[Mapbender-dev] Communicating on Dev (Was: voting for a new chair)

Arnulf Christl arnulf.christl at wheregroup.com
Wed Jan 10 09:55:41 EST 2007

Thomas Baschetti wrote:
> Hi,
> if Astrid wants to
> +1 from me.

I think before we proceed to vote we should spend some time discussing the issues Uli brought up. For some part I feel responsible for Uli's move because I repeatedly requested developers to move discussions to the mailing list which for any number of reasons simply does not work out. 

Motioning to vote for a new chair involves some time span for people to sort it out, additionally I suggest to ask nominees *before* proposing them in the list, etc. The PSC chair is an OSGeo officer and needs to be part of the Incubation Committee, etc. So this is nothing that we can get over with quickly. 

Before we have resolved *why* this does not work it does not make sense to waste yet another one of our limited supporters on the chair. 

I have talked to Uli and he consents to stay formal chair until we have worked out the issue. I hope this is enough to revoke Uli's the motion and the one vote we already received. If not speak up. 

Now on to the "why does it not work"?!

Looking at the commits statistics (currently not available but OHLOH http://ohloh.net/projects/3712 has as copy) Mapbender has four core developers, two very low level code contributors and several who do not appear at all because they contriuted before we moved to the new SVN in April 2006. The Wiki shows there are 61 registered editors but effectively not more than 10 actively contribute to the Wiki, docs, etc. Several hundred are on the user list and two dozen on this dev list. All in all a fairly good vommunity but communication on dev is dead in the water. 

The problem is that there is no need to do this as Uli and Christoph sit right beside each other. With the merger of the companies KARTAGO, CCGIS and Geo-Consortium this has developed into a governance problem as I now sit in the room next door to Uli and Christoph together with Astrid and Vera. 

This means that we have to open up and start to discuss everything here. There is no way around this although it might seem odd. Please read Carl Fogel's producingoss page 30 ff: "Avoid Private Discussions" (I copied the relevant parts below).
> Btw, my osgeo-account doesn't work an more, anyone able to help?
> Uli Rothstein schrieb:


Now to the points Uli mentioned:
>> Hello List,
>> the actual situation shows repeatedly that I have not enough time to 
>> do my job as chair of the mapbender project. First of all I have no 
>> time to initialize and moderate an active discussion - and the 
>> discussion is an existential part of Open Source projects. I know that 

We will need to discuss all and everythign that we do on this list. If anybody feels the need to get more information, ask. There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers. 

>> you all have precious little time but I think it would be very nice 
>> and very helpful if someone could do the job for me in the near future.

We first need to define what this job is before anybody can consent to doing it. Some guidance can be gleaned from general committee guidelines in the OSGeo Wiki:
I guess that the chair will be responsible to report the project status to the OSGeo board (first report: communication on dev sucks). Secondly get a road map and release plan hammered out or at least make sure that somebody does it. 

>> My proposal for the next chair is Astrid, she knows the organisation 
>> and the technology of the project and is able to manage all the stuff.
>> So if Astrid is ready to to the job or/and if someone of you could 
>> imagine to do that, please don't hesitate....

Astrid is already managing the releases. The last one has been schedules for mid November and it is still not there. This is not to say that Astrid is doing a bad job but that she already is doing quite a lot and will definitely not be no secret weapon that will solve all our problems. So again, lets first sort out things and then find out how to proceed. 

>> Best regards
>> Uli


Cited from Carl Fogel's "Producing OSS" page 30:

Even after you've taken the project public, you and the other founders will often find yourselves wanting to settle difficult questions by private communications among an inner circle. This is especially true in the early days of the project, when there are so many important decisions to make, and, usually, few volunteers
qualified to make them. All the obvious disadvantages of public list discussions will loom palpably in front of you: the delay inherent in email conversations, the need to leave sufficient time for consensus to form, the hassle of dealing with naive volunteers who think they understand all the issues but
actually don't (every project has these; sometimes they're next year's star contributors, sometimes they stay naive forever), the person who can't understand why you only want to solve problem X when it's obviously a subset of larger problem Y, and so on. The temptation to make decisions behind closed doors and present them as faits accomplis, or at least as the firm recommendations of a united and influential voting block, will be great indeed. 

Don't do it.

As slow and cumbersome as public discussions can be, they're almost always preferable in the long run. Making important decisions in private is like spraying contributor repellant on your project. No serious volunteer would stick around for long in an environment where a secret council makes all the big decisions.
Furthermore, public discussion has beneficial side effects that will last beyond whatever ephemeral technical question was at issue:
• The discussion will help train and educate new developers. You never know how many eyes are watching the conversation; even if most people don't participate, many may be tracking silently, gleaning information about the software.
• The discussion will train you in the art of explaining technical issues to people who are not as familiar with the software as you are. This is a skill that requires practice, and you can't get that practice by talking to people who already know what you know.
• The discussion and its conclusions will be available in public archives forever after, enabling future discussions to avoid retracing the same steps. See the section called “Conspicuous Use of Archives” in Chapter 6, Communications.
Finally, there is the possibility that someone on the list may make a real contribution to the conversation,

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