Simplifying OpenSolaris Governance

We've been considering refreshing the OpenSolaris community governance in the light of experience. During the OGB meetings, I have made the following proposal a few times, so thought it would be good to write about it and see what people think.

I think the OpenSolaris governance needs to be simplified. We should move to an approach of "drawing a line around existing practice" rather than trying to invent a new system and force-fit everything that is going on into it. This is the approach we're taking with OpenJDK and, barring a few problems every now and again, it seems to be working.

For Governance purposes, all the overall community needs to have regulated are:

  1. What the top-level structure of the community looks like
  2. Who gets to vote in plenary decisions (OGB elections, constitutional amendments, extraordinary general meetings)
  3. Who gets to consume resources (create new mailing lists, repositories, web pages and so on)

All other factors are local to a particular grouping of the community, and given the size and diversity of that community it's likely attempts to generalise in a way that effectively embraces all the groupings will be very hard. I therefore suggested that, for governance purposes only, we treat all entities in the community as "community groups" empowered to do whatever it is they are already doing, but coming to the OGB for approval when they do one of three things:

  1. Instantiate a new top-level entity
    • I suggest that new instantiations be handled on a case-by-case basis by the OGB.
    • Top level groups can then create nested groups any way they wish
    • However, new groups must abide by points 2 and 3
    • The OGB may wish to publish criteria for which groups it would be likely to permit and limit creation of top-level groups to one-per-type but I suspect writing rules for this now falls under YAGNI.
  2. Grant a member voting rights at the plenary
    • I suggest that the OGB create a Board Committee with diverse composition to grant plenary voting rights
    • I suggest that the committee ask groupings in the community wishing to have the power to grant plenary voting rights to members to submit a proposal for how they will decide to do that
    • The proposed process should as a minimum:
      1. Be deterministic and repeatable
      2. Grant voting rights only to those who have already demonstrably contributed, not to those intending to
      3. Require those being given voting rights to publicly assent to the grant (either by nominating themselves or accepting the nomination of others)
    • The committee should grant rolling annual permission to groupings to grant voting rights once their process is approved
    • The committee should draft a default process for new groupings to adopt if they don't need special treatment
  3. Choose to consume resources in a new activity
    • I suggest the OGB create a Board Committee for this too
    • I suggest the committee also grant resource access allocation rights on a rolling basis to those groupings exhibiting bona fides

As plenty of people will agree, I am no master-of-governance but that seems sufficient to protect community-wide rights while leaving maximum flexibility for there to be Consolidations, an ARC, User Groups and more. Thoughts?

Comments:

Instead of this huge bureaucratic discussion, how about simplyfing the "who gets to commit into ON" process"?

That's all that's needed, really.

As a developer, I don't want or need bureaucracy. Code speaks. Fixes work.

What I need, as a developer, is a simpler bug fix process. A simpler decision making process on when and how I get commit access to the ON repository.

What I need as a developer are clear engineering manuals on ON.

I've been with Solaris for 15 years now. And I've been with OpenSolaris from the very beginning.

And I tell you: I have no idea, what all this OGB stuff is supposed to be doing. Wow, is this stuff complex! Why? We don't need govrenance, we need tools and engineering processes! We're hurting, hurting real bad, while stuff that makes no sense gets to be an endless debate over and over!

Posted by UX-admin on June 19, 2008 at 07:39 PM PDT #

Well, because people other than you will scream "murder" if there aren't some minimal governance rules (who can vote & when at a community-wide level). If you pause for a moment you'll realise my proposal is about doing exactly what you request; having the minimum workable governance and getting back to focus of code & its creation.

Posted by Simon Phipps on June 19, 2008 at 08:38 PM PDT #

I knew you were going to write that!

The problem is, if you really have to STRAIN yourself to understand that gobledygook, most potential OpenSolaris developers aren't going to do it.

They will go somewhere else, where they won't be harassed by such things.

The only question in my mind is:

will you (plural) realize it in time to save the whole thing?

Posted by UX-admin on June 20, 2008 at 12:41 AM PDT #

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