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Old 02-13-2012, 05:05 PM
inode0
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

In preparation for making such a request I thought I'd just share an impression.

As the Board has become more open over the past few years, that
started long ago and has accelerated recently, the community is more
and more exposed to the thoughtful way the Board deals with various
issues that come before it. The Board demonstrates broad understanding
of issues, creative ideas about how to solve problems, and much care
to not step on the toes of those doing the work. All of this is great
for the community but as a side-effect it encourages the community to
want to bring issues before the Board for its consideration because
its feedback would bring new perspectives with consideration of the
possible impacts far and wide within the project to the particular
issue.

At the same time we often see issues come before the Board that are
routinely met with a "this isn't the Board's business" sort of
reaction. And I understand that often issues aren't in the domain of
things the Board is tasked with "deciding." It also sends a message to
the community to get on with it and make decisions without feeling the
need to get the Board's approval on everything. This has the opposite
effect of discouraging the community from raising issues with the
Board.

So, I'd like to see the Board be open to accepting requests for advice
even when it might not be an issue the Board is tasked with deciding.
Perhaps those asking for help from the Board could make it more clear
in their statement of the issue that they are just asking for advice
and are not asking the Board to make a final decision about something.
I see this as an opportunity for more engagement between the Board and
the community as well as a way for the Board to contribute without an
iron fist.

It won't be long before such a request arrives on your doorstep.

John
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Old 02-14-2012, 02:07 PM
David Nalley
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 1:05 PM, inode0 <inode0@gmail.com> wrote:
> In preparation for making such a request I thought I'd just share an impression.
>
> As the Board has become more open over the past few years, that
> started long ago and has accelerated recently, the community is more
> and more exposed to the thoughtful way the Board deals with various
> issues that come before it. The Board demonstrates broad understanding
> of issues, creative ideas about how to solve problems, and much care
> to not step on the toes of those doing the work. All of this is great
> for the community but as a side-effect it encourages the community to
> want to bring issues before the Board for its consideration because
> its feedback would bring new perspectives with consideration of the
> possible impacts far and wide within the project to the particular
> issue.
>
> At the same time we often see issues come before the Board that are
> routinely met with a "this isn't the Board's business" sort of
> reaction. And I understand that often issues aren't in the domain of
> things the Board is tasked with "deciding." It also sends a message to
> the community to get on with it and make decisions without feeling the
> need to get the Board's approval on everything. This has the opposite
> effect of discouraging the community from raising issues with the
> Board.
>
> So, I'd like to see the Board be open to accepting requests for advice
> even when it might not be an issue the Board is tasked with deciding.
> Perhaps those asking for help from the Board could make it more clear
> in their statement of the issue that they are just asking for advice
> and are not asking the Board to make a final decision about something.
> I see this as an opportunity for more engagement between the Board and
> the community as well as a way for the Board to contribute without an
> iron fist.
>
> It won't be long before such a request arrives on your doorstep.
>
> John


Hi John,

So I somewhat agree with you, and somewhat disagree - here's why.

The board often sees requests from folks who aren't involved in doing
the particular work and who haven't talked to the people doing the
work first, and essentially asking the board to intervene. This
particular type of request I personally don't want to see the Board
involved in. The Board has no true compulsory capabilities, and
honestly shouldn't meddle, and should encourage rather the people
wanting changes made to get involved and make them happen or at least
to talk directly to those doing the work.

If on the other hand folks who are doing the work come and ask advice
regarding things they are working on, or want to work on - I think
that's perfectly reasonable, but do occasionally fear that people come
seeking permission to do things, or that it will appear that some
permission is indeed needed, particularly by newcomers. The danger
here is that people don't feel empowered to get things done in Fedora.
I realize that it isn't at all what you are talking about, but it is a
worry at least for me.

--David
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Old 02-14-2012, 02:42 PM
inode0
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 9:07 AM, David Nalley <david@gnsa.us> wrote:
> Hi John,
>
> So I somewhat agree with you, and somewhat disagree - here's why.
>
> The board often sees requests from folks who aren't involved in doing
> the particular work and who haven't talked to the people doing the
> work first, and essentially asking the board to intervene. This
> particular type of request I personally don't want to see the Board
> involved in. The Board has no true compulsory capabilities, and
> honestly shouldn't meddle, and should encourage rather the people
> wanting changes made to get involved and make them happen or at least
> to talk directly to those doing the work.

Sure, I see your point. I guess you'll just have to keep saying this
isn't something appropriate for the Board to deal with as a group
unless all the impacted parties are involved.

