Open discussion: Proposal for NethServer Community Governance


(Rob Bosch) #1

Proposal for NethServer governance model:

The past 2 years we have discussed a lot about Community Governance. Until now NethServer Community didn’t have a formal governance model. But the community is growing and to keep everything sustainable, we do have the need for a more formal way of governing the community. But I think we have to stay close to our values of being an open community.

A bit of history on Community Governance and the discussion in our community:
The discussion started over 2 years ago. Back then we came to consensus that it was too early to formally go for community governance. But before the Community Summit last summer, the discussion started again, and over the years, the community grew and matured. We are now a community of over 2500 members, with over 500 active members. Time to have a look again at a community governance model.

When going through the process of finding ways to make the community sustainable and a home for anyone who wants to join, I went looking for information on how other communities implemented their governance.

I will list some options that already were mentioned during the previous topics on community governance. Please take time to go through all the links. This is an important topic and determines the future of our community. Only by getting all information on this topic, you will be able to form an weighed opinion.

First the topics in our community forums:





Also some background information on why governance is important:
THE TYRANNY of STRUCTURELESSNESS by Jo Freeman

As always also links to ‘how others implemented governance’, to get an idea of different approaches. I like cherrypicking, but not all implementations of community governance are that ripe cherries that we like. Have a look at different options:
Apache governance: https://www.apache.org/foundation/governance/
Ubuntu governance: https://community.ubuntu.com/t/governance/332
Debian governance: http://oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/debianleader
Fedora governance: http://fedorarepository.org/governance
CentOS governance: https://www.centos.org/about/governance/
OpenSuSE governance: https://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Guiding_principles and https://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Members

As you go over the examples of governance mentioned, you will notice that there is a growing amount of freedom in these examples. Since NethServer already is an open community and tries to be as transparent as possible, my proposal towards the NethServer Community Governance will be very close to the OpenSuSE way of running the community.

In the past 2 years we have had a lot of discussion already about Governance for our community. You can read back those discussions in the links posted above.
Last Fodem we were lucky enough to have a room for face to face discussion. You can review this discussion trhough https://www.pscp.tv/w/1mnGeXyMZYoKX thnx again @davidep
Also during fosdem there was a talk by Richard Brown, Chairman of the OpenSuSE community. His talk was a real eyeopener for me. You can watch the talk on the fosdem website: https://fosdem.org/2018/schedule/event/distributions_are_not_democracies/

My proposal for the NethServer Community Governance is as follows:

  • install a board that is responsible for the day to day running of the community. This board should contain an odd amount of seats. Each seat to be filled by community members that step forward.

To be discussed: The way of filling in these seats is to be discussed. If we look at the OpenSuSE community, a rule exists that a maximum of 2 members can work for the same company. This implies that the major sponsor of the community, can have a maximum of 2 seats in the board.
Since the NethServer / Nethesis situation is (IMO) quite different, I am unsure if we should copy this. The community members that are Nethesis eployees are also true open source followers and maybe should be able to apply for a seat. Another option could be to allow Nethesis to have 50% of the seats.

Another thing to consider is that leading a community is a huge task. If taken serious, it even is a full time job. Since we already have a professional community leader, I think it would be a wise move to assign the seat of community chairman to @alefattorini.

To be discussed: How many members should the board exist of? I see the board tasks mainly as a effort to keep the community thriving and growing. This is not exactly a technical task, more a community task. ANY community member should be able to get elected for a seat in the board.

To be discussed: To make it possible that ‘fresh blood’ enters the board, there should be organised regular elections. Question: what period of time would be appropriate to fill a seat in the board? Should it be possible to get elected multiple times in a row? Should there be a maximum amount of times anyone can run for a seat? Should the chairman be elected by the community or among the members of the board, by the board?

The mandate of the board:
• Act as a central point of contact
• Help resolve conflicts
• Communicate community interests to Nethesis
• Facilitate communication with all areas of the community
• Facilitate decision making processes where needed.

What about a technical board?
My proposal is to NOT install a technical board. In many communities there is a technical board that sets out the technical direction of the project. IMO this will only lead to conflicts because of different points of view. To bypass technical fights, I propose to make the NethServer project as free as possible. IF someone wants to have a feature implemented, and is able to produce a working package for that feature, there is place for that feature in NethServer. As always, even though the module has been built voluntarily, maintaining such a feature should be sustainable. If someone or a group of volunteers has created a module, work should be undertaken too to keep these modules up-to-date.
The place for these modules ultimately would be the NethForge repository. If a module should be added to the Core repository, discussion is needed with Nethesis developers.

