My board nomination statement 2018

2018-03-23 07:21 More posts about Apache TheASF
Two days ago the Apache Software Foundation members meeting started. One of the outcomes of each members meeting is an elected board of directors. The way that works is explained here: Annual Apache members meeting. As explained in the linked post, members accepting their nomination to become a

director are supposed to provide a nomination statement. This year they were also asked to answer a set of questions so members could better decide who to vote for.

As one of my favourite pet peeves is to make the inner workings of the foundation more transparent to outsiders (and have said so in the nomination statement) - I would like to start by publishing my own nomination statement here for others to read who don't have access to our internal communication channels:

Board statement:

Two years ago I was put on a roller coaster by being nominated as Apache board member which subsequently meant I got to serve on the board in 2016. Little did I know what kind of questions were waiting for me.

Much like back then I won't treat this position statement as a voting campaign. I don't claim to have answers to all the questions we face as we grow larger - however I believe being a board member even at our size should be something that is fun. Something that is lightweight enough so people don't outright decline their nominations just for lack of time.

One thing I learnt the hard way is scalability needs two major ingredients: Breaking dependencies and distribution of workload. Call me old-fashioned (even though chemistry can hide my gray hair, my preference for mutt as a mail client betrays my age), but I believe we already have some of the core values to achieve just that:
  • "Community over code" to me includes rewarding contributions that aren't code. I believe it is important to get people into the foundation that are committed to both our projects as well as the foundation itself - helping us in all sorts of ways, including but not limited to coding, documenting, marketing, mentoring, legal, education and more.
  • "What didn't happen on the mailing list didn't happen" to me means communicating as publicly as possible (while keeping privacy as needed) to enable others to better understand where we are, how we work, what we value and ultimately how to help us. I would like for us to think twice before sending information to private lists - both at the project and at the operational level.
  • I believe we can do better in getting those into the loop who have a vested interest in seeing that our projects are run in a vendor neutral way: Our downstream users who rely on Apache projects for their daily work.
I am married to a Linux kernel geek working for the Amazon kernel and operating systems team - I've learnt a long time ago that the Open Source world is bigger than just one project, bigger than just one foundation. Expect me to keep the bigger picture in mind during my work here that is not ASF exclusive.

Much like Bertrand I'm a European - that means I do see value in time spent offline, in being disconnected. I would like to urge others to take that liberty as well - if not for yourselves, then at least to highlight where we are still lacking in terms of number of people that can take care of a vital role.

As you may have guessed from the time it took for me to accept this nomination, I didn't take the decision lightly. For starters semi-regularly following the discussion on board@ to me feels like there are people way more capable than myself. Seeing just how active people are feels like my time budget is way too limited.

So what made me accept? I consider myself lucky seeing people nominated for the Apache board who are capable leaders that bring very diverse skills, capabilities and knowledge with them that taken together will make an awesome board of directors.

I know that with FOSS Backstage one other "pet project of mine" is in capable hands, so I don't need to be involved in it on a day-to-day basis.

Last but not least I haven't forgotten that back in autumn 2016 Lars Trieloff* told me that I am a role model: Being an ASF director, while still working in tech, with a today three year old at home. As the saying goes "Wege entstehen dadurch, dass man sie geht" - free-form translation: "paths are created by walking them." So instead of pre-emptively declining my nomination I would like to find a way to make the role of being a Director at the Apache Software Foundation something that is manageable for a volunteer. Maybe along that way we'll find a piece in the puzzle to the question of who watches the watchmen - how do we reduce the number of volunteers that we burn through, operating at a sustainable level, enabling people outside of the board of directors to take over or help with tasks.

* Whom I know through the Apache Dinner/ Lunch Berlin that I used to organise what feels like ages ago. We should totally re-instate that again now that there are so many ASF affiliated people in or close to Berlin. Any volunteers? The one who organises gets to choose date and location after all ;)

Answers to questions to the board nominees:

On Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 01:57:07PM +0100, Daniel Gruno wrote:
> Missions, Visions...and Decisions:
> - The ASF exists with a primary goal of "providing open source
> software to the public, at no charge". What do you consider to be
> the foundation's most important secondary (implicit) goal?

