[OSGeo-Discuss] The Yin and Yang of OSGeo

Jody Garnett jody.garnett at gmail.com
Mon Oct 16 08:44:14 PDT 2017

I think Maxi beat us all to answering and has spoken very well.

On 16 October 2017 at 03:11, Cameron Shorter <cameron.shorter at gmail.com>

> OSGeo Board Candidates,
> I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on these ideas. Most pertinently:
> 1. How do you feel about empowering OSGeo committees, avoiding over-riding
> committee decisions in all but exceptional circumstances. (Board members
> can join committees)?
Your question is a bit leading - in assuming an answer about over-riding.

I think we have a mechanism in place to empower committees:

- negotiating a mandate with the committee,  which can be revised as
required (we saw the conference committee take on an additional
responsibility this year)
- providing a budget for activities, although this plays a smaller role

By negotiating a mandate the board is empowering a committee, that
negotiation may or may not include the ability to over-ride a committee
decision. The incubation committee for example has a direct note about
independence. This is also why I am interested in seeing committee and
project officers covered by our insurance - each committee is provided
considerable responsibility and should be backed accordingly.

The key glitch, that I have talked through with several committee chairs,
is the realization how much responsibility their committee has - and that
the group do not have to wait on the board for approval. They have a
mandate, and are left with the the much tougher task of gathering together
and motivating our volunteers and contributors.

I do not want to over emphasis the role of a budget - we have direct
evidence that we are a volunteer driven organization in that our committees
lack active volunteers to spend the money they outline each year.

Board members, the individuals, can of course join committees. Keep in mind
they would then be operating as committee members (tracking the purpose of
that committee) and not be given any additional responsibility.

I also really like the idea of short term initiatives that are formed to
tackle a idea, and dissolve when the their goal is accomplished.  I think
this is a great thing for the board, or any committee, to do. I would love
to see more focused "initiatives" gathering together interested parties
from across our organization.

> 2. How do you feel about minimising the perception of board positions
> being considered as a "Honey Pot". Do this by avoiding having  board
> members be expected to attend events which require travel expenses, and
> hence avoid having board members being reimbursed from OSGeo.
This is tricky, I certaintly understand how this impression could be
formed. Once again this is a leading question where you have provided your
own preferred answer.

For some of our relationships OSGeo is expected to act in a professional
manner and send delegates to events, or provide someone "official" to
attend and speak on behalf of our organization. When we had a paid
representative this was easy, we booked a plane ticket.

For a while we moved to exhausting our president (often the same person who
chaired the board meetings) flying them around to perform this function.

We are currently trying out having vice-presidents in each region, it has
certainly reduced travel costs and allowed us to treat Venka with more care.

I know cameron that you have tried to create an "advocate" system where
each region would have a number of people recognized as being able to speak
on behalf of our organization. For my personal take I think *any osgeo
charter member* can be asked by a committee or board to speak and act in an
official capacity.

I like the idea of *any member operating in official capacity* being able
to be reimbursed for expenses. I do not mind if if that is at the bequest
of a committee or the board (hey the board is a committee too!). As long as
the committee is operating with in its mandate, and has secured budget or
sponsorship to act, please use what limited funds we have to be more

Let me try with a foss4g example, OSGeo project chairs have a
responsibility to attend the AGM and report (providing transparency in how
the project is doing, if there needs are being met, and how they spent
their budget if they requested one). In 2017 some projects met this
responsibility by sending a project team member who was already attending
the event. In 2018 I would like projects to consider budgeting for their
chair to attend the event, as part of the cost of being part of our

So I see your request to reduce board travel, and I answer with a request
to distribute travel better across our organization.

With respect to board travel, this configuration of the board was much more
effective in face to face meetings (and in hangouts) than in our
traditional IRC meeting format. As such it was the right decision to have
several face to face meetings - I am pretty sure the key benefit was being
unplugged from their day to day work responsibilities to have a chance to
focus on our organization. We can see a number of requests for a secretary
to make this format more effective. I instead recommend the board members
adopted a consistent chair and secretary between meetings; and nail down
action items coming out of any decision.

