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List Archive: gentoo-council
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To: gentoo-council@g.o
From: Denis Dupeyron <calchan@g.o>
Subject: Meeting format
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 18:52:22 -0600
Solar has proposed that we go back to monthly meetings. Scheduling a
live meeting is difficult due to the council members being spread over
different time zones. Someone even had to take time off from work to
participate to council meetings, and Gentoo should not be allowed to
require such a sacrifice from our professional or, worse, personal
schedules. Multiplying live meetings only makes things more
complicated and hence going back to once a month makes sense. We
should not get rid of the live meetings altogether though, because
some decisions require the legitimacy and symbolism of a good
old-fashioned live meeting to be better perceived and accepted by the
target audience. Not having any live meeting could also weaken the
relationships between the members.

I also propose that we go back to moderating the council channel
during meetings, and that we give +v very carefully. In order to still
allow everybody to participate though, I suggest council members keep
an eye on another channel (#gentoo-dev or else) where anybody can
discuss, and that they bring any idea they think is valuable to the
council channel where the meeting is occurring. This way everybody can
get a voice and we can keep the council channel tidy during meetings.

The main drawback of a monthly meeting is certainly the decrease in
reactivity and productivity. I was pleased to see an increase in both
when meetings went bi-weekly and wouldn't want to lose this. So what I
propose in exchange is we don't wait for the live meeting to discuss,
take decisions, vote, etc... Apart from unusually important votes or
decisions, nothing prevents us from doing all these on the
mailing-list. This was already done in the past but we need to
formalize the process a bit and make it more common. The easiest is we
do the same as we should do in a live meeting, i.e. give time limits
for discussions, for wrap-up (or vote), and make sure that all
discussions end up in what-who-when (What is to be done exactly? Who
will do it? By when does this person/group agree to get it done?). And
since when nobody's in charge nothing happens, each topic should be
pushed and followed-up by one volunteer council member. Let's take an
example.

 - User/dev X wants the the council to discuss a particular issue and
decide on a solution.

 - Council member Y picks up the proposition and volunteers to push it
to discussion.

 - Y decides it's a fairly simple topic which can be discussed on the
mailing-list in one week, after which all council members will be
given 2 days to vote if necessary (this answers "What?").

 - If the decision requires an implementation then Y looks actively
for a volunteer to do it ("who?"), and finds Z. If there's more than
one volunteer it's a good idea to have them work together, but in case
it's not possible (or the issue or persons are controversial) Y may go
back to the council members to discuss who will actually do it.

 - Y works out a schedule and action list with Z. It's important to
make sure that Z is confident that it can be done.

That's just an example. What actually matters is that somebody makes
sure that things are progressing. Note that if X is a council member
then (s)he becomes a natural candidate to push the idea and lead the
effort. In other words, it's nice to talk but it's even nicer to act.

I strongly believe that if we can't make that process work efficiently
enough then we should consider going back to biweekly meetings.

We should also get rid of both the slacker rule and proxies. They're
good examples of over-engineering.

The slacker rule was introduced in different times to avoid a
particular type of behavior, and I think this doesn't apply anymore.
We're volunteers, we're doing our best to participate to meetings and
fulfill our obligations, so there's no point in punishing ourselves
with such a rule. In all the places I've worked I've never seen
anybody being fired because (s)he couldn't attend a meeting. Hell,
I've never seen anybody blatantly skipping meetings or
sleeping/texting/etc being fired either. When people know they can't
attend a meeting they usually email a note giving their thoughts and
votes for each topic on the agenda. If the missing person
couldn't/didn't warn then (s)he is simply marked "missing" in the
meeting minutes. And you know what? The earth never stopped turning.
In case the discussions drift off the agenda (which shouldn't happen
in a perfect world) and if the quorum isn't reached to decide/vote on
that unexpected item then the discussion is adjourned to a later
meeting (that could be the mailing list in our case). If and when it
becomes obvious that a council member has lost interest or can't
afford the time anymore to be on the council, then it's his/her
responsibility to resign, and it's the other members' responsibility
to discuss resignation with him/her if it does not happen.

As for proxies, I have no problem with them but it seems controversial
and I do agree that there may be latent issues with the concept. All
fixes to it or alternatives I've seen seem more complicated to deal
with than the actual problem itself. See above for my thoughts on what
to do in case of a council member missing a meeting.

If you agree I propose that we discuss the meeting format on this
mailing-list, more specifically:
 - Live-meeting periodicity (plus date/time of the first meeting)
 - Channel moderated during meetings? Another channel for people to
discuss at the same time?
 - Off-line meetings / decision process (see example above)
 - Do we keep the slacker rule and proxies?

I also suggest we discuss until Monday July 13th at 0600UTC, and vote
no later than Tuesday July 14th at 0600 UTC (and as early as you
want). Vote is informal and means just say as clearly and concisely as
possible what you prefer of all the discussed alternatives. Feel free
to propose another schedule but in that case please do so ASAP.

Denis.


Replies:
Re: Meeting format
-- Richard Freeman
Re: Meeting format
-- Tobias Scherbaum
Re: Meeting format
-- Roy Bamford
Re: Meeting format
-- Lukasz Damentko
Re: Meeting format
-- Ned Ludd
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Updated Nov 13, 2011

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