Almost 2 years ago, at the first openSUSE conference, a discussion started about Strategy. A few months ago a final document was ready and on July 14th 2011, the strategy voting ended. Over 200 of the openSUSE Members voted, with 90% in favor of the current strategy document. What’s next?
It’s been a long ride, and we’d like to give a short overview of the strategy discussion in the openSUSE community over the last 2 years.
The strategy process was started after the first openSUSE conference, now almost 2 years ago. In that time, quite a number of people have participated in the strategy team: Michael Löffler, Joe Brockmeier, Kurt Garloff, Jan Weber, Pascal Bleser, Andreas Jaeger, Bryen Yunashko, Pavol Rusnak, Jos Poortvliet and Thomas Thym. Of course, many others contributed by commenting on the proposals via mailing plists, forums, blogs and other channels.
Initially, the team met weekly and focused on learning about strategy and how to apply it to a community project like openSUSE. A competition analysis was done, as well as an assessment of strength and weaknesses and an overview of the challenges openSUSE is facing was made. In May 2010 a face to face meeting was held and the team came up with a community statement and three different ambitious and narrow high-level visions that we planned to evolve and combine later.
These visions were then presented to the community and we hoped for new scenario’s to come from then.
Where the team started out quite ambitiously, trying to define new niches and a clear direction, it became visible that the majority of the community lost interest along the way. In November 2010, the team had decided to do an u-turn and
focus on describing who we are, as a community, instead of finding new ways to go.
The new goals where to:
Highlight the story behind openSUSE
Identify what users we target and illustrate what we offer to them,
Connect it with the issues that matter most to our community
New tools and lots of input
Much of the input given by community members throughout the process was looked at again and integrated in a first draft focusing on the target users of openSUSE. With this draft, a new way of discussing the document was introduced:
[co-ment](//www.co-ment.com/about/), a pretty awesome commenting tool under the [GNU Affero GPL](//www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/agpl-3.0.html)
Co-ment made it easy to give input on a specific sentence or word and discuss that in a structured manner, and a lot of input came in from the whole openSUSE community, with the second revision, introducing “what openSUSE offers its users”, and the third, “what does openSUSE not do”, each drawing in almost 100 comments on co-ment alone. More responses were gathered and processed from various channels like mailinglists, the openSUSE forums and many other means.
The last posting before the openSUSE conference attempted to shorten the document. At the conference, the strategy was presented and discussed. This re-invigorated interest in the strategy for some and a new team member joined the strategy discussions. Based on the feedback at the conference the document gained some clarity as well as a short introduction.
On the 20th of December 2010, the strategy team sent the ‘final’ document to the openSUSE board to facilitate the member voting process.
Due to the busy time before the openSUSE 11.4 release, it took a while for the board to go over the document. Some minor nitpicks arose and the new initiative Tumbleweed was added but after that the board asked Thomas Thym to start the voting. In the end, Jos Poortvliet put a vote on connect as Thomas was not openSUSE Member yet and the team announced the start of the voting. Shortly before the 30th of June, the deadline was extended to have time for a mass-mailing to all openSUSE Members. It had turned out that quite a few hadn’t noticed the strategy voting yet and the Board wanted to give them a chance to provide their input as well.
So on the 14th, the voting ended with a total of 204 votes, 90% of which were supportive of the strategy document (see table). As the voting page said, this support
does not mean that you have to fully agree or that it is exactly how you want it - we are a diverse community with many opinions and individual goals. We can never all agree on anything, unless it is so completely vague it doesn't mean anything. This document is the product of a compromise, but the team feels it does adequately describe who we are and where we want to go.
It does mean that the openSUSE Membership feels the document adequately describes the openSUSE community and what it does and doesn’t do.
“Having the strategy document in place provides the project an anchor to reflect upon when project questions and issues arise”, openSUSE Board Chairman Alan Clark said. “It is a very good reference point for those either new to the project or those wanting to capture a glimpse of what openSUSE is and why one should come join us.”
openSUSE - the world’s most flexible and powerful Linux distribution
We are the openSUSE Community - a friendly, welcoming, vibrant, and active community. This includes developers, testers, writers, translators, usability experts, artists, promoters and everybody else who wishes to engage with the project.
And then summarizes what we do as follows:
The openSUSE project is a worldwide effort that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. The openSUSE community develops and maintains a packaging and distribution infrastructure which provides the foundation for the world's most flexible and powerful Linux distribution. Our community works together in an open, transparent and friendly manner as part of the global Free and Open Source Software community.
After that, the strategy goes into more detail, talking about our target users, our philosophy when it comes to development, our focus on collaboration and the things we don’t do. While reading the strategy, you need to keep two things in mind: it is meant as an internal document - it’s not marketing speak. And it’s not meant to tell anyone what to do or not to do - we are an open community!
The team noted that the
strategy is of course not set in stone for eternity although we probably won't go through this process every year...
and asked for further feedback in the mass mailing to the membership. Some comments did indeed come in, most notably asking for the ARM port and mobile devices as well as the impact of the openSUSE Foundation.
In the future, the strategy documents will surely require some revision. Once somebody in the openSUSE community steps up to do an ARM port, which is likely to attract significant help, the document will have to be revisited to reflect this, just like Tumbleweed resulted in a change. And once a openSUSE Foundation is established it is likely this new organisation will become ‘owner’ of this document. For such changes, the firstname.lastname@example.org mailinglist is still open and it will remain so. Obviously a discussion can also be held on the opensuse-project mailing list or in other places!