[OSGeo-Discuss] Governance in FOSS, a broader view

Brian M Hamlin maplabs at light42.com
Mon May 9 12:33:21 PDT 2016

Hi -

  I have been reading small bits off and on about Rasdaman, and now some mention of an "OSGeo EU"

In general it is often useful to extract * assumptions * away from simple points-of-view on these important topics.. This "assumptions extraction" is difficult work, because participants must a) be honest with themselves and others, and b) discuss the "same words" over and over, because actually, different people do intend quite different things, when saying common words like governance. So it is tedious and aggravating to try to understand when someone says "A" they mean A+b+c  while someone else means A+0+2+4 .. it is even more difficult to discuss across language barriers.. 

My contribution here is this .. that individual leadership has many, simultaneous functions.. a few include: to make decisions quickly, to retain profit, to have control of important choices both technical and financial, to get recoginition, to inspire and prioritize, to design and implement the playing field as the project moves, and others..  The "benevolent dictator" could be part of many or all of those, in different amounts.. 

In Free and Open Source Software, many projects do in fact retain their "benevolent dictator" structure, but actually, the mix and amount of those ingredients above, are in different proportions.  The working methods of decision making, and the allocation of resources and profits, are in different proportions than other kinds of projects. The details matter. 

In Open Source Foundations, I think it is very rare to have a single person as a "dictator", but it is also very important not to divide into overlapping and competing organizations while growing. 

I leave it to those with current decision-making authority to work this out. but I will say, that I believe that the "benevolent dictator" model in FOSS has proven to be stable and effective over time, but the details of the actual operations of the project, including those characteristics listed above, with "fork-ability" maintained, are more the tests of authenticity. It is not simply YES or NO for benevolent dictator, it does matter how the whole mix is executed. 

Secondly, it is a serious mistake to divide a low-resource organization into parts that may compete, if the mission of the participants is true. So an "OSGeo EU" may be a terrible thing for the mission and for the participants, if done in a way that weakens the whole, or sets up competing dot-orgs over the long term. 

best regards to all, from Berkeley, California

Brian M Hamlin
OSGeo California Chapter

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