What about current special groups?
At the moment we already have several groups in action. These are:

All these teams are open to join if an interest and dedication is shown.
The @ambassadors_group is a special team. It is only accessible to those that have shown dedication towards the community for a long period of time. The @ambassadors_group has the task to help the board with the practical part of getting new members to the community, making the community active thriving and a pleasant place to be. The @ambassadors_group will regularly review the members of the community and discuss internally if new members should be asked to join the @ambassadors_group.

Like the modules that are open to be developed by anyone, all groups, except the @ambassadors_group are open to join by anyone, IF motivation and dedication is shown by the member. The base will be: do the work then anything is possible.

To be discussed: Do we keep all these groups? Do we need other additional groups?

Any other options? Setting up Community governance is a huge task. I deliberately leave points open for discussion and stay away from pitfalls that are filled in in other communities. But in order to keep the NethServer community as open and transparent as possible, I am a firm believer in as little as possible rules and regulations. We already have proven that we are an open community and the activity we have speaks for itself that we are a thriving community.
We should stay as close to our current principles:
• Be polite and inclusive.
• Be open.
• Feel free to ask any question: others can learn from your question.
• Answer questions if you can, mention others if you think they can give a better answer.


So, what are you working on? - 13 March 2018
About Community/Project Governance
So, what are you working on? - 19 March 2018
(Rob Bosch) #2

reserved for future extra info

This discussion will be open for about 6 weeks. In this time anyone can put in his/her opinion. After these 6 weeks, around 15th of April, I will start a poll with options on how to structure the community governance for NethServer community.
This poll will be open for 2 weeks and will close on April 30th.
The first week of May the result of the poll will be published and a governance model according to the outcome will be formed.

Please feel free to jump in and make our community sustainable for the future.


(Rob Bosch) #3

(Davide Principi) #4

Who can be elected? Who can vote?


There are many points. I think we must find a convergence, shape 2-3 alternative proposals and vote.

I listened to OpenSuse talk at fosdem and I think it’s a good point to start with.

  • 5 board members, 4+1 chairman
  • chairman is from Nethesis (like Suse)
  • 2 members at maximum from the same company
  • elections every year, board members can candidate themselves again
  • Any Nethserverian with member badge can vote and be elected

(Rob Bosch) #5

That’s something that we have to discuss. Even IF we should have elections? (although I have a hard time thinking of another mechanism of forming a board, anyone has alternative ways?)

If we decide to elect a board, I can imagine 2 options:

  1. elect specific persons for each board position
  2. elect persons for the board and let the board decided who will fulfill what position within the board.

But before we get to things like this, the more basic decisions should be taken. Therefor I pointed to earlier discussions and examples of governance in other (opensource) communities.


(Mark Edworthy) #6

@robb,
Just been listening to the SUSE video and reading the contents of this thread, I am happy to see that NS is taken the issues surrounding governance seriously.

I will be very interested to see how this idea progresses over the next couple of months.


(Rob Bosch) #7

This could very well work. Just to be complete here you can find info on trustlevels in Discourse: An Explanation of Trust Levels

Member (2)

Members keep coming back to the site, and have participated long enough to earn complete citizenship.
They come back often enough that you know you’ll see them again soon – they can be trusted to be present enough to actively participate and be held accountable.

They can get to trust level 2 by…

visiting at least 15 days, not sequentially
casting at least 1 like
receiving at least 1 like
replying to at least 3 different topics
entering at least 20 topics
reading at least 100 posts
spend a total of 60 minutes reading posts

*Users at trust level 2 can…

Use the “Invite others to this topic” button for one-click onboarding of new users to participate in topics
Invite outside users to PMs making a group PM
Daily like limit increased by 1.5 ×

(Michael Träumner) #8

Hi @robb,
thanks for this great thread and all your work you’ve done for it.
What do you think about to sent a link to this discussion at a newsletter-mail to involve more people.
In my opinion it is a very important topic and as more people are involved as more it represents the meaning of the whole community.

PS: Next days I try to collect and write down what in my opinion the tasks of the community are.


(Mark Edworthy) #9

Didn’t @alefattorini start a news letter styled mailing list early last year?
What ever happend with that idea?


(James Nesbitt) #10

I haven’t gone through everything yet, but with regards to the Governance question - I think that OpenSuse is the closest to what we trying to achieve and it would be a good model or starting point to base Nethserver’s Governance off.


