigree?
"The project is so tied up in its own bowels, trying to draft structures for its own operation, that the only thing it has left to chance is probably the order in which members of the governing board break wind - and in which minor key they do so. I wouldn't be surprised if even that was specified in an amendment some years down the line."
Sam, I have to admit, that's a great quote. You know pretty much nothing about OpenSolaris (just ask Patrick), but that's a very funny quote indeed. I'm saving it.

The context for Sam's quote is the whole "organic vs inorganic" open source argument. Linux is great because it's "organic" and springs to life from the great wild, and OpenSolaris sucks wind because it's "non-organic" and is driven by Sun and the OGB has flatulence. That's pretty much it. Whatever. I'm a fan of Linux (I use Ubuntu), but I really don't know enough yet about the Linux community to comment about its lack of pesticide use. I know more about OpenSolaris, so I can comment there.

OpenSolaris is still very much a mix. Some parts are most certainly organic -- porting of DTrace and ZFS to MacOS/BSD), the non-Sun distros, the user groups, the OSDevCon conference, etc. Some parts are represented by transparency on Sun's part and the interaction with other communities, such as the specification and testing of the SCM choices, the new wiki applications, the OpenSolaris Summit operations, etc. Some parts are characterized by various open development projects on the site with live gates outside the firewall with external committers, such as desktop and g11n, or just engineers working in the open as much as possible, such as some of the technologies in the new OpenSolaris distro (install, packaging, etc). And other parts of the project are still largely internal to Sun but plan to move outside, and that's probably represented best by the ON consolidation -- the kernel. The kernel source is out there, of course, and the community is contributing via the request-sponsor process, but the main gate is still inside. So, give or take few inaccuracies on my part, it's pretty much a mix of organic and inorganic. Or is it non-organic. Anyway. The problem with all this is ... what? What's the big deal? This is all normal operations for a large, multi-phase, long term project to open Solaris from within a multi-billion dollar corporation that still has build, ship, and support products.

OpenSolaris can't live up to an artificial standard of being a totally "organic" project. I'm not sure anything could, actually. And we never claimed such a characteristic, actually. I think it's fine for those involved in the project to criticize various things (and they do), but that's all in an effort to fix things and move forward. Again, it's normal. You will find that in all projects in all industries. I'll give Sam one thing, though. There is a kernel of truth in that we have spun ourselves around silly on some issues these last few years. But that's very much changing now. Sure, you can argue with the changes, but the fact is that the project has changed significantly lately and for the better. But did Sam choose to get involved and help out in the true spirit of open source? No. Instead, he chose to use a two thousand year old rhetorical technique (well documented by Aristotle) to attack while sitting safely on the sidelines.

It's not big deal, really. I just loved the quote.

From Reorg to Simplification

The OGB is continuing the discussion around how to simplify the structure and function of the OpenSolaris community. Simon Phipps posted an updated version of his initial draft that the OGB discussed a few weeks ago -- Simplifying OpenSolaris Governance. What I like about this is that it offers the ability for people to group themselves so that structure doesn't get in the way of function, and then over time we can see what actually works rather than attempting to specify all possibilities up front. Some of the discussion we've had on list is way too confusing for the issue of simplification.

We are fortunate that Alan Burlison has built enough flexibility into the authentication application for future evolution. So, the OGB should just concern itself with defining the collective groups (Projects, Communities, SIGs, UGs, etc) and also the main governance-oriented roles (Contributor, Core Contributor, Facilitator, Member, etc) and leave the rest to the new edge applications that will access the authentication application. The current webapp is monolithic in design, and we are replacing that with a distributed and modular design. The real intelligence and flexibility here is at the edge where apps will give people access to resources to get work done.

Just making these changes that Simon suggests (which we all discussed in two OGB meetings) is a big enough deal. We should start small and move and adjust in small and consistent steps along the way. The OGB has absolutely zero resources, so it really has no other choice. It has to carve out reasonable chunks of things to do and then engage other groups to do the actual work. As a result, big and comprehensive reorgs will get bogged down and ultimately fail.

Tuesday Jun 17, 2008

What to do with the OpenSolaris User Groups?

I started a thread on advocacy-discuss about the OGB community reorganization and new webapp coming (here, here) in the near future. I hope it generates some discussion and some consensus.

As the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) discusses the possible reorg and community simplification, I wanted to bring up the OpenSolaris User Group (OSUG) issue so we could go back to the OGB with our input. The time for this discussion is right now, so I wanted to make sure everyone in the Advocacy CG and the OSUGs had an opportunity to participate.