> 3. Do you think you can help empower people who think they can positively
> update OSGeo's vision?
This is tricky as you are asking about me personally, rather than the
board. The best thing I can do personally is extend people my trust and

> On 16/10/17 9:36 am, Cameron Shorter wrote:
> *The 2017 OSGeo Board elections are about to start. Some of us who have
> been involved with OSGeo over the years have collated thoughts about the
> effectiveness of different strategies. Hopefully these thoughts will be
> useful for future boards, and charter members who are about to select board
> members.*
> * The Yin and Yang of OSGeo As with life, there are a number of Yin vs
> Yang questions we are continually trying to balance. Discussions around
> acting as a high or low capital organisation; organising top down vs bottom
> up; populating a board with old wisdom or fresh blood; personal vs
> altruistic motivation; protecting privacy vs public transparency. Let’s
> discuss some of them here. Time vs Money OSGeo is an Open Source
> organisation using a primary currency of volunteer time. We mostly
> self-manage our time via principles of Do-ocracy and Merit-ocracy. This is
> bottom up. However, OSGeo also manages some money. Our board divvies up a
> budget which is allocated down to committees and projects. This is top-down
> command-and-control management. This cross-over between volunteer and
> market economics is a constant point of tension. (For more on the
> cross-over of economies, see Paul Ramsey’s FOSS4G 2017 Keynote,
> http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2017/08/foss4g-keynote.html
> <http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2017/08/foss4g-keynote.html>) High or low
> capital organisation? Our 2013 OSGeo Board tackled this question:
> https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/OSGeo_Board_:_Board_Priorities_2013#OSGeo_as_a_low_capital.2C_volunteer_focused_organisation
> <https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/OSGeo_Board_:_Board_Priorities_2013#OSGeo_as_a_low_capital.2C_volunteer_focused_organisation>
> Should OSGeo act as a high capital or low capital organisation? I.e.,
> should OSGeo dedicate energy to collecting sponsorship and then passing out
> these funds to worthy OSGeo causes. While initially it seems attractive to
> have OSGeo woo sponsors, because we would all love to have more money to
> throw at worthy OSGeo goals, the reality is that chasing money is hard
> work. And someone who can chase OSGeo sponsorship is likely conflicted with
> chasing sponsorship for their particular workplace. So in practice, to be
> effective in chasing sponsorship, OSGeo will probably need to hire someone
> specifically for the role. OSGeo would then need to raise at least enough
> to cover wages, and then quite a bit more if the sponsorship path is to
> create extra value. This high capital path is how the Apache foundation is
> set up, and how LocationTech propose to organise themselves. It is the path
> that OSGeo started following when founded under the umbrella of Autodesk.
> However, as OSGeo has grown, OSGeo has slowly evolved toward a low capital
> volunteer focused organisation. Our overheads are very low, which means we
> waste very little of our volunteer labour and capital on the time consuming
> task of chasing and managing money. Consequently, any money we do receive
> (from conference windfalls or sponsorship) goes a long way - as it doesn't
> get eaten up by high overheads. Size and Titles Within small communities
> influence is based around meritocracy and do-ocracy. Good ideas bubble to
> the top and those who do the work decide what work gets done. Leaders who
> try to pull rank in order to gain influence quickly lose volunteers. Within
> these small communities, a person’s title hold little tradable value.
> However, our OSGeo community has grown very large, upward of tens of
> thousands of people. At this size, we often can’t use our personal
> relationships to assess reputation and trust. Instead we need to rely on
> other cues, such as titles and allocated positions of power. Consider also
> that OSGeo projects have become widely adopted. As such, knowledge and
> influence within an OSGeo community has become a valuable commodity. It
> helps land a job; secure a speaking slot at a conference; or get an
> academic paper published. This introduces a commercial dynamic into our
> volunteer power structures: - A title is sometimes awarded to a dedicated
> volunteer, hoping that it can be traded for value within the commercial
> economy. (In practice, deriving value from a title is much harder than it
> sounds). - There are both altruistic and personal reasons for someone to
> obtain a title. A title can be used to improve the effectiveness of the
> volunteer; or to improve the volunteers financial opportunities. - This can
> prompt questions of a volunteer’s motivations. In response to this, over
> the years we have seen a gradual change to position of roles within the
> OSGeo community. Top-down vs bottom-up OSGeo board candidates have been
> asked for their “vision”, and “what they would like to change or
> introduce”. https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Election_2017_Candidate_Manifestos
> <https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Election_2017_Candidate_Manifestos>  These are
> valid questions if OSGeo were run as a command-and-control top-down
> hierarchy; if board made decisions were delegated to OSGeo committees to
> implement. But OSGeo is bottom-up. Boards which attempt to centralise
> control and delegate tasks cause resentment and disengagement amongst
> volunteers. Likewise, communities who try to delegate tasks to their
> leaders merely burn out their leaders. Both are ignoring the principles of
> Do-ocracy and Merit-ocracy. So ironically, boards which do less are often
> helping more. Darwinian evolution means that only awesome ideas and
> inspiring leaders attract volunteer attention - and that is a good thing.
> Recognising ineffective control attempts How do you recognise ineffective
> command-and-control techniques within a volunteer community? Look for