> If on the other hand folks who are doing the work come and ask advice
> regarding things they are working on, or want to work on - I think
> that's perfectly reasonable, but do occasionally fear that people come
> seeking permission to do things, or that it will appear that some
> permission is indeed needed, particularly by newcomers. The danger
> here is that people don't feel empowered to get things done in Fedora.
> I realize that it isn't at all what you are talking about, but it is a
> worry at least for me.

I was imagining more the case where people are empowered but while
working things through over time feel stuck on something and just want
to see if some fresh eyes in the heads of smart people have any new
ideas that those grinding away doing it had a blind spot for and
couldn't see even if perhaps it is obvious to someone looking at it
fresh. Then a worker bee might take ideas back to the rest of the
group doing the work and say "hey, here is an idea from David, think
we should give it a try?"

John
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Old 02-14-2012, 07:59 PM
Max Spevack
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

Somewhat separate from the rest of the thread, which is why I'm replying
to the OP.


At the same time we often see issues come before the Board that are
routinely met with a "this isn't the Board's business" sort of
reaction.


I know that John is just paraphrasing here, but the truth is that there
are a number of times where all you see is something along the lines of
"not an issue for the Board" or "Board says that $PROJECT should do what
it thinks is best".


If I were on the Fedora Board, or the FPL, I would make it a rule that
answers like that are no longer going to be given. It's okay for that
to be the message -- and there are many times where it will be the
message. But my point is that there should be more.


If the Board wants to delegate a matter to another part of the Fedora
community, that's fine. But in making that delegation, a few sentences
about why the Board wants to delegate the issue should always be given,
as well as (optionally) any general thoughts or comments that the Board
or Board members have on the issue that they'd like to see considered.


This has the positive result of continuing to push decision making and
authority to the edges of the community, but it also has the benefit of
establishing an institutional memory of why things happen the way they
do, and can be instructive to future Board members who get a bit more
insight into how decisions are made.


--Max
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:27 PM
David Nalley
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 3:59 PM, Max Spevack <mspevack@fedoraproject.org> wrote:
<snip>

> If the Board wants to delegate a matter to another part of the Fedora
> community, that's fine. *But in making that delegation, a few sentences
> about why the Board wants to delegate the issue should always be given, as
> well as (optionally) any general thoughts or comments that the Board or
> Board members have on the issue that they'd like to see considered.
>

<snip>
> This has the positive result of continuing to push decision making and
> authority to the edges of the community, but it also has the benefit of
> establishing an institutional memory of why things happen the way they do,
> and can be instructive to future Board members who get a bit more insight
> into how decisions are made.


Hi Max,

I find myself in the strange and rare position of disagreeing with you

So you mention delegating authority or power, and I think that the
Board actually possesses very little authority inherently, and I think
that is a good thing. (But it really makes delegating hard when you
have nothing to delegate) The real power and authority is with the
people who are doing the work, so there is nothing to delegate in the
first place. Yes, as a community we've worked out a number of groups
(like FESCo, FAmSCo, FPC, etc) that organize and effectively act as
coordinators, but there's still precious little authority from a
traditional view point.

In my opinion, individuals who are doing the work have the ultimate
authority in Fedora. They make the decisions, and they are getting
things done.

What the board, and other groups hopefully do is inspire and lead by
consensus. They certainly have no compulsory power. However, weighing
in on every decision, or even informing folks we've decided not to
issue a writ of certiorari belies the real situation - and that is
that the folks doing the work should almost always be the ones making
the decisions, and (hopefully this always remains true in Fedora) that
we trust that those spending their time, most of them donating their
time, to Fedora can make good decisions.

I personally think that most of the requests (that aren't trademark
related) and to which the Board says 'this is none of our business'
fall into one of several categories:

1. People who think they need permission - this is rarely the case -
yes you might need to be a packager, or have access to some resource
that infrastructure might need to provision, but VERY rarely do folks
actually need permission from the board.

2. People really think that the board is really in charge in a
traditional sense - and they seek to have something about/within
Fedora changed, and so they have effectively bypassed all of the folks
doing the work, and show up on the footsteps of the board asking for
some change, a change we are often not in place to mandate.


I realize that I am preaching to the choir (and to someone with far
more experience re the Fedora Board), but I personally see the Board
as minders of the trademarks, and hopefully present to unblock people
who are trying to get things done, and that is the responsibility
we've decided to take on. Perhaps, as a board we'll also help direct
Fedora's future, I think we certainly have the obligation to look out
for the future of Fedora, but I don't think that having a Board seat
is a prerequisite for that type of leadership, as a matter of fact,
I'd argue that anyone can do so.

