Candidates Talk Frankly at Debate

7. Dec 2012 | Bryen Yunashko | No License

On 6 December, 2012, the 8 candidates standing for election of the 2013 openSUSE Board joined members of the community in an open Q&A Debate session on IRC.   The complete log of that event can be found here.

Candidates participating included:  Matt Barringer, Richard Brown, Carl Fletcher, Manu Gupta, chuck Payne, Robert Schweikert, Stefan Seyfried, and Raymond Wooninck.   The event was moderated by the openSUSE Election

Below is a summarization of the questions asked and answers given by various candidates.  Each answer represents an aggregate of the candidate’s total answers during a specific quesstion session.  To read in full flow context, we urge you to read the full log here.

How do you propose to improve communication within the community?

Barringer:  Work reports from the board sent out regularly to the appropriate lists would be a first start IMO.   After all, if people don’t want to talk to each other, they won’t talk to each other :-)  I don’t think the board can force anyone (or any team) to do anything.  Encourage co-operation between teams, sure, but at a certain point it’s all volunteers.

Gupta: The second thing I believe is encourage the community to ask questions to the Board..  between different teams or the same… if it is different teams, the teams should move forward and seek help when necessary.. like the news team will need the marketing team and the gnome team needs artwork for their wallpapers and themes.. somebody will have to step up.

Fletcher:  from my point of view if the candidate is well involved in the community already and has a good understanding of user needs, this will help.  In my dealings with the board as a forum admin, I have found them to be quite in touch with the community and they certainly worked well with us in the forum team to establish some good ground rules in the forum.  all of us here are well involved but a huge number of users that are new to the LinuxLand, not necessarilly opensuse members, just don’t really know about the communication we have (irc, ML), I meet many who don’t even know what irc is and couldn’t even set it up. Maybe we need a better news front, that could include a news letter from the board and it’s doings..

Payne:  I think we should should social media as a means to get the message out. With google translate, there should not be any excuse to translate any reports, messages so that everyone gets what the board is doing. I also believe board should have an open door when it comes to the community so that the community feel we are here for them.  We aren’t using a lot tools that could get our messages out to all the members, I like to see openSUSE News come back like when Mann ran it with PDF a coloum from the boards one what we are working on.  I have seen in the past the board seem to be a bit distant from the community that a lot stuff was only community in the irc channel. We need to be able to take what is spoke here and it out to the community.

Brown: We have some teams in the project who are doing a great job at communicating, both among themselves and between each other - the growing amount of chatter between the GNOME and KDE teams in particular.  I’d like to see more of that kind of open, collaborative communication, and that also means from the board - I like suggestions like Matt’s, people need to know what the board is upto, just as other contributors need to know what is going on in their parts of the project.  I think it should be within the capabilities of the board to encourage and hopefully foster better communication within teams. We’ve got good examples like the desktop teams, it might be the place of the board to nudge teams to follow similar practices if teams are struggling to have the same degree of communication

Seyfried:  I don’t have that proposal on my list :-) but as an opensuse-factory reader/writer, I’m participating in communication with a vital part of the community: the developers.

Schweikert:  This has many aspects, thus we need to have multiple solutions. There is no general answer. - The board needs to communicate better, we need to figure out how to improve cross linking of teams, i.e. developers/packagers with marketing/art-work with forums….. The communication issue probably needs to be an explicit topic for board/project meetings for a while and then we need to divide and conquer the various aspects. This is a very braod topic.  I think the board can suggest a path of communication, i.e. one spokesperson for each of the various teams, this spokes person send announcements/progress/work reports to the announce list for example

Wooninck:  I believe that it is not only the communication to and from the board itself. It is also the communication within the community and with SUSE itself. One improvement could be Newsletters from the Board about topics discussed,  I believe that the board can facilitate communication on team level. Most of the things that disrupts communication is that one team doesn’t know what the other team is doing. By providing a communication platform (Maybe even Social Media, openSUSE News, etc), this could be improved. I have seen this between Gnome and KDE teams. Once you identify common goals, communication will follow.