I learnt a lot about what is valuable to us in the following discussion:

(and the following public thread over on dev@community with the same subject. My main take-away from there came from Bertrand: The value we are giving back to projects is by providing "A neutral space where they can operate according to our well established best practices."

The second learning I had just recently when I had the chance of thinking through some of the values that are encoded in our Bylaws that you do not find in those of other organisations: At the ASF you pay for influence with time (someone I respect a lot extended that by stating that you actually pay with time and love).

> - Looking ahead, 5 years, 10 years...what do you hope the biggest
> change (that you can conceivably contribute to) to the foundation
> will be, if any? What are your greatest concerns?

One year ago I had no idea that little over two months from now we would have something like FOSS Backstage here in Berlin: One thing the ASF has taught me is that predicting the future is futile - the community as a whole will make changes in this world that are way bigger than the individual contributions taken together.

> < - Which aspect(s) (if any) of the way the ASF operates today are you > least satisfied with? What would you do to change it?

Those are in my position statement already.

> #######################################

> Budget and Operations:
> - Which roles do you envision moving towards paid roles. Is this the
> right move, and if not, what can we do to prevent/delay this?

Honestly I cannot judge what's right and wrong here. I do know that burning through volunteers to me is not an option. What I would like to hear from you as a member is what you would need to step up and do operational tasks at the ASF.

Some random thoughts: - Do we have the right people in our membership that can fill these operational roles? Are we doing a good enough job in bringing people in with all sorts of backgrounds, who have done all sorts of types of contributions? - Are we doing a good enough job at making transparent where the foundation needs operational help? Are those roles small enough to be filled by one individual?

This question could be read like today work at the ASF is not paid for. This is far from true - both at the project as well as at the operational level. What I think we need is collective understanding of what the implications of various funding models are: Even if the ASF doesn't accept payment for development doesn't directly imply that projects are more independent as a result. I would assume the same to be true at the operational level.

> #######################################
> Membership and Governance:
> - Should the membership play a more prominent role in
> decision-making at the ASF? If so, where do you propose this be?

I may be naive but I still believe in the "those who do the work are those who take decisions". There only close to a dozen people who participated in the "ask the members questionaire" I sent around - something that was troubling for me to see was how pretty much everyone wanted

> - What would be your take on the cohesion of the ASF, the PMCs, the
> membership and the communities. Are we one big happy family, or
> just a bunch of silos? Where do you see it heading, and where do
> we need to take action, if anywhere?

If "one big happy family" conjures the picture of people with smiling faces only, than that is a very cheesy image of a family that in my experience doesn't reflect reality of what families typically look like.

This year at FOSDEM in Brussels we had a dinner table of maybe 15 people (while I did book the table, I don't remember the exact number - over-provisioning and a bit of improvisation helped a lot in making things scale) from various projects, who joined at various times. I do remember a lot of laughter at that table. If anything I think we need the help people to bump into each other face to face independently of their respective project community more often.

> - If you were in charge of overall community development (sorry,
> Sharan!), what would you focus on as your primary and secondary
> goal? How would you implement what you think is needed to achieve
> this?

I'm not in charge in that - nor would I want to be, nor should I be. The value I see in the ASF is that we rely very heavily on self organisation, so this foundation is what each individual in it makes out of it - and to me those individuals aren't limited to foundation members, PMC members or even committers. In each Apache Way talk I've seen (and everytime I explain the Apache Way to people) the explanation starts with our projects' downstream users.

> Show and Tell:

I'm not much of a show and tell person. At ApacheCon Oakland I once was seeking help with getting a press article about ApacheCon reviewed. It was easy finding a volunteer to proof-read the article. The reason for that ease given by the volunteer themselves? What they got out of their contributions to the ASF was much bigger than anything they put into it. That observation holds true for me as well - and I do hope that this is true for everyone here who is even mildly active.