> statements such as: - “The XXX committee needs to do YYY…” - “Why isn’t
> anyone helping us do …?” - “The XXX community hasn’t completed YYY
> requirements - we need to tell them to implement ZZZ” If all the ideas from
> an organisation come from management, then management isn’t listening to
> their team. Power to the people In most cases the board should keep out of
> the way of OSGeo communities. Only in exceptional circumstances should a
> board override volunteer initiatives. Decisions and power within OSGeo
> should be moved back into OSGeo committees, chapters and projects. This
> empowers our community, and motivates volunteers wishing to scratch an
> itch. We do want our board members to be enlightened, motivated and engaged
> within OSGeo. This active engagement should be done within OSGeo
> communities: partaking, facilitating or mentoring as required. A recent
> example of this was Jody Garnett’s active involvement with OSGeo rebranding
> - where he worked with others within the OSGeo marketing committee.
> Democratising key decisions While we have a charter membership of nearly
> 400 who are tasked with ‘protecting’ the principles of the foundation and
> voting for new charter members and the board. Beyond this, charter members
> have had little way of engaging with the board to influence the direction
> of OSGeo. How can we balance the signal-to-noise ratio such that we can
> achieve effective membership engagement with the board without overwhelming
> ourselves with chatter? Currently we have no formal or prescribed processes
> for such consultation. Reimbursement OSGeo Board members are not paid for
> their services. However, they are regularly invited to partake in
> activities such as presenting at conferences or participating in meetings
> with other organisations. These are typically beneficial to both OSGeo and
> the leader’s reputation or personal interest. To avoid OSGeo Board
> membership being seen as a “Honey Pot”, and for the Board to maintain trust
> and integrity, OSGeo board members should refuse payment from OSGeo for
> partaking in such activities. (There is nothing wrong with accepting
> payment from another organisation, such as the conference organisers.) In
> response to the question of conferences, OSGeo has previously created OSGeo
> Advocates - an extensive list of local volunteers from around the world
> willing to talk about OSGeo. https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/OSGeo_Advocate
> <https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/OSGeo_Advocate> Old vs new Should we populate
> our board with old wisdom or encourage fresh blood and new ideas? We
> ideally want a bit of both, bring wisdom from the past, but also spreading
> the opportunity of leadership across our membership. We should avoid
> leadership becoming an exclusive “boys club” without active community
> involvement, and possibly should consider maximum terms for board members.
> If our leadership follow a “hands off oversight role”, then past leaders
> can still play influential roles within OSGeo’s subcommittees. Vision for
> OSGeo 2.0 Prior OSGeo thought leaders have suggested it’s time to grow from
> OSGeo 1.0 to OSGeo 2.0. Update our vision and mission.  A few of those
> ideas have fed into OSGeo’s website revamp currently underway. This has
> been a good start, but there is still room to acknowledge that much has
> changed since OSGeo was born a decade ago, and there are plenty of
> opportunities to positively redefine ourselves. A test of OSGeo’s
> effectiveness is to see how well community ideas are embraced and taken
> through to implementation. This is a challenge that I hope will attract new
> energy and new ideas from a new OSGeo generation. Here are a few well
> considered ideas that have been presented to date that we can start from: -
> Michael Gerlek July 2015, “We won. It's time for OSGeo 2.0”,
> https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-July/014521.html
> <https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-July/014521.html> - Darrell
> Fuhriman: September 2015, “OSGeo is becoming irrelevant. Here's why. Let's
> fix it.”
> https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-September/032616.html
> <https://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-September/032616.html> -
> Marc Vloemans, March 2014, OSGeo Marketing Analysis,
> https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Talk:Marketing_Committee
> <https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Talk:Marketing_Committee> - OSGeo Board of
> 2013, “OSGeo Board Priorities”,
> http://cameronshorter.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/osgeo-board-priorities.html
> <http://cameronshorter.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/osgeo-board-priorities.html>
> - (There are a few more which I haven’t located - please do suggest them).
> Recommendations So where does this leave us. - Let’s recognise that OSGeo
> is an Open Source community, and we organise ourselves best with bottom-up
> Meritocracy and Do-ocracy. - Wherever possible, decisions should be made at
> the committee, chapter or project level, with the board merely providing
> hands-off oversight. This empowers and enables our sub-communities. - Let’s
> identify strategic topics where the OSGeo board would benefit from
> consultation with charter membership and work out how this could be
> accomplished efficiently and effectively. - Let’s embrace and encourage new
> blood into our leadership ranks, while retaining access to our wise old
> white beards.   - The one top-down task for the board is based around
> allocation of OSGeo’s (minimal) budget. --  Cameron Shorter Open
> Technologies Consultant Geospatial & Software Architect Information
> Demystifier M +61 (0) 419 142 254 <+61%20419%20142%20254>
> http://shorter.net <http://shorter.net> *
> --
> Cameron Shorter
> Open Technologies Consultant
> Geospatial & Software Architect
> Information Demystifier
> M +61 (0) 419 142 254 <+61%20419%20142%20254>http://shorter.net
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.osgeo.org
> https://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
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