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

Hogan, Patrick (ARC-PX) patrick.hogan at nasa.gov
Fri May 6 14:57:59 PDT 2016

Dear OSGeo Community,

This seems a wonderful opportunity for OSGEO to do a bit of growing, and stretch those old limbs in a limber-up kind of way. Though they be not as old as some of us OS geospatial projects!

We are accelerating into a new world, one where climate chaos is a daily experience. We are already witness to the resultant mass migrations and accompanying specie extinctions, estimated at 200 per day and rising. 

At what point do we embrace our collective need to work together, encouraging creativity and adjusting adaptability for a world that celebrates our finite resources. This will take a ^cornucopia^ of open source solutions, regardless of the path used to grow them.

Might OSGEO be more adept at encouraging and supporting open source geospatial solutions, however they exist? 

A smart quote goes here, but I am at a loss for which one. Maybe something from the ‘Three Musketeers’ or better yet, a woman, such as Eleanor Roosevelt “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” To which I say, without a beautiful future, we shall have none. Open OSGeo Open. . .

Whether for naïveté or ignorance, much I do not understand. Humble apologies for that. Regardless, the future awaits our better nature or she’s not there at all. 


From: Discuss [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On Behalf Of Peter Baumann
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 3:25 AM
To: Cameron Shorter; Even Rouault; incubator at lists.osgeo.org
Cc: OSGeo Discussions
Subject: Re: [OSGeo-Discuss] [Incubator] Should OSGeo accept "benevolent dictator" projects into OSGeo?

Hi Cameron,

I tried very much to make the situation transparent. Maybe the notion of Principal Investigator helps here (cf Wikipedia - although biased towards medical science):

A principal investigator (PI) is the holder of an independent grant administered by a university and the lead researcher for the grant project, usually in the sciences, such as a laboratory study or a clinical trial. The phrase is also often used as a synonym for "head of the laboratory" or "research group leader." While the expression is common in the sciences, it is used widely for the person or persons who make final decisions and supervise funding and expenditures on a given research project.

I am the PI of rasdaman, and that will not change, also not indirectly through wordsmithing as proposed.

OSGeo is entering new domains with rasdaman, which is: scientific research projects. Like some other communities, these have existed long before OSGeo, and have their own ethics, procedures, and rules. It is unlikely that science will change and give up freedom of research based on its principles well accepted by the whole community. If OSGeo intends to change these in general then maybe starting with rasdaman as an isolated item in a vast universe is not the optimal point.

OSGeo may find out that it’s very special (although obviously not unambiguously codified) views constrain it to particular ecosystems. But I am not imposing nor judging. Just trying to explain.


On 05/04/2016 09:18 PM, Cameron Shorter wrote:
Hi Peter, 
Could you please answer Even and Johan's question. 

I'm happy to use another term for the governance model. "Does one person have ultimate control over the project? Or does ultimate control lie with a committee, possibly with a tie breaker vote designated to one person or one role (eg chair)?" 

Warm regards, Cameron 

On 5/05/2016 3:29 am, Even Rouault wrote: 
Le mercredi 04 mai 2016 18:34:27, Peter Baumann a écrit : 

HI Cameron, 

first, as this word has been used too often now, the current model has nothing at all to do with dictatorship. What is the suggested opposite, BTW - "dictatorship of majorities"? ;-) 

Actually reading http://www.rasdaman.org/wiki/Governance it seems the sentence that cause trouble is "Should such consent exceptionally not be reached then Peter Baumann has a casting vote." Does that mean that in case there's a tie in voting (which cannot happen with a 3 member PSC as currently), Peter breaks the tie ? If so, that seems acceptable to me (should probably be rephrased in a more neutral way to say to designate the chair of the PSC rather than a named individual). 

I actually see that Johan Van de Wauw asked the same question but this hasn't been answered clearly. 

Perhaps http://www.rasdaman.org/wiki/Governance could gain in clarity by defining precise voting rules (which majority, delays, etc...) As an example of simple rules (not necessarily to follow them, but to show the plain language used):

https://trac.osgeo.org/gdal/wiki/rfc1_pmc / 
http://mapserver.org/development/rfc/ms-rfc-1.html / 
http://docs.geoserver.org/latest/en/developer/policies/psc.html ). 