 How can the community evaluate if the board objectives are met

Barringer:  My objectives, like probably everyone elses, would be to a) Push forward a mentorship program and b) Open better communication channels.  The metrics would be: a) Did the mentorship program get off the ground? [Y/N] b) Are people happier with the communication from the board? [Y/N]

Seyfried:  obviously: someone has to define the objectives, and the board needs to report on the fulfillment.   The question is, if being a board member is something that’s attractive in such an environment.  The answer to the question is: the board needs to report on the fulfillment of the objectives. The judgement if they are met or not is onto the reader of that report.

Gupta:  My Objectives : Report quarterly, that should become a norm ; and transparency in cash dealings or a set up where we can work on cashes with SUSE / other sponsors so

Schweikert:  One objective is to establish objectives ;) From my point of view there are none today. Even in a volunteer “organization” I believe in accountability, from everyone not just the board. The board needs to agree on what is needed, then make it a priority, publicize it and work on it to conclusion. May this be a mentor program financial transparency or other topic.  The board needs to be more than a “reportor/monitor”. It is important to keep the hands on the pulse of the community, no question. But some things just need to be initiated by the board and then set free. Board needs to actively call for volunteers for certain intiatives.

Fletcher:  it’s a community, the objectives are driven by the community, the board needs to be listening and have good coms to best understand and interpret such

Payne:  I want to see the Foundation get set up finial it been talked about 4 years. I think once we do that then we can work setting up education programs for new users. Setting up better ambassador project.   Listening to the community on what works, that that feed back improve on it and share it.  we have SUSE Studio, OSB, and Google Summer of Code. All of which we have worked hard one.  I like to see getting more things out.

Brown:  one thing I’d like to bring to the community is the idea of defining a ‘Goal’ for the Project, possibly defining a target audience/use case for the distribution. the metrics for that would be, does the community agree with the need for a goal, and if so, does it select one?

Wooninck:  As the other candidates already indicate it that the main objectives are driven by the community. However the board elections provides already some objectives where the community can indicate whether or not they are important. Each candidate has it’s own goals/objectives of what he wants to establish when he would be elected. Based on the voting we should have quite a good picture of which goals/objectives are important for the community itself. The board should confirm them and report on them

Any proposal to improve the ambassadors program?

Schweikert:  There was a talk at osc12 concerning the revamped program, is this not sufficient?  The ambassador program is very important, I think everyone will agree with that and will certainly get the support from the board and any newly elected member. However, suggesting improvements to a new program (2.0) that has not really seen much light of day yet is a bit pre-mature.

Barringer:  I don’t know enough about the program to answer

Brown:  Certainly, warlordfff and others (including myself) have already been working on the Ambassador programme 2.0 - there was a good presentation about it at the openSUSE conference.  I’m not sure I understand the question then. There’s already a community effort to improve the ambassador program, it’s underway, I don’t see why it would need the involvement of the board at this stage, unless theres some problems I’m not aware of?  if there are any problems that crop up implementing ambassadors 2.0, heck yeah I plan to help out and get that programme running, but I’ll be doing that whether or not I’m elected to the board ;-)

Seyfried:  I’ll be honest: I don’t know much about the ambassador program, so I don’t have an opinion on it.

Gupta:  I believe Richard, Kostas, and Izabel to give their best. Also, recently Agustin seriously indicated a revamped ambassador program,  So yes there will be improvements :)  I believe is this programme should start off as soon as possible.. We can always shape the imperfections.

