[OSGeo-Discuss] Report from the OSGeo Board meeting

Frank Warmerdam warmerdam at pobox.com
Tue Sep 20 22:16:09 PDT 2011


I will let the other directors speak for themselves, I am not speaking
for the board, only as one board member.

On Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 6:51 PM, Gary Sherman <gsherman at geoapt.com> wrote:
> The elimination of the Executive Director position accompanies what seems to be a strategic shift in the operation of OSGeo. It seems such a move should have been discussed with the membership prior to implementation. Being and open and transparent organization calls for such discussions.
> Can the board explain how elimination of the Executive Director supports the new goals? Or is it solely a financial issue? Is there a strategic plan the outlines these goals and how they will be implemented?

Speaking for myself "strategic shift" doesn't mean much.   The
ED salary was larger than our regular income (primarily
sponsorships).  This came to be the case primarily because
Autodesk has faded away as a sponsor and they were our
dominant financial sponsor in the past.

In good years we make quite a bit from FOSS4G and some
years we make very little.  There is always a risk we will
actually lose money on it.  So I like to think of this as
"found money" and not depend too much on it in advance.

Even if we were able to barely finance the ED position I
was not happy with it capturing essentially all of our
directable money.  I have had many thoughts on things I
would like OSGeo to do, but I ended up not pursuing
them because I felt the need to hold onto the money so
OSGeo could continue to make payroll.

In past years we tried to get more sponsorships but we
had relatively little success.  In part I think that is because
(despite good intentions) we ended up leaving almost all
the fundraising work to Tyler and he wasn't all that successful.
He has been great at lots of things, but smooth talking
folks into big sponsorships, not so much.

If we had lots of money I would happily have had Tyler continue
in the existing role.  But given constrained resources it no longer
made sense.  We may try experiments with hiring someone
to pursue fundraising in the future, or perhaps to lead initiatives
that we think will motivate sponsorship.  Exactly what will happen
is not clear and there are a variety of ideas in this regard on the

On the broader point of "open and transparent discussions".  I'll
be honest, I'm not sure how to have open and transparent
discussions about the continued employment of someone without
risk of some people getting personal, or of unnecessarily putting
them on an emotional roller coaster.  As a board it was difficult
to get past the original private "sounding out" phase to open
discussion with the whole community.  Part of that is the dynamic
of a board where no one wants to step on others toes by going
public before there is consensus on going public.   Part of it
the challenge of having such a public discussion in a way that
isn't going to be destructive.  We aren't talking about and
internet hosting project - we are talking about a person.

Nevertheless, I'm not all that happy about how things went.

At this point I feel the need to tell a small story.  When I left
my last full time job lots of folks asked me why I didn't start
a company, hire some people and build a business.  Beyond
sloth the real answer is that I find it difficult to be responsible
for the full time employment of people.  People put a lot of
themselves into their job and inevitable it is difficult to lose a
job.  It can also through someones life into disarray if they
have trouble finding a similar job in the same area.  This
makes "taking someone on" a big responsibility in my mind
and makes the process of letting someone go be fraught
with risks and turmoil.  That is why I never tried to start
a business with other employees.   Like my father said
(ok I'm making this up) "never an employee or an employer

My point is that it isn't easy to go through this process in a way
that is going to make everyone feel it was done appropriately.

Once again, let me stress I speak for myself.  While we seek
to achieve consensus as a board, the reasons that inform
our decisions vary.

Best regards,
I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam, warmerdam at pobox.com
light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
and watch the world go round - Rush    | Geospatial Software Developer

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