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To: gentoo-nfp <gentoo-nfp@g.o>
From: Richard Freeman <rich0@g.o>
Subject: Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
Date: Sat, 24 May 2008 17:59:59 -0400
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!
-- 
gentoo-nfp@g.o mailing list


Replies:
Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- Roy Bamford
References:
Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
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Updated Jun 17, 2009

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