Payne:  I have a very special place for the ambassador program. I love us to give the tools they need. Right, I am sad to see we haven’t announce any new ambassador as we have in the past. I like to see the ambassador 2.0 place out so that everyone can read it and give feed back on it.  I like to see us create more pdf like how to install openSUSE, that the ambassador can print out and give to people a long with the DVD that they pass out. I like to see the ambassador become or like teachers so that when they go out they can educate everyone on all the products we have to offer, how to get more people to get into community.  I think if we have our own pdf magazine that would be a big plus for everyone.  The ambassadors our salemen for the community and the more tools and support we give them, the better we look**

Plans about creating a foundation

Barringer:  It would be really great to have a foundation, but I didn’t mention it in my platform because I don’t know enough about the problems that have been encountered so far in setting one up.  for finances, i can see it being useful.  Not having to rely on a company to handle the bookkeeping and legal aspect would be a huge positive

Brown:  a lot has changed in the last few years, SUSE’s status as a company, SUSE’s relationship with the project. A few years ago there were a lot of frictions which led me to believing we needed a Foundation to exert the independance I felt we were lacking at the time but time has moved on, things have changed, I think SUSE do a much better job of being a sponsor while giving us the room to be our own, independent, Project. If the community still wants one, I’ll support it, but I personally would prefer tackling just any ‘pain points’ which remain such as the concerns about money, receiving donations, etc - all of which I believe could have solutions that do not require a full foundation.  I’m not convinced we couldn’t do that anyway. I would rather investigate options like the Software Freedom Conservancy, rather than push for a full foundation which would have significantly higher administrative burden

Seyfried:  is there a consensus that a foundation is wanted / needed? I have skimmed some of the discussions over the last years, but I don’t seem to remember that there was an outcome?

Payne:  One, I haven’t seen or heard were we stand on Foundation. So I like to work with SUSE and see if can push to get started. I really think if we have the foundation it would help community over all.  I think that now SUSE is back as it own. That we will have the support and can move forward, but we need to see what work as been done. Pick up and move forward.  Ilmehtar, if we had the foundation we could help the project by getting funds to help the many different teams. That was talk that the foundation would be great for that.  maybe I am wrong, but if we had a foundation we could get money from the sell of things to help fund us.  without it, the money would go to SUSE like the money from Google Summer of Code, but I could be wrong.  anyway foundation would be a plus for transparency in my opinion.

Wooninck:  I agree with seife that the bigger question is if a foundation is still wanted / needed.

Fletcher:  *too many balls in the air?… whatever the community drives for must have a solid objective and reason, don’t just do it for doing it sake *or just do it because we like the sound of it..

Schweikert:  The idea of a foundation was born at a completely different time of the openSUSE project. Since the idea was born many changes have occurred at SUSE. I think the idea of a foundation is stuck in peoples head and while it was needed at the time the idea was born I am not certain this is still the case today. Further I am not certain that anyone, or collectively, we have taken stock an re-evaluated whether or not the foundation.  I also think many in the community are a bit naive about what it means to be a foundation. We are not going to get sponsors beating down our doors just because we are a foundation, to name just one example. Fund raising is hard work and requires dedicated people.  There are areas where things need to be improved, I do not see a Foundation as a silver bullet.

Gupta:  To really answer these questions I feel we need to ask ourselves a few questions.. What are the tasks related to it? Like Finances, More transparency, More paper work, More independence, More sponsors.. The second question is are we ready to have a foundation? I believe no, If you ask why  +1 Dec 06 09:46:43     Then my answer would be we never took the trouble to get independent while SUSE was with us.. so now I believe we should work on the smaller bits and maybe in the next 6 months or so we will be ready smaller bits includes reporting and maintaining small amounts of case. etc.. That would be my answer.  I say.. Foundation can be a consequence once we handle the more important issues at hand

Will board participation impact your participation in other openSUSE activities, time-wise?

Seyfried:  yes, it will, obviously: time spent on board matters will not be spent on packaging / bugfixing.  everything else would be just ignoring the fact that a day has only 24 hours and that there is a life beyond openSUSE :-).