--David
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:50 PM
Max Spevack
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

I find myself in the strange and rare position of disagreeing with you



Rest easy, David! We don't really disagree on this issue. I just
communicated poorly.


The part about saying "and here's what someone on the board thinks" was
poorly written. I guess what I meant by that was, I could see the FPL
saying something like:


"The question of $FOO was brought to the Fedora Board. We really
believe that $FOO should be addressed by group $BAR for reason $BAZ.
However, it's worth remembering that the last time something similar to
$FOO happened, we resolved it by doing $X and $Y. This case is a little
bit different, but we'll continue that conversation with the group that
actually is going to make the decision."


--Max
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Old 02-14-2012, 10:36 PM
Máirín Duffy
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

Don't hate me, but...

On Tue, 2012-02-14 at 12:59 -0800, Max Spevack wrote:
> I know that John is just paraphrasing here, but the truth is that there
> are a number of times where all you see is something along the lines of
> "not an issue for the Board" or "Board says that $PROJECT should do what
> it thinks is best".
>
> If I were on the Fedora Board, or the FPL, I would make it a rule that
> answers like that are no longer going to be given. It's okay for that
> to be the message -- and there are many times where it will be the
> message. But my point is that there should be more.

'Not an issue, do what you think is best' with no other guidance can at
times come off as being a polite / well-intentioned 'we don't care' or
worse, 'go figure it out yourself.'

Sometimes you have a general issue around Fedora, and you want to bounce
ideas off of other people. Maybe you're seeking other folks interested
in solving the issue / discussing the problem space. People on the board
tend to be leaders in the project with the drive potential to make
things happen, and they tend to have a higher-level view of the project
as a hold than heads-down 'worker bees,' so don't they seem a natural
go-to group for these types of topics?

E.g. re DuckDuckGo on start.fpo, I was not looking for the board to
formally declare it to be okay or not. I was looking for a discussion on
the topic. I knew the websites team would consider it with good reason;
I didn't approach them because I wasn't sure if it DuckDuckGo was right
for Fedora. I wanted a discussion with a broader group on whether or not
it was right for us.

I expect conversations with the websites team to revolve more around how
technically feasible a switchover would be, what kind of effort would be
involved, how long it might take, and less about the big picture. I used
to think the board was about big picture leadership around Fedora, but
instead encountered mostly uninspiring administrivia when I served on
it. How can you possibly lead a project at a high / strategic level if
you deny yourself the ability to *do* and to hold any authority,
refusing to suggest to others what they should *do* in order to realize
goals that push the project forward? Certainly there's a spectrum
between 'meddle' and 'provide no direction for fear of meddling';
couldn't some of that spectrum provide potential for good leadership?

[Needless to say, this flows from the frustration & disillusionment I
experienced on the board. I don't mean to be out-of-line so I am sorry
if I am; this is my attempt at tough love.]

Cool things can come out of friends coming together and hacking on
things for fun without the baggage of a grand vision, but *you cannot
rely on that magic always or take it for granted.* Meandering about
aimlessly does not always get you somewhere you want to be [1]. Not
everyone can be a superstar/rockstar/whatever and carve the huge chunks
of time out of their life and sustain the drive required to champion a
big picture idea into a functional thing... and since this is a very
high bar, perhaps that's why it's not happening as much as we'd all
like. I mean, if you show up to the local park looking to play soccer, I
think most days you're going to find an empty field; if you are lucky
you might have a couple fun random games. It's the organization /
framework around organizing leagues and schedules and assigning roles
that I think makes the fun of soccer games possible on a larger scale /
more consistent basis.

I fear we are missing out on a lot of great 'soccer players' because
they show up to the Fedora field and it's empty when they show up. If
we're *lucky*, they'll ask if anyone wants to play rather than wander
off:

FUTURE SOCCER STAR:
Where's the game?

FEDORA BOARD:
Go ahead and organize a game! You don't need to ask for permission!

FUTURE SOCCER STAR:
Well, uh, okay. There isn't already a league I can join?

FEDORA BOARD:
Nope, you can create a league if you like, though. No permission needed!
Well. Except if you need to use the Fedora logo for your league and
jerseys, we'll have to okay that.

FUTURE SOCCER STAR:
Hmm. That seems like an awful lot of work. I just want to play soccer.
I'm awesome at that. I'll go look at other soccer fields.

