Rich0's Trustee Manifesto - 2011
- Gentoo Developer for ~3 years.
- Amd64 Arch Dev
- Maintain a few odd packages
- Generally an advocate for a smooth stable user
- Gentoo User for ~10 years.
- Business Analyst in the Pharmaceutical Industry
- Formal education in Biochemistry (MS)
- First Linux experience was with Slackware in mid-90s on a
486SX with /usr symlinked to the CD on a UMSDOS filesystem.
- Recent modest participation in local LUG (Phila Area Linux
User Group - PLUG).
In the real world my job basically consists of making software
work for the users who depend on it - using IT to solve
real-world problems. Frequently this means working within both
technical and legal constraints (for good reason Pharmaceutical
manufacture is highly regulated - across multiple
jurisdictions), and delivering complete solutions of which the
technical component is often but a part. While I can enjoy
being a “legal nerd” as much as a “computer nerd,” in
the end it is getting things done that counts so I’m always a
fan of simplicity.
I will not claim to be a laywer by any stretch of the word, but
I do have a general understanding of US law and have some
exposure to non-profits/etc. I do think I know enough to know
when I don't know enough (and need to call for professional
help), and that is half of due-diligence.
My View of the Foundation / Trustees
It has been said that the Trustees are Gentoo’s “middle
management.” While I do believe that the foundation and the
formality of its operations are critical to the success of
Gentoo, I think that we also need to recognize that Gentoo is
first and foremost a volunteer community-driven effort. It
is important, therefore, for us to strike an appropriate
balance between the formality required for legal reasons and
where the handling of funds/property is concerned, and the
VITAL need to avoid stifling what should be a fun and
participative process for the vast majority of the community
that does not need to be as concerned with these matters.
I believe the Trustees also can play a strong role in the
community as an advocate for professionalism and polish. In
this role the Trustees should work alongside and within the
community as leaders showing the way, and avoid whenever
possible using legal or administrative authority to force
change on the larger community. I believe that most developers
can appreciate the value of quality, and they merely need
somebody to speak out for it from time to time. The use of
authority (whether by trustees, council, devrel, infra, etc)
should be limited to the rare exceptions.
I viewed the recent FOSDEM presentation on the evolving
relationship between the Trustees and Council and I support
this model (I think I’ve posted on the lists a few posts to
this effect myself). However, while legally the Trustees may
wield a great deal of authority it is imperative that the
Council and devs in general be given the greatest possible
freedom in carrying out the mission of Gentoo. We aren’t
handing out paychecks, and the foundation will always be just a
fork away from obsolescence. When dealing with volunteers
softer forms of persuasion must usually be used.
My Role as a Trustee
If elected to the Trustees, my first priority will of course be
to the status-quo operations of the Foundation. The Foundation
is a legal entity, and mundane matters like meetings, minutes,
and the odd renewal of the corporate charter are of course of
paramount importance. That said, I will be an advocate for
limiting the highest levels of formality for only those
activities for which it is legally required. In my experience
day-to-day working with government-regulated computer systems
I’ve found that failing to distinguish between legally
important and unimportant activities rarely leads to raising
the bar on the latter - instead it tends to cause sloppiness on
matters where we cannot afford it.
On the lists I’ll probably try to continue to be an advocate
for giving users a more polished experience (more thoughtful
use of news, commitment to quality, etc). One thing I’d like
to try to do is bring more attention to areas of concern, and
try to mobilize more of the community to deal with it (simply
kicking overworked devs when they are down doesn’t do
anything). I think that the Trustees can play an increased
role in getting more community involvement for non-devs. Full
devs will likely remain as quality gatekeepers for a while, but
we should make it as easy as possible for users to contribute
otherwise. As Roy and others suggested at FOSDEM - there might
also be opportunities to better collaborate with downstream
I have no illusions that I (or anybody else) can personally make
all of this happen. I think what is important is to identify a
couple of key community projects that the Trustees can push
for, and try to make tangible progress on them. If we try to
do everything at once we will just have a lot of mailing list
discussion and not much action.
On the Future of the Foundation
There has been speculation in the past about the Foundation, and
whether it should be absorbed under some larger umbrella
organization (SFC, SPI, etc). Such a decision is something I
feel that should be made with great consultation with the
Gentoo community as a whole, and of course will be a joint
decision of the Trustees. My own feeling is that Gentoo’s
needs are distinctive enough that we ought to maintain an
independent Foundation indefinitely. However, I’m all for
working with other FOSS organizations to try to find ways to
gain efficiencies/etc. If being part of an umbrella means that
Gentoo can pay a modest fee and get shared access to
lawyers/CPAs/etc and other legal necessities I think it may be
a good move. If being part of an umbrella means ceding control
over the direction of Gentoo I don’t think this is wise.
The contents of this document, unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under the CC-BY-SA-2.5 license. The Gentoo Name and Logo Usage Guidelines apply.