There are a few issues involved: (1) the OGB's community reorg, (2) the progress on the new webapp, and (3) the desire of some in Advocacy to see the OSUGs have a higher profile on the site. History: I migrated all the OSUGs to individual projects within the merged Advocacy CG last year. But at the time I felt, and many agreed, that this was a temporary solution to solve an immediate problem and that in the future we could do more to help the OSUGs evolve on the site. That future is now.

There are two key features of the new webapp related to this discussion: (1) it will be able to recognize new collective groups (user groups, SIGs, consolidations, or whatever we want to specify) so we'll have new options for organizing the community, and (2) it will include a new content management system based on a wiki so it will be easier to edit and maintain. The new webapp will be implemented over time, of course, so we will all have to go through a migration of content to move to the new site in the future. So we may as well decide now how we want OSUGs to be characterized in the new webapp.

We have some obvious options:
  • Do nothing. Leave the OSUGs as sponsored projects inside Advocacy. The new webapp will allow horizontal relationships between collectives as well as hierarchical relationships. So, we can just leave things alone and see what the OGB comes up with -- whether the new system is horizontal or hierarchical or just a cleaned up version of what we have now.

  • Move the OSUGs to, which is supposed to evolve into the central user site for the community. The big issue there would be that moving OSUGs to another site would remove them from the OpenSolaris governance system, and we don't know how OSUG members would feel about that.

  • Choose to assert that OSUGs should be their own collective along with Community Groups and Projects when the new webapp is implemented. The new webapp will allow this functionality. Also, this option would keep the OSUGs within the OpenSolaris governance system, thus preserving all the Contributor and Core Contributor grants. How we grant Contributor and Core Contributor status would have to be considered, but that issue is also being discussed as part of a potential OGB reorg.
The OGB is a dependency here. I'm not sure how the OGB will implement a reorg at this time, and there is no time line or schedule at the moment. Also, we can't actually change our status without going to the OGB, but we don't necessarily have to wait for reorg, either. The two issues are not necessarily joined. There's nothing stopping us from going to the OGB and asserting what we want independent of the reorg. That would be helpful to the OGB, actually, since Advocacy is the largest CG in the community, and the OGB needs to hear from the entire community about these issues well before a reorg actually takes place.

Here's my view: I propose we ask the OGB to let the OSUGs become a new collective -- User Groups -- on the site when that functionality becomes available whether the reorg is specified or not. This would not get in the way of a potential reorg. In fact, it could be part of a multi-step reorg, but more importantly, it could enable the OSUGs to have the same status as Community Groups and Projects if the reorg is delayed, or we decide a reorg is not needed, or if the reorg is relatively minor with no structural or relationship changes to what we have now. The OSUGs are different from CGs and Projects, so they ought to have their own space. My goal is to move the OSUGs out from under the Advocacy CG, maintain governance status for the 4,000 people involved, and help the OSUGs grow in size, activity, and number. In other words, I want faster growth, more exposure, and less process.

Agree? Disagree? Any other options we should consider?

Monday May 26, 2008

The OpenSolaris Electorate

One of the things that came up on the OGB lat week was voting and the characteristic of the OpenSolaris electorate. I started a discussion on ogb-discuss since this is related to how people would become Contributors and/or Core Contributors under a potential community re-org (multiple threads on the re-org started on ogb-discuss).

I support the notion that in order to become a voting Member of the community someone should assert they want the status. Go register to vote, in other words (using the American process as an example). So, in OpenSolaris, that could mean someone asserts they want to be a Core Contributor and provides substantiation of contribution, or someone else offers a person as a Core Contributor with substantiation and the person accepts (so in that case the assertion is the acceptance). Simon agrees on this point, too.

However, there are many people participating in the community who are /not/ contributors or core contributors and have no desire to be. That's fine. It could be a personal choice or cultural characteristic, and we as a community need to accommodate this diversity of opinion. In other words, just because you don't vote or participate in cross-community discussions about governance issues doesn't mean you are not a valuable member (small "m") of the community. But I also think it's fine that community leaders go out and actively engage people in governance because that's good community building and a way to educate people around the world about how the community functions at its core. The more options for participation people have the better, and if one of those options is governance so much the better.

But my view is based on the repeated experience of going out and trying to make voters out of people who may not be interested in governance. Steve seems to agree, too. I'd rather build community by getting people involved and contributing for peer recognition at a local or global scale, and than out of that pool of people a voting block will naturally emerge. That takes a little trust because it involves letting go of the notion that large numbers of people have to be voters. They don't. Very large numbers of people have to be engaged as users, smaller numbers for developers, and even smaller for votes. That's how it seems to be working so far, anyway.

