[OSGeo-Discuss] [Incubator] Should OSGeo accept "benevolent dictator" projects into OSGeo?

Julien-Samuel Lacroix jlacroix at mapgears.com
Mon May 2 16:54:23 PDT 2016

I found this nice description of the benevolent dictator governance:

It's a nice read, but I want to highlight this part:

 > In many ways, the role of the benevolent dictator is less about
 > dictatorship and more about diplomacy. The key is to ensure
 > that, as the project expands, the right people are given influence
 > over it and the community rallies behind the vision of the project
 > lead.

Another good one from (linked from the above):

 > they let things work themselves out through discussion and
 > experimentation whenever possible. They participate in those
 > discussions themselves, but as regular developers, often deferring to
 > an area maintainer who has more expertise. Only when it is clear that
 > no consensus can be reached, and that most of the group wants someone
 > to guide the decision so that development can move on, does she put
 > her foot down and say "This is the way it's going to be."

 From my (really) naive point of view, the "benevolent dictatorship" is 
a do-ocracy were the committers get the right, or influence, to lead 
parts of the projects and where the "dictator" is acountable of its 
decision to the community. The key ingredients are the same as other 
governance :
- Be easy to contribute patches and features
- Be open on the direction of the project
- Be forkable

If someone wants to contribute a new feature, they ask the mailing-list 
and the committer responsible for this part of the software, not the 
"dictator", will approve or suggest changes. The approach is less formal 
than with a PSC, but still works the same.

This is of course an ideal scenario, but can be as open as a PSC, I 
think, as long as the project as a good "forkability".

Back to the incubation discussion, Rasdaman seems to have multiple 
committers and 2 main organisation behind it. What I would like to ask 
is, what's the "bus number". Is there a second (or third) in command 
that could ultimately take care of the project after the dictator's 
"end-of-term"? From my point of view, a PSC of 3, 2 being from the same 
company, is a small PSC and will probably lack a bit of variety in 
opinions. Is there any other key contributors that the "dictator" refers 
to when trying to get inputs and defer technical decisions?


On 16-05-01 07:29 AM, Jody Garnett wrote:
> This is kind of a larger topic than just the incubation committee, but
> no I do not believe we should. It is a defining characteristic of our
> foundation to not place many restrictions on our projects - but demand
> that the projects be inclusive and open to collaboration.
> I do not believe that the "benevolent dictator" fits this ideal.
> I also do not think we need to stress the PSC approach as the one true
> way, smaller projects that only wish to have committers vote on
> decisions (rather than form a PSC) is perfectly acceptable - provided
> there is a provision for new committers to be added into the mix.
> We also have an outstanding request from our president to make the
> foundation more inclusive. With this in mind we are a lot less demanding
> on our community projects - which provides a way for projects that do
> not meet some of our ideal criteria to be part of the foundation.
> --
> Jody
> --
> Jody Garnett
> On 1 May 2016 at 00:44, Cameron Shorter <cameron.shorter at gmail.com
> <mailto:cameron.shorter at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     OSGeo discuss, OSGeo incubation, OSGeo board,
>     I'm hoping the greater OSGeo community will consider and comment on
>     this question:
>     Should OSGeo accept a "benevolent dictator" [1] governance model for
>     incubating projects?
>     -0 from me, Cameron Shorter.
>     Background:
>     * As part of incubation, Peter Baumann, from Rasdaman has requested
>     a "benevolent dictatorship" governance model [2]. While "benevolent
>     dictatorships" often lead to successful projects, all prior OSGeo
>     incubated projects have selected "equal vote by PSC members".
>     Someone with better legal training than me might find "benevolent
>     dictatorships" to be unconstitutional according to OSGeo bylaws. [3]
>     [1] Eric Raymond's "Homesteading the Noosphere":
>     http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/homesteading/homesteading/ar01s16.html
>     [2] http://www.rasdaman.org/wiki/Governance
>     [3] http://www.osgeo.org/content/foundation/incorporation/bylaws.html
>     On 1/05/2016 3:56 pm, Peter Baumann wrote:
>>     Cameron-
>>     I understand where you are coming from, and your characterization
>>     is definitely correct. While our process is and always has been
>>     absolutely open to discussion so as to obtain the scientifically
>>     and technically best solution this "benevolent dictatorship" has
>>     brought rasdaman to where it stands now - it is designed by
>>     innovation, not by committee. Just to get me right, our model is
>>     certainly not the right one for every endeavour. Here it is the
>>     most appropriate, and hence we will keep it.
>>     As you observe, this model is not contradicting OS as such, and
>>     many projects run it. So ultimately it lies in the hand of OSGeo
>>     to decide whether they accept the existing plurality of approaches
>>     (in this case manifest with rasdaman).
>>     best,
>>     Peter
>>     On 04/30/2016 10:47 PM, Cameron Shorter wrote:
>>>     Bruce, Peter,
>>>     I've read through the incubation process documentation, and can
>>>     only see one thing which I think breaks our OSGeo principles.
>>>     The Governance model includes a statement:
>>>     "In all issues, the PSC strives to achieve unanimous consent
>>>     based on a free, independent exchange of facts and opinions.
>>>     Should such consent exceptionally not be reached then Peter
>>>     Baumann has a casting vote."
>>>     http://www.rasdaman.org/wiki/Governance
>>>     This is describing a "benevolent dictator" model, which has
>>>     proved to be an effective model for many open source projects.
>>>     See Eric Raymond's "Homesteading the Noosphere":
>>>     <http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/homesteading/homesteading/ar01s16.html>http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/homesteading/homesteading/ar01s16.html
>>>     However, it is not in line with existing OSGeo Incubated
>>>     projects, which have documented a "vote by PSC" as the defining
>>>     governance process. In practice, the PSC community debate
>>>     alternatives, and if needed, respectfully revert to reasoned
>>>     advice provided by the "benevolent dictator".
>>>     Peter, are you open to changing the governance model to a "vote
>>>     by PSC"?
>>>     I'd be comfortable with a "vote by PSC, with PSC chair being
>>>     given 1.5 votes to break any deadlocks. I'd also be ok with PSC
>>>     chair defaulting to Peter (as founder), until such time as Peter
>>>     resigns from the role."
>>>     Warm regards, Cameron
>     --
>     Cameron Shorter,
>     Software and Data Solutions Manager
>     LISAsoft
>     Suite 112, Jones Bay Wharf,
>     26 - 32 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont NSW 2009
>     P+61 2 9009 5000 <tel:%2B61%202%209009%205000>,  Wwww.lisasoft.com <http://www.lisasoft.com>,  F+61 2 9009 5099 <tel:%2B61%202%209009%205099>
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Julien-Samuel Lacroix
T: +1 418-696-5056 #202

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