(Alessio Fattorini) #11

Of course! This year too :slight_smile:

March issue is coming, I just put the topic on the list


(Alessio Fattorini) #12

I love the discussion and what I think matters most is

  • don’t over-structure our community organization
  • create a governance that helps us to take the right decisions about the product and on the community
  • a healthy and thriving community is based on accountability. New commitments are welcome.

I’m ok with the board and the vote only if it’s clear what board members should do on the daily basis.
Given that they should serve the community and not the way around


(Mark Edworthy) #13

I have to agree with @alefattorini, I do beleive that the NS open source community shouldn’t be overly-structured and should be able to examine, consider and give a fair hearing to any critiques or comments (as well as apprecation) that is expressed by more junior members of the community.


(James Nesbitt) #14

Very well stated @alefattorini and @medworthy.

A simple and transparent and not over-structured is definitely the way to go.


(Alessio Fattorini) #15

Good advice here from Jono Bacon

recommend you start with a simple board of 3 – 5 people whose charter is focused on general community matters (e.g. handing sponsor funds, how the community is moderated, publishing policy etc). For technology communities, the board would not have any technical authority: that is for the developers to decide (this avoids impacts on engineering agility). You could grandfather in the initial board members, have them meet every month on a public channel, and log outcomes on a wiki. After a set period of time, open up nominations, and form the first independently elected board.

What do you think @robb ?


So, what are you working on? - 13 March 2018
(Marko Dargel) #17

I support the idea of a lean governance board. The idea underlines the professional approach of the current development team and the “evangelists”.

Before it is established, the objetives and the “business value” should be clearly defined.

Objectives could be:

  • Perception of the role of the product owner
  • Adoption of a development strategy
  • Determination of milestones in terms of content and release planning
  • very important: which target group should be addressed - preferably the professionals with a large technical background or rather the home users?
  • Communication strategy with the following focal points:
    –Structure of the community forum
    – documentary
    – best practices
    – Acquisition of sponsors and partners
  • possibly even a business model in the broadest sense in connection with a transparent financing model
  • licensing model

Possible business values in the figurative sense

  • Broadening the installed base
  • higher perception on the “market” and by potential users
  • Greater involvement of other experts in development and software maintenance
  • increasing refinancing of expenses
  • Development partnerships with universities
  • transparent requirements definition with open backlog
  • coordinated communication between developers and tailoring

Please take this only as suggestions for reflection. I do not know enough about the current structures and methods already in use.

Regrads, Marko


(Davide Principi) #18

I recently noticed the @support_team started to build some internal rules and I think their work is a model for our entire community.

This was just an idea. Today I’m thinking differently, I think about groups :slight_smile:

The “those who do decide” principle can become reality once group membership rules and scope is defined.

As someone else has already proposed (@m.traeumner?) , the new @board_team can be composed by members of other groups. I’d grant the right to vote board members only to members of other groups.

In other words the NethServerian citizenship can be awarded by people that contribute. We must work to make contributing easy, straight and effective.

People that contributed in the past become “emeritus”. They should always be welcome when they get the time to come back here. Joining their old group should be even simpler!


(Rob Bosch) #19

I tend to agree with @davidep. If we adopt the policy of : “those who do, are those who decide” then it makes sense to make the @board_team from votes from all the other teams.

We do have to consider the backdraws. In Jo Freeman’s anarchy of structurelessness, the big red flag is: creation of islands of power. Aren’t we creating those when we adopt this?

How can we propagate the need for members to join a team and be active? (besides the things we already do with activating people through mentions etc…)

To make such a construction work it there must be very low barriers for people to actually start joining groups. I love the ideas posted for the @support_team and I do think they should be adopted for all other teams too. Maybe they need some polishing but it sure is a good start.


(Michael Träumner) #20

Yes you are right, I mentioned this:

but @robb’s statement is right too.

As I wrote my answer at the other thread I thought about 1 person of every group that represents the group and their interests, so we have a speaker for every group. Of course it’s an island.
An other easy rule can be:

Everybody active since x days can be voted.

But who has the right to vote? In my opinion it should be the whole community for this scenario.


(Rob Bosch) #21

I think it is fair to limit voting rights to a certain degree of commitment in the community. Just like political elections, not everybody is allowed to vote. In political elections minors are not allowed and I think in most countries anyone without a legal status to live in the country isn’t allowed either.

We could adopt this by not allowing member level 0 (non legal/too short time/without activity residents?) and member level 1 (minors) to vote for @board_team
I think it is either this or election/representation by 1 member of each team.

Again, the role of the @board_team should be very limited. The community should be run through activity of all the members: Those who act, are those who decide. If you are not satisfied with a decision, make work of alternatives and convince others of your ideas and (more important) actions.