Friday May 16, 2008

The Re-org

The OGB has started a discussion about a potential reorganization of the OpenSolaris community. This grew out of the re-org that started last year with the previous OGB and also discussions on various lists and at the OpenSolaris Summit in California last week. We talked about it earlier this week on our call, too.

I have a couple of interests here: First, I'm a member of the board and I want us to have a flexible community with a minimum of governance and process, and second, I very much want to complete the fixing of the user groups and this re-org will provide an opportunity to do that. With respect to the user groups, I moved all of them to projects when I merged the old User Group Community, the Marketing Community, and the Immigrants Community into the Advocacy Community Group (which was part of the first community re-org attempt last year). The good part of this is that the UGs are projects now and have their own spaces on the site. That was Stephen's idea. Love it. It took me three months, but it fixed the mess we created by stuffing individual UG pages inside one community until everything broke. But the UGs are still somewhat buried inside the Advocacy CG, and the vast majority of UG members are not at all involved in Advocacy and are not on advocacy-discuss. The user groups really need to be their own collective group with top level billing along side Projects, Community Groups, SIGs, Consolidations (or whatever mix of terms we come up with and hopefully a reduced mix).

I can't predict where any of this will go. Can you? It will be interesting, though, that's for sure.

Tuesday Apr 29, 2008

Website CG Approved

Earlier this morning (well, my morning), the OpenSolaris Governing Board voted to approve the Website Community Group proposal. This is good news. We are making progress in small steps on the website itself, and now we'll have a CG to be home for website development and content projects. Background here, here. We'll get this set up in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday Apr 26, 2008

Website CG Proposal Goes to OGB

The Website CG proposal is now going to the OGB for discussion and a vote at the April 28th meeting. We will finally bring this issue to resolution on Monday. My vote is already known. I'll be voting yes. All of the issues I had have been addressed, and I think we clarified things for some people over these last few weeks of feedback. When I re-wrote the proposal I stressed the notion that "those who do the work get to make the decisions" and I think I'll be stressing that from here on in just about everything. Many people have uttered that phrase in one way or another recently, and I think it has a nice effect of cutting through noise and focusing on those who are serious about getting something done. Bryan and Alan have expressed the same (and much better) before.

Tuesday Apr 22, 2008

Infrastructure Liaison

One of the things we are doing on the OGB is assigning all members with something to do. So, we all get to go out and do stuff and bring that stuff back to the OGB for decisions or action or whatever. Or we simply represent something for informational purpose as our main role on the board along with other general membership duties that come up. The specifics are not well defined yet, but we are sort of jumping on things that make sense as they come rather than forcing roles up front. I agree with that approach. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to be the infrastructure liaison for the website. This makes sense for me since I'm on Bonnie Corwin's OpenSolaris engineering team, which owns and operates the website, and I'll be on the upcoming Website Community Group as well. Plus, I want to learn a great deal more in this area as I continue to evolve my role on the OpenSolaris project.

Wednesday Apr 16, 2008

A New Focus

It's not every day you get to re-write your job description, but that's exactly what I'm doing. It's not a big deal, really, since the OpenSolaris project is growing and changing, and we need all sorts of people doing all sorts of things -- and we don't have nearly enough people or resources to exploit all the opportunities globally, but that's another story (and a good problem to have, too). Anyway, I view this as just a re-balancing of my job based on four factors:
  1. Getting elected to the OpenSolaris Governing Board,
  2. The evolution and changing needs of my team in California,
  3. My own career goals, and
  4. The unique opportunities offered by my geography.

I'll still be doing project management and building OpenSolaris communities globally, of course. But I'm going to narrow my focus so I can get closer to some engineering projects that not only generate contributions but also help lead to revenue for Sun. And I'll still be interacting with developers and users, but I want to get involved with other open source and standards communities and more customers, partners, universities, and governments as well. I'm already getting more requests to brief customers about OpenSolaris, so I want to expand that it if possible. And although my focus has always been global, I'll surely be spending more time in China and India and other parts of Asia since those markets are growing rapidly and since I live in the neighborhood. I'll also be exploring some new opportunities in Eastern and Western Europe this upcoming year.

Here's a rough split of time and projects:

  • Website: 40% on website development projects, especially the implementation and support of the software platform on which runs.
  • Globalization: 20% on g11n engineering projects.
  • Governance: 20% on OGB initiatives across the entire OpenSolaris project.
  • Advocacy: 20% on user groups, conferences, and presentations globally.