I know a top-down hierarchy for a project like this makes no sense, but
a clear high-level direction with some support structure around it so
folks who don't have the luxury of huge time chunks but do have
something positive to offer can plug into that framework rather than
having to start from scratch with a shovel and a plot of mud. (maybe
this is why there are so many email clients in the world.) Sure,
fedorahosted.org helps, yes, the ability to create yet another mailing
list on our infrastructure sort of helps if you believe in mailing
lists, planet fedora and the wiki help, but these are not the level of
collaborative technology you would expect of a project with Fedora's
dire mission and DNA.

Note, I'm not advocating for bureaucracy here. I am trying to suggest
that if the philosophy driving the project's formal leadership is,'do
what you think is best' or 'we don't do things, you do' - then it
better be possible to do those things without requiring great sacrifice.
We need to make it easier to find new buddies with the right skills to
work on something together. We need to make it easier to communicate.
Better tooling. Build a culture around using that tooling. Maybe
institute regular cultural practices to enable better collaboration; the
barcamp format we have at FUDcons helps makes things happen, because
it's an opportunity to pitch an idea, any idea, get it out there in
front of a large group of smart and talented like-minded people, and
gather up a group of interested people. Sadly, it happens once every
year per region, and not everyone gets to go, and sometimes those that
do have a hangover and are rendered useless one of the three days.

What's the virtual experience then? Maybe FUDcon is months away, or
maybe you can't go. Should you be so inclined to try to sacrifice the
time required to attempt driving a cool project on your own, to have to
join and cc 3 or 4 different mailing lists when trying to drive a
conversation around it to try not to miss interested folks who are only
subscribed to one of the 4. (these kinds of intersections happen a lot
between say ambassadors, websites, design, and this list.) Then the
communication inevitably breaks down when the list denies someone
posting a reply to the 3 lists they aren't subscribed to.... you could
have a central project-wide list I suppose, but then the topics wouldn't
always be about stuff people cared about, and maybe the volume would be
too high. We need a better form of communication so we don't lose the
cool, brilliant ideas and don't suffocate them while they are still
nascent because of so much initial friction.

I used to spend at least 3 hours a week outside of a meeting soliciting
topics for it, devising an agenda and sending it out the day before,
sending out twitter / identi.ca / mailing list reminders, moderating the
meeting itself, manually re-reading through IRC meeting logs to come up
with a summary and action items, mailing them out to a mailing list,
making a blog post with the summary and pointer to the full logs, then
gathering all the blog comments / mailing list / other feedback and
re-presenting them as agenda items the next week. Oh and manually
cataloging each new set of meeting minutes in reverse chronological
order on the team wiki page, every month or so moving another month's
worth of minutes from the bottom of the stack to an archive page
organized by year. All manual (except for the meetbot log). For a
single, one hour long meeting. This is what it can be like to run a
fully-transparent weekly meeting, and it sucks for the person making it
happen, for the 'coach' or the 'league organizer.' It gets great
results, it allows everyone to participate easily, but does it really
need to be so hard? And then, when do you get a chance to play and rock
at what you're really passionate about (which is likely not copy/paste
IRC logs?)

Okay, as in all situations, everything leads to mailing lists sucking.
Sorry for the rant: I promise I only rant because I care so
passionately. Happy Valentine's Day.

@---`----`-----

~m

[1] and sometimes can lead people to think you've got an insatiable
appetite for braaaanes.

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Old 02-14-2012, 11:05 PM
inode0
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 4:27 PM, David Nalley <david@gnsa.us> wrote:
> So you mention delegating authority or power, and I think that the
> Board actually possesses very little authority inherently, and I think
> that is a good thing. (But it really makes delegating hard when you
> have nothing to delegate) The real power and authority is with the
> people who are doing the work, so there is nothing to delegate in the
> first place. Yes, as a community we've worked out a number of groups
> (like FESCo, FAmSCo, FPC, etc) that organize and effectively act as
> coordinators, but there's still precious little authority from a
> traditional view point.

I'm not sure how to say this exactly but I think you are missing out
on making a bigger contribution to the project by rejecting
consideration of issues even when they don't fall into some small
basket of things that you do have power over. I think this part of the
conversation applies to more than the Board too. I can't count all the
times I've heard FESCo members say to someone that whatever they are
inquiring about isn't a FESCo issue too.

If a contributor or a potential contributor is curtly brushed aside
they get a message but it isn't always one of empowerment. Often it is
one of rejection instead. Is it really so hard to say "I/we think this
is a great/stupid idea for the following reasons but it is something
that isn't for the Board to decide - you'll need to do X to make it
happen?"

