Wednesday Jun 18, 2008

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?

Saturday Mar 29, 2008

Thanks!

Many thanks to the people who voted for me in the OpenSolaris Governing Board election last week. I was very surprised to receive so many votes, especially considering the strength of the field and who else was elected. I was also pleased that both the constitutional amendments I proposed were approved - I edited them into the Constitution this evening.

I've dived straight in on the ogb-discuss mailing list and IRC. Our first OGB meeting is on Wednesday and I welcome input, especially conversation on the OGB IRC where I try to show up at 10pm UK time each evening if I am free to do so.

Saturday Mar 22, 2008

Election Ending

The OpenSolaris elections are ending soon (they close at 7am UK time on Tuesday). If you have a vote, please use it!

In particular, I'd draw your attention to my election statements as I would be grateful to receive your vote. You may also be interested by my comments on the constitutional amendments.

Do please vote - those amendments need a "yes" from 50% of the overall electorate if they are to pass so I doubt we have enough "yes" votes so far to pass these very rational and widely agreed amendments.

Wednesday Mar 21, 2007

I Just Voted

I just voted in the OpenSolaris OGB Election. It was pretty easy and only took me about 2 minutes. I'll not tell you the order I ranked my votes, but I was influenced by the fact I had spoken to thirteen of the candidates, all of whom were ranked higher in my voting list as a result of my having had the chance to hear how they think first hand. I'd like to thank all of them for taking the time to speak with me. I was sorry the others didn't feel inclined to talk, but of course that's their choice. A reply would have been nice though (only Casper did, of the five).

In my voting I favoured diversity, ranked higher on a willingness to work with others of all persuasions, on an openness to friendly discussion and on a lack of elitism. I also voted "yes" to ratifying the draft Constitution because I think we have to start somewhere.

OGB Bootstrapping

On that subject, I promised the OGB I'd write a little about the rationale behind the Constitution and electoral roll. The current OGB doesn't pretend to have all the answers. Once it realised the scale of the issues, it sought to bootstrap the community, both in terms of the Constitution and of the initial electors, in a reasonable and fair way while recognising its own imperfection.

The initial electorate was a big problem. We decided the best plan was to have a group of voters identified by the selection of their peers. We sought a large enough electorate to make voting diverse, but the very fact some communities failed to select any Core Contributors even after repeated reminders guaranteed that it would be flawed. I am sad that some people felt disenfranchised, and hope we caught all the most serious errors over the last week or so. Plenty needs fixing, and that was inevitable and unavoidable. Nonetheless, we have a diverse electorate large enough to dilute most biases. It's good enough for bootstrapping.

We did not have the breadth of vision to solve all the tricky issues in OpenSolaris that need to be covered by a Constitution, nor the personal knowledge of community members to perfectly identify the electoral college. I've heard one of the candidates harshly criticise this fact and imply he had all the answers, but I disagreed and still do. No-one does. I still believe it's smarter to iterate and to leave properly elected OGBs to iterate. Trying to solve everything up-front usually fails.

The new OGB needs to build on the Constitution and amend it, especially to address the community structure properly. It also needs to fix the electoral college to reflect the community that will exist once the project/community issues are fixed. I would also suggest to them that they expect the OGB that follows them to need to do further fixing and regard themselves as a phase of the bootstrap. Amending a Constitution in the light of experience has precedents, after all.

Tuesday Mar 20, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Jim Grisanzio

Jim Grisanzio

Right from the start of OpenSolaris, today's candidate has been a respected, moderate and firm influence despite his non-technical background. Having worked with him for many years I know these characteristics come from deep within, and I think that comes across in several of the answers to the questions.

Do persevere despite the poor quality of the audio connection, which took quite a bit of setting up and was pretty dodgy even when it worked. This is the last interview I have in the queue for election candidates by the way, I suggest you go ahead and vote if you were waiting for the end of the series, noting perhaps who didn't want to be interviewed.