There's a fair amount of crossover there, but that's ok since it gives me the flexibility to mix and match projects under some main categories that make sense if I absolutely had to quantify them. What changes significantly, however, is the project mix and time split. Governance, website, and globalization are all new and will take up most of my time. But there will be many opportunities for community development in APAC with user groups, conferences, and engineering projects. And although all of this involves advocacy to one degree or another, I'll now be focusing those communications efforts specifically on the projects I'm driving rather than anything I can get my hands on across the entire OpenSolaris community. That's a critical point. That also will be a big change as I specifically let go of some stuff in order to take on new stuff. There is no other way to grow, in my opinion, unless you have a solid core competency but also aggressively reach out to grab new things. So I intend to build from that perspective.

And finally, I'm now getting closer to the globalization engineering organization at Sun with a dotted line report to Mimi Hills, the director of g11n who manages software development operations at many sites around the world. I'll be adding some OpenSolaris-related g11n engineering projects to the mix of stuff I do for Bonnie Corwin's OpenSolaris engineering team. First up with g11n will be to evolve the language/country portals on so we can properly implement the localization of content on the site. This is important as we build the OpenSolaris community around the world. If you build globally, you are actually building across languages and cultures, and that's very different from building within a single language and culture.

So, we'll see how all this goes. It's all based around engineering project management and community development, but hopefully much more focused and much more valuable. For two years now I have been busy creating additional networks to support these moves. I've had an excellent FY08, and I expect FY09 to be even better. Should be fun.

Saturday Apr 12, 2008

The Website CG Proposal

The Website CG proposal was issued today to website-discuss, which begins the 14 day evaluation period before a potential OGB vote. I tried to recast the proposal last week based on community feedback, the OGB's recognition of a set of current Website Core Contributors, and also the notion that those who do the work get the say. Regarding that last point, I specifically added a "leadership" section to make it clear who would make decisions. I can still see some things I want to change (all pretty minor) throughout the proposal, so I'll do that during the next two weeks before the final vote. The Website CG proposal here.

Thursday Apr 03, 2008

First OGB Meeting

We had our first OGB meeting earlier today. Notes will be posted to ogb-discuss shortly. I was very happy with the experience generally. So far there's just enough structure so the board hangs together as a group so we can get things done, but the feeling is overwhelming non-stressful, open, respectful, and remarkably low key. A great start. If we keep this up, we'll make progress this year. Now, we'll surely experience disagreements over the course of the year, but I think the board members agree that we have to focus and address the core issues facing OpenSolaris. So, I think we have a good platform from which to build. Also, in terms of leadership, we elected Simon Phipps as our Chairman. Excellent.

Monday Mar 31, 2008

OpenSolaris Constitution Updated

Simon Phipps updated the OpenSolaris Constitution with the amendments that passed in the recent election. The previous version is archived, of course.

Putting the History Back

I have a few slide decks I'm working currently. It's basically stuff I deliver myself from time to time or give to others as background to help them build their own OpenSolaris presentations. I have one deck that tells the OpenSolaris story (as I've lived it, basically) and one on how to contribute to OpenSolaris. And I'm in the early phases of creating one on community building techniques and also one on governance (since I'll be living that life for the next year). That's too many presentations to maintain. I think I'm going to fold the content of contributing and community building back into the main story deck, and I'm also going to put back much of the history I took out in recent drafts. Many people gave me advice to remove the history since it was too long and boring. But I find that some of the history of the project is not well understood or has been forgotten or is being misinterpreted, which is especially the case as we rapidly expand into new areas. This is natural as the project grows and more people become involved (which is great). But I think I have an interesting perspective on this issue since I've been around since the beginning. Doesn't mean I'm right in all cases, but it just means that I have some history to share that can be considered along with everyone else's experiences.

Many people think that we are abruptly changing the project. Well, in some ways, we are, sure, but if you take a high level view and longer term view we are not. We're just growing. And we are growing a lot faster now. A couple of years ago, many people complained that Sun was not involved enough and didn't publicize OpenSolaris enough, and I think that was true to a certain extent. But now others are complaining that Sun has made changes without involving the community enough, and that, too, is true to a certain degree as well. Still others (myself included) have complained that too many people have been complaining too much and not working and contributing enough! And around we all went. :) But all projects snake around like rivers from time to time as people try new things and learn (and make mistakes and learn again). In fact, when I look back on our early plans from four years ago, I see that we have largely achieved our initial goals -- we got some stuff spot on, we ended up doing other things differently, we achieved other things by doing very little other than opening the code (that was planned too), and we are still working on a bunch of stuff, and we missed some stuff as well. And, of course, some things are just late. I think I'll dig out some of those early slides and see if I can get specific in subsequent posts.

