[OSGeo-Discuss] The Yin and Yang of OSGeo

Dirk Frigne dirk.frigne at geosparc.com
Tue Oct 17 05:03:55 PDT 2017


Thank you for your questions,

1. How do you feel about empowering OSGeo committees, avoiding
over-riding committee decisions in all but exceptional circumstances.
(Board members can join committees)?

I think I answered this question in another thread.
I repeat (sorry for cross thread posting):

A great asset for a board member (but this is true for every OSGeo
member) is the ability to think from the perspective of 'the other'. If
you are a public servant, think as a small business owner or a
scientific researcher. If you are employed by a university, think as if
you have to make your living out of open source software. If you are a
business owner, think how you can collaborate with others and return
value and results back to the community.

We should work on this so we, as a community adopt this respectfully way
of thinking.

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.

I have 2 answers for this question.
My first vision: if OSGeo considers itselves as a professional
organisation, we should respect the work that people do for the
organisation, and in our current economical world, tat means they should
be reinbursed for their expenses, and even be payed for the operational
work they do.

My second vision:
I understand that this is not compatible with the way we, as a
community, are thinking about volunteering. So it should be the
responsability of the volunteers to decide if they want to represent
OSGeo or do some other operational tasks in name of OSGeo in their own

None of those visions are perfect. The reality today lies somwhere in
the middle and I count on the honour of the members of the board to
decide wisely on these matters. An important principle is hte conflict
of interest. Never decide when you have a personel advantage (which is
always the case when you are self the subject of reimbursment.
And don't restrict the rules to board members. What counts for board
members should count for everybody.
Actually, what I want to work on, is an ecosystem where nobody get a
'disadvantage' when working on OSGeo related tasks.

Let me explain by an example:
If an employee has to take a day off to go to the foss4g conference or a
code sprint, he should be eligible for a travel grant or even a
committing fee if being asked to do something from the community.

If a company, university or public organisation allows their personell
to attend a code sprint, OSGeo should recognise that by ginvinf that
company some publicity as a sponsor.

This example is to simple to be valuable, and I agree we are far from
such a system. But in my vision, we should discuss and evolve towards
that direction. Without forgetting our most valuable feature: people
love and enjoy to go to a foss4g conference. I always get great feedback
from first time visitors. This is also a way to pay back from our
organisation to their members.

I am sure we have a lot of smart and well spoken members that can use
these thoughts to make something valuable out of it.

> 3. Do you think you can help empower people who think they can
> positively update OSGeo's vision?

In stead of answering this question, I want to post another important
topic which is in my opinion not adopted at all:

AI (Artificail Intelligence) is evolving very fast nowadays and
companies like Google are the best students in town to learn about how
communities work (they really do ... I am jealous on how they manage
it). But they are *not* open. And it would be a pity that the people
adopting open community principles, would loose the game to a couple of
entrepreneurs, working from their single perspective in the classic
hierarchic way.
This is a personnel mantra of me, and I am not sure our community is
already open to discuss this as something we should act upon.
When we started the geomajas project, we could write technology which
was better than Google maps. Today, 9 years later, I am not sure we
could beat this smart machine, although I think we have very smart
technical skills amongst our members. What we miss is the ability to
organise our strength.


On 16-10-17 12:11, Cameron Shorter wrote:
> 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)?
> 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.
> 3. Do you think you can help empower people who think they can
> positively update OSGeo's vision?
> Cheers, Cameron
> 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)
>> 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
>> 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 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
>> 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
>>  *
>>     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
>>  *
>>     Marc Vloemans, March 2014, OSGeo Marketing Analysis,
>>     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
>>  *
>>     (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
>> http://shorter.net
>> * 
> -- 
> Cameron Shorter
> Open Technologies Consultant
> Geospatial & Software Architect
> Information Demystifier
> M +61 (0) 419 142 254
> http://shorter.net
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.osgeo.org
> https://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss

Yours sincerely,

ir. Dirk Frigne
CEO @geosparc

Geosparc n.v.
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