I'm not going to reply to anything specific in this thread, but just
offer some general impressions. I'm going to try to put this reply from
the perspective of myself as a gentoo user - as a dev I try to
contribute what I can and add value, but I don't pretend to be the most
vital contributor to the organization. As a dev I'm a user as well...
As a Gentoo user, I could really care less whether Gentoo holds any
tangible assets. As long as there is a server to rsync off of I'm good
to go - and there are lots of people out there willing to contribute
bandwidth because it is for a good cause.
As a Gentoo user, I'd rather see enthusiastic volunteer developers who
are happy to contribute, than to see Gentoo turn into some kind of
corporate atmosphere where those who pay get the features they need (a
la most commercial distros). Sure, it might be a non-profit on paper,
but large non-profits tend to be indistinguishable from commercial
enterprises - neither is really grass-roots.
As a Gentoo user, I'd like devs to listen to my ideas, but I recognize
that I'm getting far more out of Gentoo than I'm putting into it.
Frankly I'm amazed that so many folks put in so much time to make this
distro really great to run - and I don't have to pay a dime for it! So,
when I want to have things my own way, I don't really expect anybody to
bow to my needs. I think that devs should listen to the collective will
of the users because it is the right thing to do - not because the users
should hold any power over them.
I think that Gentoo should be run by a group of volunteers who are
accountable to the volunteers that contribute (whether staff or devs).
I'd rather not have a foundation with power over trademark, assets, etc,
threatening to pull the plug or force a fork if the devs or their
elected leadership don't fall in line over some controversy. As long as
the Foundation and the Council have a common constituency I'm not too
concerned about this happening, but when the constituencies are
different there is the potential for conflict.
Personally, I'm not too concerned that Gentoo depends on our sponsors.
I contribute to Gentoo because it is the right thing to do and I'm able
to give back a little of what I'm getting. I suspect most who sponsor
open source projects in various ways do so for the same reason. I'd
rather not see Gentoo turn into some non-profit corporation that pays
its own way - if we're doing the "right thing" then we shouldn't run out
of those willing to help out with a little bandwidth here and there.
And we can always solicit donations if we have some kind of a need.
In my experience one of two things happens to organizations that seek
complete self-sufficiency: They tend to accumulate paid staff rapidly.
The functioning of the organization tends to become focused around the
paid positions. After all - they're the only ones who always show up at
scheduled meetings and are around 9-5 since they're on payroll. This
tends to make volunteers feel left out, and they tend to leave. Then
one of two things happen - the organization either dies out, or it is
able to sustain itself in revenue and carries on forever, but usually
with a loss of its originally-intended mission.
Open source is about community - a community of contributors, not a
community of voters for whom a vote costs nothing, or maybe it costs a
few bucks. None of us started using gentoo because we got to vote to
make the devs do what we wanted, but rather because we saw that a bunch
of devs had created something that we could really use. Every
successful FOSS project I can think of operates in the same way.
I'd really like to see the Foundation aim to involve more of the
community and point out when the community is neglected. However, could
there perhaps be a way to do this without changing the membership
structure. I'm genuinely concerned that this move could have the
long-term results of causing a fork which would be very disruptive (or
maybe not - just look at XFree86). I'd really rather not see this
happen to my favorite distro!
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