Anyway, this mix of events has led to confusion around where we are and where we are going. That's understandable. Our communication has been spotty at best from a macro project perspective. As a result, some people think we built a community for kernel developers only and that our site reflects that. Some think the community is primarily administrators at this point. Some think that the future will mostly be for users. And still others think we set out to build something only to end up with something else. Well, from my perspective, we had always planned to build a multi-level community that included a wide variety of people -- system administrators, hackers, individual developers, corporate developers, students, professors, writers, users, artists, kernel developers, application developers, driver developers, distribution and appliance builders, customers/partners, governments, etc. I think gamers were even on that original list, too. The list was too big, obviously. But although the intention to build a diverse community has always been there, we've had to deal with many natural constraints and dependencies along the way, so we couldn't necessarily engage all these levels of the community simultaneously. That's why different people see the community differently. It is different depending on when you view it and how you engage with it. And it will be different next year as well. This is normal.

However, our initial plans were clear with this one point -- the opening of Solaris (code, infrastructure, process, people) and the building of a global developer and user community would have to be a multi-phase, multi-year program. There was no other way given the circumstances, and that should not surprise anyone who has any awareness of the scale of this project. Heck, it took two years just to release most of the code, but during that time we've been out there building a rather diverse community right here on (although certainly the entire community is not represented only on and there is room for many sites around the world). And people have been contributing to the project in a variety of ways all along, which is very cool. Although I realize that contributing to OpenSolaris has not necessarily been easy, we still have to recognize that many contributions are coming in from many contributors. Also, new projects like Indiana will significantly increase the number and scope of contributions, which will increase the size of the community and that's very exciting. So, in my mind the OpenSolaris community already has much of the diversity we had hoped would develop. The seeds are clearly there, anyway. I'd say it's probably accurate to describe us as technical community right now, but I don't think we are only kernel developers (or any other individual segment), and I don't think we set out to build something only to find ourselves with something else. I think we set out to build something, and we are still building. It's that simple.

Now, none of this excuses our mistakes in implementing our communicating. We've made those mistakes (rather publicly, I might add) and hopefully we'll learn and get better. But history is important and interesting, so I hope to put some of this in perspective. That's why I'm going to put some of the history back in my main presentation. I'm not at all finished with this. Just starting. Great fun.

I keep a selection of my OpenSolaris presentations here.

Friday Mar 28, 2008

The New OGB: 2008-2009

Earlier this evening Stephen Hahn posted the results of the OpenSolaris elections. I'm glad both questions passed. And congratulations to the new board members! I'm happy to have been elected along with those guys, too, and I'm thankful for the vote of confidence from the OpenSolaris community. I'll treat that confidence with the utmost respect. Special thanks to Stephen for working the voting system and also to the outgoing OGB for their efforts this entire year.

Wednesday Mar 26, 2008

A Quick Fix

Last night Stephen Hahn found a bug in the voting software and that's delaying the results of the OpenSolaris election. Should only be a couple of days. But what's cool is that he found the bug, posted mail outlining the issue in detail, suggested a solution (with an alternative), offered code to fix the issue, asked for comments, and gave reasonable deadline after which he'd act on his proposal. The result? Quick feedback, approval of the proposal, and praise. I find that rather efficient, to be honest. I know many engineers just work this way culturally, but that sequence of events and attention to detail is a lesson for the rest of us. It's just a small example of how to use communication to focus an issue and move it to action.

Thursday Mar 13, 2008

The OGB Interview

Here's my interview with Barton George earlier today. Doing recorded interviews is always challenging for me. Being a former severe stutterer, I tend to shy away from microphones that have a recording devices on the other end. I stuttered a bit in this interview and got some thoughts confused and left others out. Oh, well. At least I'm well beyond having those gut-wrenching blockages where you feel like you are gaging as someone holds your head under water. As long as air is flowing now, I'm cool with some bumps along the way. And I got some bits out that were pretty good. Actually, I'm more at ease in front of an audience live than on the phone being recorded (and I've been able to isolate and document all the reasons why). There are very different communication skills involved when you are interviewed and recorded live, and I'm still learning how to do it effectively. Those who do interviews as a core part of their job have special skills indeed. I've spent an enormous amount of time the last two years getting myself to the point where I can present and talk in front of small and large audiences about what I do, but I still need some work on doing interviews. I'm determined to acquire this skill, though, and will let nothing stand in my way. Not even me. Anyway, Barton was a great host. And, well, I did ok, too.