This candidate interview is with Jim Grisanzio, who joined my via a relay of phone connections from his office in Tokyo, Japan. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(18' 39")

Monday Mar 19, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Stephen Lau

Stephen Lau

I'll be ending this series soon so the remaining candidates should contact me if they want to be included (Casper Dik just told me he has a throat infection and can't participate, I've not heard from the others despite two e-mails). I'm hearing that people are listening to the series and getting a helpful insight into the different candidates, which is good - the 24 or so hours of recording and editing haven't been in vain!

Today's candidate interview is with Stephen Lau, who joined me by phone from his office in California. He replied quite early in the process but was prevented from participating until now by a throat infection (lot of it about). Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(15' 05")

Sunday Mar 18, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Shawn Walker

It's the start of the second week of voting, and there are still hundreds of people who haven't voted, so I think it's worth continuing to publish interviews. Some of the candidates seem rather shy, but hopefully most of them will be willing to speak with me in time for voters to hear everyone's voice and views.

This interview is with Shawn Walker, who joined me via VoIP from Kansas on his return from Australia. His story about moving to Solaris from GNU/Linux is worth listening to even if you're not voting in the election. I've tried post-processing this interview with The Levelator, let me know if you like the audio quality it produces. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(19' 53")

Saturday Mar 17, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Michelle Olson

We're half-way through the OGB Elections and I'm half-way through doing interviews with the candidates - let's hope I can find them all before too long.

This interview is with Michelle Olson, who spoke with me by phone from California. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(8' 50")

Friday Mar 16, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: John McLaughlin

He's not been involved with the OpenSolaris community much, but today's candidate interview is with someone who has a big influence on the Solaris market by publication of System News. I've not met him before and so enjoyed the introduction. Turns out he has an extensive and practical background in both Solaris and user groups.

This interview is with John McLaughlin, who joined me by VoIP from Florida. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(13' 35")

LiveMink OGB Special: Jörg Schilling

Many Unix and Unix-alike OS users owe a huge debt of gratitude to this candidate for his open source software. Without cdrecord, we'd be living in a greatly impoverished world concerning CD and DVD support. His high-energy, forthright and sometimes controversial approach makes him an interesting and often compelling community member.

This interview is with Jörg Schilling, who spoke via the phone from Berlin in Germany. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(12' 58")

Thursday Mar 15, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Rich Teer

Rich Teer

One of the nicest people I have had the chance to meet since getting involved with OpenSolaris is the author of the seminal work on Solaris System Programming, Rich Teer. Rich is a current member of the OGB having become one when the CAB was fully chartered last year, and he is one of two OGB members standing for election (Casper Dik of Sun is the other).

This interview is with with Rich Teer. He spoke to me by phone from Canada. He mentions his new business venture in the interview, My Online Home Inventory, which runs on Solaris. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(13' 35")

Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Alan DuBoff

It's the middle of the first week of voting and we still have plenty of candidates to hear from, but I'm happy to have spoken to so many so far.

The candidate in this interview is Alan DuBoff, who spoke to my by phone from his office in California. You can see him pictured to the right working at his smithy, forging I-know-not-what. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(12' 41")

LiveMink OGB Special: Ben Rockwood

Ben Rockwood, Videographer

You'll hear in this interview both the delights of working from home (I called at bath-time) and the perils of using VoIP (it took three attempts with Skype as you'll hear from the different levels and the static in various places). And we went on a little too long because of it - apologies.

The OGB candidate I'm speaking to in this interview is Ben Rockwood. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(21' 12")

Monday Mar 12, 2007

LiveMink OGB Special: Garrett D'Amore

Day two of the OpenSolaris OGB Election and the fruits of a long night recording interviews begin to be delivered today. I'll be travelling to OpenSolaris Day in London today, but I have two interviews queued so stay tuned!

The next candidate kindly agreeing to be interviewed is Garrett D'Amore. Garrett joined me by telephone from southern California. Listen on!

[MP3]—[Ogg]—[iTunes]—(17' 21")

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