[Board] Re: [OSGeo-Discuss] Thoughts on standing down from the Board of OSGeo

Brian Hamlin maplabs at light42.com
Fri Sep 11 09:01:13 PDT 2009

Hi Jeff-

   recently, here in the United States, I had proposed to the Board of 
OSGeo a project .. That proposal pushes OSGeo out of its "comfort zone" 
I think, and calls for some thinking about what OSGeo might look like 
in five years..

   The vast majority of non-profit organizations are unfunded. They are 
purpose driven, may have important assets or place in a vital decision 
making process, but, no employees, no offices, no "market activity" in 
some ways...

   I'll briefly mention two things, but I think this might be the right 
time to talk about it a bit - the downside of a pure volunteer 
organization, and creating capacity ...

   Volunteers are a great feeling when it works ! but it doesnt always 
work.. and, as we discussed in detail at the Wiki Conference in 
Portland with Ward Cunningham, inventor of the Wiki, there are 
somethings that will *never happen* with volunteers, even if they are 
really needed! Because some things are just not interesting enough, 
easy enough, need additional resources, and a long list of other 
criteria yet to be discovered...

   Creating capacity is hard to think about, yet absolutely real when it 
happens. I will avoid the example that I am not part of, Sports, and 
instead bring an example that I am closer to, Medicine. You may have 
heard Arnulf say that he discovered that the National Hockey League is 
a non-profit. I dont know about "sports economics", but I know enough 
that there would not be a team branded shirt for every 7th grade boy 
that wants one, or a place strong enough to hold 10,000 screaming adult 
men safely, without capacity..

   I will talk about a hospital.. Many hospitals world wide are founded 
by religious or other public service organizations, who see the 
absolute need for providing quality medical care. Basics, like when 
someone is in urgent need of care, there is some else with training and 
materials, in a clean safe place, who is ready. And, since there are a 
lot of people, those places have to be very large. And, since the very 
best medicine involves very special and expensive tools and supplies, 
there has to be the ability to get them, etc.. This is capacity.. not 
an idea of health in the abstract, but the real ability to execute 
something in the real world..

   Many on this list will know about the software movement called Open 
Source.. far larger than just RMS and GNU, I have done some reading 
about it. Books like "The Success of Open Source" by Steven Weber, and 
"Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software" MIT Press do some 
justice to this large and growing topic. Here in California we have 
OSCon, a commercial convention, started as the Perl Conference, where 
this year, OSGeo presented as an OSS org for the first time.

  I present to the Board of OSGeo that there are opportunities to build 
capacity, and to have an organization that is not only a volunteer 
organization. It is up to the Board to decide if that is where OSGeo 
wants to go, and how.. As technical practitioners, there is sometimes a 
tendency to look at the work. I suggest that there is also an 
organizational opportunity to look at, and that is part of the role of 
an OSGeo Board member, too.

   best regards from Berkeley, California

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