During the interview, I tried to make the point that we as a community have come a long way, and we ought to be absolutely proud of that. I've never backed away from that position -- even when some seem intent on focusing on the negative. And although we have struggled at times with governance, we ought to cut ourselves some slack and just get back to work. Why would we do anything else? Governance is hard. It doesn't come easy in any context -- a company, a community, a country. It's nebulous. It's a social issue, not a technical one. The current OGB has been criticized by some (myself included), but we all deserve much of the same criticism since governance involves everyone -- the OGB, the community, and Sun. Remember, the OGB has no resources other than what the members bring to it. It has no budget. It has to lead by building consensus across the community, which means we all must participate at some level. We will get it right, though. It will just take some more time.

Wednesday Mar 12, 2008

Amendments, Candidates, Communication

Simon Phipps has some background on the two amendments he has written for the current OpenSolaris ballot -- OpenSolaris Polling Open. I support both amendments. I nominated Simon for the OGB, so I obviously support his candidacy as well. Simon said he believes "that in the coming year we particularly need an OGB that is equipped to communicate strongly, clearly and frequently with Sun's management." This issue of communication comes up over and over again. In fact, it's probably part of everyone's platform to one degree or another, so it will be one simple way to judge this next OGB. Sun management will have to play its part in the communication game, too, of course. Simon also talks a bit about various candidates in the election and the importance of strong Sun representation -- all of which I support.

Friday Mar 07, 2008

About Me and the OGB: Part II

I'm running for a seat on the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) in the March 2008 election. I ran last year and lost, so I'm giving it a shot again this year. Circumstances have changed this time around, so maybe my luck will, too. Last year, I came in eighth out of eighteen running for a seven seat board, so I missed it by inches. A similar number of people are running this year. Maybe I'll get that seventh spot. Or maybe I'll bomb. We'll see.

I'm not a politician or a visionary, and I don't look to those guys for leadership. Instead, I respect those who are understated in their speech and transparent in their operations, and I'm most impressed by those who simply get things done. On OpenSolaris I try to work in the open as much as possible. I attend very few internal meetings and participate on very few internal aliases. In fact, I'm always advocating the opening of those closed meetings and aliases, so we can build a community that is genuinely transparent. What you get with me is easily substantiated in this blog and on the lists on That's pretty much where I live.

My position on governance from last year forms the basis of my views this year, so not much has changed on that front. Back last year I talked about community growth, participation, values, and communication -- issues that pervade my daily job on OpenSolaris. I think those issues are even more important today considering the obviously rough ride we've had in some areas. The one element I'd add this year is action. The OGB needs to re-establish trust and earn credibility and lead by example. It needs to work. And that requires a significant commitment of time from each member. This is not an advisory board. It's a governing board. But the board has very little actual power and no real resources, so it needs to influence via consensus-building actions. This is a difficult task to say the very least. The OpenSolaris community also has a responsibility here. The community voted for the OpenSolaris Constitution, so we ought to participate fully in the system we ourselves created. Otherwise, we will lose it.

Over the next week or so, I'm sure there will be some threads about governance issues on ogb-discuss. I'll chime in on those if I can. This is just an assertion to accept my nomination to run. I've written about governance issues while involved in OpenSolaris, and you can find that content in my blog and on ogb-discuss. Also, I've updated my bio and contact information, and you can see all of my projects and communities listed in my profile on

Wish me luck ...

Wednesday Feb 20, 2008

Blasting Ourselves

Martin blurted out a great quote the other day -- Let's look ahead, rather than blasting ourselves dead. Seems fitting for the OpenSolaris community right about now, don't you think? You know, over the last few months, I've been trying to look for new models of leadership in the community. Leadership is such a fuzzy issue and usually generates lots speculative conversation, but the bottom line is action. Who leads by doing rather than talking? Who just works without seeking the title of leader? That's the truest form of leadership I can imagine. Action. Anyway, I agree with Martin. Let's look ahead. But as we look ahead, we should not forget that there are a lot of people who have been working right along under all the noise the last six months. They are the leaders of the OpenSolaris community. That's becoming more obvious every day.

