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To: "William L. Thomson Jr." <wltjr@g.o>
From: Richard Freeman <rich0@g.o>
Subject: Re: Foundation existence and behavior (Was: Section 4.1 Member Classes)
Date: Sun, 25 May 2008 08:09:45 -0400
First - a quick comment regarding my choice of thread.  I replied to 
this thread because I thought it was directly relevant to member classes 
as I thought this had a direct impact on the nature of the Foundation. 
What I didn't want to do is copy and past 50 snippets from other 
subthreads and reply to them.  I didn't think that would add much, and 
my concerns with the nature of Foundation membership weren't related to 
some nuance of some detail but were a concern with the whole fundamental 
approach we're taking.

William L. Thomson Jr. wrote:
> On Sun, 2008-05-25 at 02:03 +0200, Luca Barbato wrote:
>>> So your thoughts there? Or what about at an event?
>> Get someone sponsoring it.
> 
> Ok, and who is going to poney up $100k for Gentoo? FYI I am a member of
> the Florida Linux Show steering committee. Because of my efforts on our
> last one, we topped 300 people at our first show. Scale did ~200 at
> their first show. It's not easy getting people to sponsor events like
> that. Much less a Gentoo specific event good luck.

Look, let's be realistic.  We're not Red Hat.  We will probably never be 
Red Hat.  I'm not entirely sure we want to be Red Hat.  Having a booth 
at an event is a far cry from hosting one, and the politics in an 
organization that can field those kinds of resources would totally 
change the character of Gentoo.

> 
>>> Ever been by a Gentoo booth compared to others? Like say FreeBSD?
>> Say FFmpeg's one?
> 
> Ok, so their are > 250 devs on FFmpeg? They have projects, and teams
> like our infra? That's really comparing apples to oranges no?

I think the point is that we'd like to preserve the small-organization 
atmosphere as much as possible.  Yes, reality is going to dictate some 
compromises there, but I think most Gentoo devs would rather see a 
Gentoo that looks more like FFmpeg than the Red Cross.

> 
>>> And those rsync servers and bandwidth cost $.
>> Kindly provided by privates and organizations using Gentoo.
> 
> Ok, so we aren't in need right now, but just for fun. Let's see how hard
> it is to get another sponsor to give us ~$1k a month in services. Put a
> call for help etc, in GMN, and let's see the response we get.
> 
> Let's start talking reality, not ideals.

Honestly, I think staying humble helps keep us honest.  If we wanted to 
be self-sufficient at commercial infrastructure rates the cost could 
easily be $10k per month with no payroll - and that is using some of 
your own estimates from this email.  Once you start having serious cash 
flow you get all the politics that go with it.

I've seen it commented on other forums during some of the past problems 
that we can't afford to lose Gentoo - it offers something truly 
interesting and unique.  If we lose a CVS server it will most likely 
have plenty of notice, and somebody will step up to meet the need, or we 
could always have a paypal support drive to tide us over in the meantime.

> 
>>> But devs do not have to listen to users.
>> Why should they? Ah, well, because we are reasonable people, open to 
>> feedback and treasuring the help others give us.
> 
> Heck for that matter, at times fellow devs don't listen to others? Why
> because we might have our own ideas as to how to do something but
> differently.

Look, I'm the first in line to say that we need to do more to encourage 
more end-user participation and developers need to start acting in a 
more professional way towards them.  No, developers don't need to change 
their whole vision for a package because a user asks them to, but they 
can at least be polite in expressing their views.

However, I don't think that non-dev Foundation membership is going to 
accomplish this.  I think that it has real potential to put two groups 
with different constituencies at the helm of Gentoo and in serious 
conflict.  Just look at the discussion here!

> 
>> Again, nothing problematic here.
> 
> Ok, so if you polled the community. We would get no suggests on
> improvements. Gentoo has 0 problems right now. If I recall much of the
> controversy from January that stared over foundation legal issues. Went
> anywhere but. People were pointing out all kinds of issues with Gentoo.
> 
> I guess since then, but some miracle, all that is resolved. Good to
> know, guess I can happily resign as both a trustee, and users, and
> things will be fine. Apps will be maintained, and I can go back to being
> a user. I never wanted to be more. I had to, because of a lack of
> others.
> 

Relax - I'm the first to admit that Gentoo has problems.  We need a 
strong user-rel team.  However, it needs to be a liaison that can 
influence devs, not a board that simply rules over them.

Gentoo does need to be more responsive to users.  However, the way to 
accomplish that is to appeal to devs collective good natures - not to 
threaten to cut off their cvs access because it is running on Gentoo 
Foundation property.  When a dev just is totally out of line, appeal to 
the broader dev community to police itself, which has been happing over 
the last year or so with far greater success than in the past (even if 
we do have some rough bumps like we've had in the most recent council 
meeting).

> 
>>>> I think that Gentoo should be run by a group of volunteers who are 
>>>> accountable to the volunteers that contribute (whether staff or devs).
>>> Ok, so I guess me being on the board. I am no longer a dev, or a user.
>>> Nor am I am volunteer. I guess I am going to get paid at some point?
>> No, you should not exist.
> 
> Ok, good to know. I will just go away, and let things get back to where
> they were. Things not getting done.