> In my opinion, individuals who are doing the work have the ultimate
> authority in Fedora. They make the decisions, and they are getting
> things done.
>
> What the board, and other groups hopefully do is inspire and lead by
> consensus. They certainly have no compulsory power. However, weighing
> in on every decision, or even informing folks we've decided not to
> issue a writ of certiorari belies the real situation - and that is
> that the folks doing the work should almost always be the ones making
> the decisions, and (hopefully this always remains true in Fedora) that
> we trust that those spending their time, most of them donating their
> time, to Fedora can make good decisions.
>
> I personally think that most of the requests (that aren't trademark
> related) and to which the Board says 'this is none of our business'
> fall into one of several categories:
>
> 1. People who think they need permission - this is rarely the case -
> yes you might need to be a packager, or have access to some resource
> that infrastructure might need to provision, but VERY rarely do folks
> actually need permission from the board.

So say your idea is grand or your idea is hogwash or your idea maybe
could be improved by paying some attention to this thing. Oh, and you
don't need our permission but thanks for thinking about our feedback
when you make the decision.

> 2. People really think that the board is really in charge in a
> traditional sense - and they seek to have something about/within
> Fedora changed, and so they have effectively bypassed all of the folks
> doing the work, and show up on the footsteps of the board asking for
> some change, a change we are often not in place to mandate.

Even here I think you should consider the issue and share your
thoughts about it. If those folks ever do get together to work on this
issue they will be better off with your contribution to the cesspool
of ideas floating around in the project.

John
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Old 02-14-2012, 11:23 PM
Stephen John Smoogen
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

2012/2/14 MáirÃ*n Duffy <duffy@fedoraproject.org>:
> Don't hate me, but...
>
> On Tue, 2012-02-14 at 12:59 -0800, Max Spevack wrote:
>> I know that John is just paraphrasing here, but the truth is that there
>> are a number of times where all you see is something along the lines of
>> "not an issue for the Board" or "Board says that $PROJECT should do what
>> it thinks is best".
>>
>> If I were on the Fedora Board, or the FPL, I would make it a rule that
>> answers like that are no longer going to be given. Â*It's okay for that
>> to be the message -- and there are many times where it will be the
>> message. Â*But my point is that there should be more.
>
> 'Not an issue, do what you think is best' with no other guidance can at
> times come off as being a polite / well-intentioned 'we don't care' or
> worse, 'go figure it out yourself.'

On the other hand, pretty much every time the board does the opposite
and give guidance people seem to say that is some sort of unfunded
mandate that they have to live with.

Before being a board member,

me: "hey that sounds like a good idea."
others: "cool, but have you seen B".
me: "no I haven't. hmm I will have to look at that."

Being a board member
me: "hey that sounds like a good idea."
others: "dude the board is saying that idea A should be implemented. I
guess they think our idea B sucks. Time to crank out the email drama
farm."

I would blame this on email lists, but heck this occurrs on IRC, on
the phone, and FUDcons. Even when I or others clearly say this is our
own opinion and not that of whatever Board we are representing.

It makes serving on any of the boards: Famsco, Fesco, FAB all a
horrible grind after a while. Where taking any stand basically means
you get told by various people that you have alienated 80% of the
people who are on the project. In most cases that is not reality, but
man it can feel that way (and pretty much every person who has served
on these boards have said it at more than one point.)

Now how can we make this better? Because I can't see being able to
truly answer various questions before the board.

--
Stephen J Smoogen.
"The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance."
Randy Nelson, President of Pixar University.
"Years ago my mother used to say to me,... Elwood, you must be oh
so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I
recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Â*—James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd
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Old 02-14-2012, 11:26 PM
Rahul Sundaram
 
Default Requests for Advice from the Board

On 02/15/2012 03:57 AM, David Nalley wrote:

> I realize that I am preaching to the choir (and to someone with far
> more experience re the Fedora Board), but I personally see the Board
> as minders of the trademarks, and hopefully present to unblock people
> who are trying to get things done, and that is the responsibility
> we've decided to take on.

As I noted in the earlier discussion on pretty much the same topic, I
don't think that the board was originally formed with the idea of being
merely a administrative body with a limited scope as defined above. It
is fine for the board to limit itself but it would be useful to document
what the board believes to be its current responsibilities based on
consensus. This is where a charter is useful. I would suggest that the
board consider doing this.

Rahul
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