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osc09: Notes from Governance Session

September 18th, 2009 by

Today at the openSUSE Conference I took the notes of the governance session.  We will continue the discussion tomorrow but let me just publish the raw notes as I took them at the meeting without much editing.

Notes below:

What’s the current state? – Michael Löffler explains:

  • openSUSE Board has no decision power -> can advise, facilitate discussions
  • 99.9 % of decisions are made by maintainer, discussions on mail lists, IRC etc.
  • Example: Coolo as openSUSE Distro project manager makes many decisions

Group discussion starts – I have not written down who said was.

We’re doing good here.

No real written way of how decisions are done.

Reason for meeting:

  • Is process enough?
  • What needs changes?
  • How to change?

Governance means also talking of roles.  Some of the roles have been setup long in the past by Novell.

Compared to other projects: Those do the work, make decisions.

There are some roles that community cannot take part in, e.g. security team.

There might be different kind of governance inside the project.

The distribution is at the heart of the project.  There are still some areas that controlled.

Making a decision does not mean that Novell engineers have to implement it.

Do we want to create a new kind of structure?  Example: Team of product managers.

Btw. product managers listen to customers/users, see what they get on contribution and optimize process. Similar to a maintainer of an Open Source project that does not program. Linus could be called a product manager.

We want to work together – forking the distribution when we do not agree is not the solution.

Structures have to be effective.

If people can see that they influence the project and consider part of the project, it is success.

It’s not always clear to people how decisions are made – and escalated.
We have to describe how this processes work – clearly and how it works.

There are some decisions of the kind: Good idea, we’ll accept the contribution and need volunteers to do it.

Btw. what is the technical point of the distribution?  What sets it apart from others?  Why should I contribute to openSUSE and not to X?

Novell’s goal with openSUSE:
Ralf Flaxa: To have the technical best melting point of everything where we solve common problems and bring Linux forward with the freedom to have variation.  If openSUSE solves technical problems that bring Linux forward, it’s helpful.
As well private dream: Dream of showing the world that we can make money with Open Source. For openSUSE I love that we embrace others.

Goals for the distribution? We might write some of these up, e.g. we support choice and therefore several desktop environments.
Do we want to focus on getting new contributors – or on getting new users?

Some goals are implicit.  We also need to discuss high-level concepts and question publically – instead of deciding ourselves.

Are we using the wrong tools for making discussions? Open discussions on mailing lists do not seem to work.  There is lots of repeatition of arguments, meta discussions about the discussions etc.

Idea of consolidation: Say “We’re soliciting ideas, please send in your thoughts to email@opensuse.org.  We’re collecting input and present a proposal.”

Coolo makes some decisions – but also facilitates decision making between experts and listens to experts.

Issue is mainly not making decisions but conflict resolution.
Should we empower the openSUSE Board for this?

Let’s look at what other Open Source projects do.

Concepts of Core Teams?

Different ways of questions: Present your own opinion and ask for comments – or present choices?

Often the same people diverge every discussion.  Sometimes somebody just has to say “Shut up!”.

Idea 2 for discussion: Create wiki page with a proposal and ask others people to refine the wiki page.  Inform mailing list about proposal and ask for improvements and say you ignore comments on mailing lists.

Leadership in discussions is missing!  We need to lead to the discussions more.  Several proposals on how to create new concepts.

What happens if consensus can not be reached?  Should we empower the board for this?  What to do if the board does not come to a decision?  Should the board refuse to make decisions? Are there other questions that the board should decide on?  Should the board delegate decisions?

People should feel responsible for their area and make decisions – and respect others.

How to continue the discussion and move forward?

  • Take it to the board and ask the board for a proposal to present on a mailing list?
  • Let the members vote on the enaction of the final proposal and ratify it.  Otherwise we might have the board proposing a change and empowering themselves.
  • Discussion on a mailing list where only openSUSE members can participate and trolls get removed?

Idea: Invite interested folks to board discussion.  Interested were Michael Meeks, Zonker, Rupert Horstkötter, Jan Weber, Roger Whittaker, Vincent Untz, Cornelius Schumacher, Kalman Kemenczy.

Followup tomorrow, Henne to reserve room and lead discussion.

AI: AJ to blog this (done with this post).

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