Hey - I for one appreciate what you're doing with the Foundation.  I 
think we do need the Foundation, but we need to be careful about its 
role.  I think that Gentoo needs to have a single voice and direction, 
and having two very powerful boards with different constituencies is 
likely to cause trouble.

> 
>> Again what the council received as proposal could be interpreted in a 
>> quite grim way.
> 
> That's for the new council to decide. If one is ever elected.

Uh, that isn't your call to make.  In fact, you should probably be 
careful as a trustee to state an opinion here as anything other than 
your own personal opinion (granted, shared by others).  I really don't 
like the trend I've seen lately where the Foundation is looking to hold 
the Council accountable for its actions.  The folks who should be 
holding the Council accountable are the devs - collectively.  I've 
stated my personal opinion on this matter, as have many others.  Based 
on the recent -council mailing list postings I'm sure the council will 
find and enact some reasonable solution, which might include elections.

And until elections are held, the current council is still the council. 
  Granted, any council is free to change policies enacted by the former. 
  The folks on the current council strike me as having good sense - 
they're not flying off the handle issuing proclamations when it is wiser 
to see what the consensus is and move in that direction.

> 
>>> Sure because they are there. If we lost one, and you could not commit
>>> code, or go to g.o, or etc. Then I think you and many others would care.
>>> Allot, and very quickly.
>> Then we'll find solutions.
> 
> And what do you think I am working on now? Waiting till it happens again
> to find solutions then? That's really proactive to a possible
> catastrophe.

Ok, so let's set up mirrors for some of the more critical services with 
different sponsors.  I think that is a better solution than having $100k 
in the bank.

>> Not really, you plan to get more people inside the foundation that can 
>> have some kind of power over the developers,
> 
> Give me a break. Not one of any of my posting has had anything to do
> with power. Just organization.

Uh, the Foundation legally has quite a bit of power already.  Legally it 
owns any Gentoo-owned assets.  Right now that is a bit limited by the 
fact that most of our gear is owned by sponsors.  If we actually do 
build out our infrastructure in the way you suggest then the Foundation 
will have a great deal of power.

Much of your argument has been around what happens if some random 
sponsor pulls the plug.  Right now that means we have to scramble to get 
some portion of gentoo running elsewhere.  Now, the counterargument is 
what happens if there is some major rift and the Foundation decides to 
force some distasteful change?  Now every asset of any kind needed by 
Gentoo - including the name - is gone and basically the devs need to go 
elsewhere and start over.

I think that the Foundation is best kept as a simple organization that 
meets a legal requirement and which is accountable to the same devs as 
the council.  In an ideal world I'd actually prefer that the Council and 
Foundation be the same body, but I don't think this is practical as it 
would require the Council to meet many legal standards in its various 
actions that are likely to cause delays in decision-making, and finding 
good volunteers to fill both roles might be difficult.

> 
>> People can have different opinion and wants to check if they are right 
>> the experimental way. Nothing wrong with it.
> 
> Yes but just like package maintanance. There are those that will cast
> their opinions. Then there are those that will actually do the work, day
> in and day out.
> 
> I love all these opinions, given the lack of interest for running or
> wanting to be on the board. I wish more that had opinions, were willing
> to put their effort where their words and thoughts are.
> 
> I have.
> 

Isn't this last bit the whole point of this discussion? It is really 
easy for me as somebody who doesn't do much on the Foundation to nitpick 
things you are doing.  You resent this, because my opinions aren't 
backed up by willingness to back up words with help.  And yet, your 
proposal is to have Gentoo controlled primarily by users who are in this 
exact situation.  Do you think that developers are going to appreciate 
having to deal with a foundation that is happy to make demands and throw 
money at problems, but not to actually do the work?  Most of us have day 
jobs involving this kind of attitude - I suspect that many contribute to 
Gentoo precisely because it DOESN'T work this way.

I really do want to do whatever I can to help make the Foundation run 
smoothly and not be a burden to those running it.  That is why I 
advocate having the Foundation keep to the very basics.  It should hold 
trademark and tangible assets since we need some legal body to do this. 
  If all it does is hold an election and annual meeting and file 
paperwork once a year I think it will have accomplished much of its 
purpose.  If the Foundation can do more that is great, but it shouldn't 
become the rudder for the distro.

The Foundation must remain accountable to developers.  Anything else is 
reasonably likely to lead to a long-term schism.  Yes, I am sympathetic 
to the fact that not many devs want to step up and help with the 
Foundation.  However, that can't be allowed to give the Foundation the 
power to set off in a different direction contrary to the will of most 
developers (which granted, hasn't really been measured).  The solution 
to many of Gentoo's problems is to get devs to listen more to the needs 
of their users - because it is the right thing to do.  Twisting arms is 
more likely to cause resentment than solve problems - as least in most 
cases.
-- 
gentoo-nfp@g.o mailing list


Replies:
Re: Foundation existence and behavior (Was: Section 4.1 Member Classes)
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
References:
Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- Richard Freeman
Re: Section 4.1 Member Classes
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
Foundation existence and behavior (Was: Section 4.1 Member Classes)
-- Luca Barbato
Re: Foundation existence and behavior (Was: Section 4.1 Member Classes)
-- William L. Thomson Jr.
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Updated Jun 17, 2009

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