If it would at least be called a "technocracy", that I could accept: 

rasdaman has always been driven by purely scientific elaboration _and_ consensus orientation and respect. Genius rules, regardless where it comes from - this is at the heart of our scientific progress. 

It is the fundamental freedom of science that is at stake here. 

I guess that OSGeo needs to decide whether it can accept a model based on scientific ethics ...or not. 


On 05/04/2016 02:01 PM, Cameron Shorter wrote: 

Hi Peter, 

Are you open to considering relinquishing rasdaman's current "benevolent dictator" governance model? 

Many (most?) OSGeo projects that I'm aware of are managed similarly to your description below. 

There is usually a sage or two amongst the community, typically someone who founded the project. The sage(s)  have more experience with the project, and their opinion holds greater weight amongst the community. This informal relationship continues even with a formal Project Steering Committee. 

As you would understand, building a successful Open Source community involves a significant amount of mutual respect, and mutual recognition of team members. Community members typically show respect by giving extra weight to the opinion of founders, and founders often show respect and trust of their community by sharing project governance. 

If you are a good open source leader, and it appears you must be, there is little risk you will lose your current influence on the project. It’s also unlikely there will be an unresolvable difference between yourself and the community. But if there is, and the project forks, whether you are head of the official PSC or the new rouge PSC will have little impact on the final result. 

So please do consider adopting a shared PSC governance model. 

If you do wish to go ahead with a "benevolent dictator" model, I agree with Andrea's that we should put the question to OSGeo Charter members to vote, as it would be a new direction for OSGeo. 

Warm regards, Cameron 

On 3/05/2016 5:46 pm, Peter Baumann wrote: 
interesting discussion, with valuable thoughts! 

True, micro management is not the case in rasdaman - on the contrary, we are most happy about helping hands, and are constantly thinking about opportunities for process improvements. Personally, I am so much overloaded that I enjoy handing over tasks, and yes: with appropriate responsibility; in practice that means that we openly discuss pros and cons with myself being "primus inter pares" (first among equals). I have not received any complaint over the years that anybody would not get heard appropriately. Regularly I just need to lean back (metaphorically) and await the outcome of the discussion of the experienced developers, and add my nodding to the group consensus. 

We regularly try to involve the community in such design and implementation discussions (and I am urging devers to do that), but feedback invariably was minimal. Which I see as a sign of trust when looking at the download figures at www.rasdaman.org. 

It may be worth noting that we have installed mechanisms for openly commenting and voting on patches; ever clicked on the Review URL in the Patch Manager? 

Actually, it is more about deciding not by election, but by qualification. Concepts and code of rasdaman are extraordinarily complex; large and experienced companies like Oracle, Teradata, and ESRI have tried to copy rasdaman, and failed. Therefore, it unfortunately takes patience for a newcomer to immerse to a degree that allows making suggestions that are fully backed by the team. That said, we do not attach maturity labels to coders ;-), rather the technical merit of each individual contribution is weighted carefully. 

Another constraint, of course, are project considerations- there is a contract behind where ESA, the European Commission, or whoever-else expects fulfilment. 

Bottom line, the atmosphere in rasdaman is highly cooperative and consensus-based, I just reserve jumping in as a last resort. Someone has questioned the term used in this discussion as not quite adequate; I like the diplomacy aspect raised. 


On 05/03/2016 01:54 AM, Julien-Samuel Lacroix wrote: 

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 accountable 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. 

On 1 May 2016 at 00:44, Cameron Shorter <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. 

* 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": 
[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: 


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). 


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": 

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 
Suite 112, Jones Bay Wharf, 
26 - 32 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont NSW 2009 
P+61 2 9009 5000 <tel:%2B61%202%209009%205000>, 

Dr. Peter Baumann
 - Professor of Computer Science, Jacobs University Bremen
   mail: p.baumann at jacobs-university.de
   tel: +49-421-200-3178, fax: +49-421-200-493178
 - Executive Director, rasdaman GmbH Bremen (HRB 26793)
   www.rasdaman.com, mail: baumann at rasdaman.com
   tel: 0800-rasdaman, fax: 0800-rasdafax, mobile: +49-173-5837882
"Si forte in alienas manus oberraverit hec peregrina epistola incertis ventis dimissa, sed Deo commendata, precamur ut ei reddatur cui soli destinata, nec preripiat quisquam non sibi parata." (mail disclaimer, AD 1083)

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