New User Group Proposal Process

We updated the OpenSolaris User Group proposal process in Advocacy. It's much easier. So, if you want some infrastructure -- a project space and mailing list -- for your OpenSolaris User Group, just send a proposal to advocacy-discuss with the name of the user group, two or more initial participants listed with their OpenSolaris user IDs, and a one paragraph description of the group (including location, activities planned, related organizations, etc.) That's it. Easy. There are some voting items and such, but it's all spelled out at the bottom of the Advocacy CG front page and also at the bottom of the main user group page. Everything is based on based on the OpenSolaris Constitution and the OpenSolaris Governing Board's Project Instantiation Policy, but we streamlined the process for user groups so we can move faster.

Monday Feb 18, 2008

OGB 2008 Nominations Open

It's just past midnight in California on Monday February 18, so that means the 2008 OGB election season just started. I nominated Simon Phipps to run. It should be an interesting election for the OpenSolaris Community to say the very least, eh? Things have been a bit on the stressful side lately, but hopefully we can cool down and address our problems in a professional and respectful way.

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

A Chuckle?

I left a comment on Micheal Dolan's blog -- Emily Ratliff covers Roy Fielding’s Departure from OpenSolaris -- the other day, but it has not made it out of moderation yet. Or, the comment just didn't take. Not sure. I didn't see one of those warnings saying my comment is being moderated, but when I tried again it said I had already submitted that comment. But no comment. So, I gave up. I'll just post it here instead.

Hello, Michael.

It's sad that you get a "chuckle" about some of this stuff. Many people here are trying hard to make the OpenSolaris project work (under difficult circumstances sometimes), and they don't deserve your sarcasm.

The request-sponsor program you laugh at was never intended to scale as a general integration program. Everyone involved in OpenSolaris knows that. It was always designed as a temporary solution, but since we are clearly behind in  moving the main ON gate and some of the integration tools outside, the request-sponsor program has had to fill the void. And yes, it's quite backed up. Everyone knows that, too. Emily's quote you cite is somewhat misleading, though, because it assumes that the Linux and OpenSolaris processes are the same (or at least similar enough to compare). They are not. Linux is an open development community that has been open for a very long time. It started small and grew large in the open over many years. OpenSolaris, however, is still very much emerging and trying to open from the inside of a company. We started big (in terms of size of code base and number of engineers and processes, etc), and are trying to open in stages in a responsible way since Solaris is one of the core products of the company. Also, it has proved to be a complex engineering, legal, business, customer, marketing, and cultural task of moving such a large operation outside and teasing apart the development process from the productization process while we simultaneously build, ship, and support a product. Linux never had to do what we are doing, so the issues are extremely different. A better way to look at it would be to compare the opening of Solaris with, say, the (potential) opening of HP-UX and/or AIX if those systems are ever opened. I can only imagine that the issues would be pretty similar given the size and age of those code bases, the complexity of their development methodologies, and how important they are to their respective companies. But regardless, we are certainly far behind where we'd like to be at this point. If you'd like to follow the SCM migration project, you can check in with one of my colleagues here: Mike has some pointers in that blog that will take you to the project pages on

Also please keep in mind that the request-sponsor program is only one part of the OpenSolaris project, and it's only one way people are contributing (and it's only about code, whereas people contribute in non-code ways as well). And it largely represents integrations to the ON consolidation, not all other consolidations and development projects on the site. If you wanted to really compare OpenSolaris and Linux from an engineering perspective in terms of the flow of code being integrated into the kernel, you'd have to look inside Sun for that since the ON consolidation gate is not opened yet. Then the data points would be quite different, and the "teeth brushing" analogy may not hold up so well. But one really can't compare the two systems that way, of course, since our development process are still largely behind the firewall. That will change over time, though. Currently, we are more of an open source project, and we are slowly (very slowly) moving to an open development project as well. In fact, some consolidation gates are already outside, and there are already external contributors.

And there is no need to be "irked" about the user group example you cite, either. I left a comment on Emily's blog about this. There are no NDAs on OpenSolaris. The issue there was the building security procedures since the meeting was at a Sun site. Sometimes it's cumbersome holding community meetings at corporate facilities for just this reason. Many groups that are run by Sun employees deal with this ok now, but others choose other facilities, and other groups are led by non-Sun employees at universities or other companies. It's not a big deal, and it in no way reflects poorly on those people involved. If you feel we are "messed up" in our approach to building a community and feel you can help, we'd be more than happy for you to get involved. We are still learning and trying new things all the time. However, uninformed opinions expressed from the outside without any direct participation have relatively little value. So, I encourage you to subscribe to advocacy-discuss here since that is the Community Group that is home to the OpenSolaris User Groups. That's a good place to start since we are kicking around some ideas for UG community-building in two recent threads here and here so you may want to participate in those discussions.

