15 Oct 2002 MikeGTN   » (Journeyer)

GNOME Membership Stuff

This still struggles on. It makes me sad to see people with far far better things to do being placed in a position where they need to waste more time on this issue. I've kept out of it - feeling that once I'd resigned from the committee I'd forfeited my voice. My intention in mentioning it here is not to stir up any more ill-feeling (there has been plenty already), just perhaps to vent a little. Its not well thought out. There is probably much more to say really.

  • Politics
    Inclusiveness is great. It's one of my sincerely held goals in my work. However, in the various professional associations to which I belong, my membership is also about my competence to judge issues confronting that society. I work hard to meet the requirements of remaining a member, and I'm justly proud of the achievement. If just anyone could wander in off the street, we'd surely be a more diverse group of people - but would decisions actually mean anything? The good thing about the current membership policy is that it seeks to ensure members of Foundation are active, interested and informed. The alternative viewpoint suggests that inactive people just won't vote - I don't buy that. Its amazing to watch people come out of the woodwork at election time, and isn't there potential for corporate influence if the membership is wide open? Not nearly enough people vote anyhow, and the figures would surely get worse and results become more meaningless the more bloated with inactives the list got.

  • So what went wrong?
    The policy was devised after the invention of the Foundation, so the majority of long-term involved people had joined up before there was a policy. Consequently, a lot of people had moved on, left schools where they'd had a net connection, moved jobs, or even (horrors!) lost interest in GNOME. The renewal exercise was long overdue, and was a huge test for a policy which had previously only really been tried on a handful of applicants. The stats bear out its inclusiveness - the majority of applications were accepted, and the rejected applications are largely pointlessly empty or clearly inappropriate. So, we faced a situation where a policy needed to be applied with equality, fairness and some regard to previous decision making. In most cases it worked. In some however it didn't. The people who got upset (invariably not the people who were rejected) didn't want the policy changed, they wanted people to be exceptions to the policy...

  • Personal Stuff
    ...which brings me on to this bit. I'm heartily sick of seeing people say that the committee, or me, or both were "on crack", mad, biased, inadequately informed or whatever. We were struggling to apply with some semblance of dignity a policy not fitted for the purpose. We tried to get people interested in its flaws but no-one was much interested. So a few big names got rejected, either for valid reasons (as per the policy in force) or for making life difficult and annoying by not just filling in the tiny form we asked them to complete to update things, or whatever. Now people were listening. Again I reiterate that people still didn't want different rules, they wanted their favourite hacker to be the exception to the existing rules.

    I was disgusted with the behaviour of some individuals in the wake of these events - especially one esteemed board member. The fact I got a hard time on IRC is not a big deal, nor really is the shitload of flameage which arrived. Its the fact that this is how some elements of the GNOME community want to organise themselves which is so irritating.

  • So is the committee on crack?
    Of course not. Mostly its people donating significant amounts of time to quite repetitive work in order to keep things running. The amount of discussion, fact checking and hand-wringing that goes on was masked by the fact that the deliberations were not public (it took this crisis to get membership-committee@gnome.org turned into a proper, public list at last). I note that even now the archives of that list are not listed on the index page of mail.gnome.org. I have every faith in the new committee members to continue this work, whatever happens. Now, if they get a good secure way to store personal data etc. they could do a fantastic job!

  • What Next?
    I await the Board's decision on a new policy with some trepidation. A lot of good ideas are floating around, but seem to be falling on deaf ears in many cases. A lot of willing and active people are also getting dismayed - far more people in fact than were ever rejected in the first place! Will I reapply for membership? I'd love to - and I know exactly who I won't be voting for next time around.

Other Stuff...

Life goes on. I'm 30 in a couple of days. It seems strange.

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