Fletcher:  likely yes, but I have a pretty flexible day, everyday and my admin and mod team all give great support in the forum.  We are all volunteers (mostly) and it’s amazing the support we all give if you ask me

Brown:  I think it’s going to have some impact, but as I’m re-arranging stuff in my life to improve the amount of time I have to contribute, I hoping the teams I’m most involved in will probably still see a net increase in my activity.  even if I wasn’t shuffling stuff about - yes, there are people already ‘backing me up’ with my contributions in artwork, and of course the great group of gallant gnomers

Gupta:  So far.. Last year my only contribution was GSoC organizing and due to my sudden movement to Korea, I was not able to help a lot in GCI ; But I believe that was a transition period for me and I will continue to do this.. Furthermore, I am already talikng to last year’s GSoC admins regarding this so that if I am busy / unavailable, there is someone to take care of it.  I would limit myself to doing 2 or 3 things successfully rather than try everywhere

Schweikert:  Yes, I suspect there will be an impact on my other openSUSE contributions. However, when I see this impact occur I plan to ask for help. At this point there is no “backup” person.

Wooninck:  The board will indeed be taking a lot of time and this will reduce the time that I can spend on package maintenance. However I believe that the KDE team is able to compensate and I was only allowed to be a candidate if I promised to still spend some of the time on packaging

Payne:  I am only doing Ambassador work there are may of us. Plus, my work on the SELF board.  I wasn’t active last year because the birth of my daugter and change jobs, but I am getting more time to work again. I been do a bit of writing and I am will have time.

Relationship to open-slx

Brown:  I’d argue whether or not we’ve lost a ‘lot of members’ to open-slx - all of their websites community links point back to openSUSE community pages.  I think it’s nice that we make such a good distribution that they chose to make a derivative of it, and I’m pretty sure most of their contributors are still, directly and indirectly, contributing to ‘our’ project.  we’re an open source project - as long as they’re not breaching GPL or other licenses, isn’t that ‘take our stuff and make it better’ actually something we quite like? Heck, SUSE have Studio which makes thousands upon thousands of openSUSE derivatives.  the open-slx forums have 58 registered users, I’m sure one or two of them is bound to have contributed something back to openSUSE at some point, and if that hunch is correct that’s actually a pretty good rate of return.

Schweikert:   Loosing contributors/members is not a good thing, but also inevitable, people move on to other things for whatever reason. I was not aware that there was a particular problem with open-slx.  Taking openSUSE and building a product on top of it is a great compliment to our work, we should be happy about that. There will always be people that leave the project and move on.   Stephan used to work for SUSE, so have others. Some choose to stay involved in openSUSE, other choose not to. I am not certain there is much we can do as a board. Now if there is a “mass exodus” we have to look at the situation but having a handful of people leave is not what I would consider a “mass exodus”.

Barringer:  anyway, people should choose the distro that best fits them, and if open-slx is better for someone, more power to them.  The first distro I worked for recompiled RedHat packages.  SUSE started out similarly.  I can’t complain at all about open-slx.

Wooninck:  The KDE area didn’t loose any members to open-slx, but the loss was more due to the reorganization of the boosters team.  However we should have a look how this impacts the divers teams within the openSUSE project. It could be that if all of them were working in a particular area, that could create issues in that area. But in general you can not prevent people from switching distro nor community.

Payne:  well from what I heard, open-slx is taking the work of openSUSE and selling their box edition base on it..  we lost S. Mann to them, our new editor for years.  We have lost a few others. I know at one point Novell was were that they were trying to set up a new SUSE..   I been wiry about open-slx, I hate us to lose good people. I hate to see the work being taking with out them giving something back to us.  I haven’t seen open-slx give anything back, maybe I am wrong.  I know people are going to copy left, but it would be great to see them give back. Even it is just a little here and there.   I know the board can’t control it.  I remember how before there was a SUSE that the guys were helping out Slackware, because of the work they did, knew they could do a better job and created SUSE. BUt for a while you can see them giving back to Slackware.

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