Finally, when you say that you should have applied for a job at Sun to fix this "mess" that, too, is hurtful to the people working on the project, most of who are honorable people just trying to do a good job. We are a small and young community and we are doing our best given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. All projects in all industries in all regions experience rough patches in their life cycle. That is clearly the case with us in some areas. However, there is a great deal that is going extremely well on OpenSolaris, too, and we can't lost sight of that. That's what I keep telling people in the community, and many people agree and are willing to do the work necessary to improve things. And in terms of a job, you'd have to check with Sun HR on that. But you don't need a job at Sun to participate in OpenSolaris, though. Just jump in. But if you think you can "fix it myself" I'd humbly suggest that you will have to talk to many thousands of developers, many of who are Sun's top engineers, to earn consensus for your ideas. OpenSolaris has a distributed leadership model, so no one individual gets to run things. We certainly have a long way to go, though, so please feel free to contribute. All the lists are here and that's the fastest way to talk directly with the kernel engineers.

Friday Jan 25, 2008

The Future of OpenSolaris Advocacy

I started a little thread to flush out some ideas about where we could take the Advocacy Community Group and the OpenSolaris User Groups -- [advocacy-discuss] Advocacy & User Groups: The Future. We've made some progress, but there is so much to do since we are still very much in our infancy as a user community. The opportunity is overwhelming (in the very best sense of the term). But it's not only about where we want to go. It's also about how we get there and who does the work. Talk is nice, but eventually someone has to pick up a shovel and start digging. So, I hope we can start implementing some interesting new ideas. Feel free to check in.

Tuesday Jan 22, 2008

Distro CG Proposal

I agree with Glynn and hope the OGB approves Shawn's proposal -- [ogb-discuss] Motion to the Board: Proposed Community Group Creation. There are many comments in the thread, so I'm not going into any of the details, but I've always liked the general concept of a Community Group into which the various OpenSolaris distributions can contribute.

I also think the Advocacy CG would welcome working with a Distribution CG. The OpenSolaris distributions will be even more important to Advocacy as we engage very large numbers of users around the world. Advocacy is already somewhat involved with one of the distributions since we sponsor the BeleniX development list. We did that because that list grew from work taking place on the Bangalore OSUG. We are happy to continue sponsoring belenix-discuss, but if that list is better served as part of a Distro CG, that's fine too. That's up the BeleniX guys. Also, in a couple of weeks we'll start shipping User Group Kits, and those kits contain the OpenSolaris Starter Kits, which, of course, contain all of the OpenSolaris distributions. So, there could be a natural relationship there, and Advocacy can certainly help out.

Friday Jan 18, 2008

Core Contributor List

Thanks to Eric Boutilier, the OpenSolaris Membership now has its own list. This is good news.

There have been complaints in the past that there is too much noise in the community to make decisions, that absolutely everyone has to have a say, that there is no leadership, and that it's just a free-for-all on the lists. Well, now the Core Contributors (which means "Membership" under our governance) have their own list to rationally discuss issues. The signal to noise ratio should be excellent, right? Instead of thousands of people spread out on multiple lists spinning around all over the place, there is now one list for the voting membership to quietly communicate about important matters. And the Membership is just a few hundred people.

I've supported this move for a while now, and others have agreed. I've always felt that the voting Membership of the OpenSolaris Community is actually well defined. We may feel deadlocked at times, but that's only because we have not asserted our leadership as Core Contributors. We keep looking for that magic "single" leader somewhere. I'm not saying the new list solves all problems. But it takes away the excuse of "we can't even talk because there are too many people screaming and yelling." So, it will be fascinating to see if the list is used or if we just continue to make excuses for our failed attempt to communicate with respect.

Tuesday Jan 15, 2008

Saying No

I've always found it difficult to say no. I'd much rather be for something than against it. But earlier today I said no to a two month temporary assignment on the OpenSolaris Governing Board. There was a resignation recently in the seven person board, and since I was number eight in last year's election, I had the option of serving out the rest of the term. I thought about it for a few days. But it just didn't make sense to jump into something for five or six weeks when I have vacation and business travel planned on top of other projects coming to fruition. Not to mention having to get up at 4:00 in the morning for OGB conference calls. A great deal has changed in the ten months since the election last year. It will be interesting to see who runs this year, but I doubt I have any governance in my future. It's interesting, though. I re-read my position statement from the election last year. I still believe it.


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