That's a pretty long response Bryce! :) I'll try to clarify my intent below. It is unfortunate that we cannot have these important discussions in person, and I hate email for this :'(
I remember Martin's "board-aggravation" email pretty well, and (if perhaps by the wrong method) it made me realize that I, we, the board, should take our responsibilities more seriously (or should step down if I don't want that).
On 29-10-2014 9:10, Bryce Harrington wrote:
On Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 10:13:02PM +0100, Johan Engelen wrote:
On 28-10-2014 4:58, Bryce Harrington wrote:
On Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 10:19:31PM +0100, Johan Engelen wrote:
Hi all, (just got back from a very nice long weekend at the GSoC summit in San Jose :))
We had a nice discussion with Brad and Karen over lunch at the GSoC summit.
Cool, can you give us a more elaborated report on your meeting with them?
What came up is having regular board meetings.
Why? What is the specific problem(s) that meetings would solve?
I will come back to this later, but the trigger for this was a discussion on how to resolve board inactivity. The FSA draft contains a section on how to remove people from the board (if the rest of the board so chooses), and we spoke about making a more objective 'rule' that would not require nasty discussions. One proposal was "miss 3 meetings in a row
For me, regular meetings could help reach timely responses or decisions. I think it will help underline the responsibilities as a board member, especially now that we start looking into funded development.
I think this
would be great for us and make things a bit more structured / easier to follow.
How would irc meetings make things more structured?
IRC's advantage over email is that it is *less* structured, which is better for freeform discussions.
Sorry for the ambiguity. I meant that regular meetings would force us into a more structured mode of operation. In my opinion, email threads are not ideal in actually discussing matters. I find often on our board and dev lists that arguments are not answered by counter-arguments, but rather by bringing more stuff into the discussion and after some time no-one knows what the discussion was about and no decision / end is reached. I hoped that a meeting would be easier for the actual discussing of matters. I agree with you that email is good when things need more thought or reading. An e-mail thread and then after that an IRC meeting would be nice, I think.
I did not intend the meetings to replace email. I intended the meetings for actually interacting with each other! :-)
How about we schedule a meeting (for board only) once every
month, e.g. every first Monday of the month? What do you think?
A monthly or bi-weekly meeting would be fine with me, if someone will volunteer to send out day-before reminders...
I'm recinding my 'fine with me' since some of the additional discussion has raised some red flags for me.
Monthly. On an easy, fixed schedule or with a new date determined at the end of each meeting.
One thing I wonder though, is do we really have enough to discuss as a group? This mailing list tends to be very low traffic...
Even if we don't have anything to discuss, that is fine. We can always cancel a meeting. But I am not afraid there will not be enough to discuss; every month there have been emails here.
Holding regular meetings implies that each of us must make time commitments to attend; this is not easy for everyone, who might handle the asynchronicity of email just fine.
Regular meetings also imply several additional chores, particularly if we want to do meetings "right". That means we need agendas set, reminders sent, minutes and vote results written and posted officially, irc logs archives, action items tracked and followed up on, and attendance issues dealt with. For mailing list discussions, none of these are issues and you just focus on following up on action items. Documenting our votes is pretty trivial - I just point to the mailing list thread.
Because I did not intend the meetings to replace email, these tasks are not necessary.
If we don't even know whether we will have anything worth discussing, then that's going to be a lot of overhead from all of us for maybe nothing. With mailing list "meetings", if there's nothing to discuss - presto, no email.
Each of us is busy, and by definition of being Inkscape developers we'd like to use our scant time to develop Inkscape. So we need to really consider whether adding more demands on our time managing meetings help us as a project vs. distract our attention from what we really want to do. We're developers, not managers. (Indeed, this is a big worry of mine with fundraising - are the resulting funds going to offset the effort and attention we spent in raising it to begin with? If so, then we ought to just kill the fundraising and focus on where are skills and interests actually lay, and go back to not worrying about the money.)
I am somewhat gun-shy about having formal meetings (either IRC or phone) due to past experience (WorldForge via irc, uncounted times at OSDL both phone and IRC, thrice at Canonical all phone). The first few meetings always seem to go well, but then attendance tapers off, action items fall by the wayside, and all the remaining responsibilities and everyone's unfinished action items devolve to whatever poor soul stuck around and attended reliably.
Also, I'm a bit concerned about attendance - the last hackfest meeting had only two people present. :-(
Board meetings are mandatory.
Bad idea. Making meetings mandatory doesn't make them productive or useful.
If you mean that adding the property "mandatory" will not make an unproductive meeting into a productive one, I agree. That is not the intent of making a meeting mandatory. A mandatory meeting would result in regular interaction between members, e.g. for obtaining an instant response to a particular question.
Look, we're all volunteers here. Many of us have day jobs or school, some are parents or have family needing care or like long breaks to travel unplugged or suffer some temporary hardship, some of us just plain get burnt out and need a break. Your life happens, and then Inkscape happens in the time that remains. And that's fine, you're a volunteer and the project is lucky to have whatever you give.
I agree, of course we are all volunteers. But I think that being a board member comes with responsibilities too, including a time commitment.
Making meetings mandatory goes against the reality of our real lives.
Besides, to make something mandatory you have to have some means of enforcement. We can't kick each other off the board, we're not each other's bosses.
As far as I understood, our FSA draft already contains language that does allow us to kick someone off the board. As it should, in my opinion. As we assume our responsibilities, we need to be sure we can carry them.
The point of scheduling board meetings, is so that we actually have meetings and that we can count on people being there, for example to vote on things. The meetings don't have to be long, if there is nothing big, 15 minute friendly chat is fine too.
Having discussions on IRC is of course just fine, and even organizing one-off group meetings for brainstorming sessions or hashing out differences or planning summits or etc. can be very productive and good.
I think the hackfest meetings are okay - they're voluntary, temporary, with a well-defined goal and specific due date.
But scheduling a fixed-point date and time meeting is liable to run into conflicts. Try telling your wife you need to come back from vacation a day early for your Inkscape meeting. Timezone conflicts can be harsh too (try scheduling Europeans, Americans, and Australians into the same meeting, I dare you). We are *not* going to be able to count on everyone being there all the time.
Well, we have only Europeans and Americans, so that makes it much easier. :) Of course no-one has to come back from vacation earlier. There are plenty of valid reasons why someone would not be able to join the meeting from time to time. If someone really cannot find the time for a meeting over an extended period of time, I don't think he is fit for being a board member. I think we should be able to schedule meetings such that each member can be present on most of the occasions, no? (for example, we could alternate between EU and USA convenient time slots)
In regards to voting, I think this will end up just complicating things for me more. Right now, all voting happens on the mailing list, where it's automatically archived and properly threaded, and each person's vote is traceable via a specific email to their email address and can be verified against their personal email archives. The entirety of the debate is archived in one place for future reference. The vote tally can be independently verified, publically referenced, and permalinks submitted to SFC. We have this all working fairly smoothly.
With IRC voting, all we'll have as an official record is the IRC log if someone remembers to save it and post it to our website. Your voter identification is via *ahem* FreeNode nicks. IRC logs can be quite easily tampered with (I should know: I do so every meeting before posting them to the website!)
And in reality I think we'd end up mixing some votes cast via IRC, and some via email by those who didn't attend. Which makes the voting process all the more complicated for me to manage, and for others to verify against.
Perhaps the voting was a bad idea, or what I actually meant was to force people to vote timely. It is easy to still cast votes (and write the to-be-voted-on proposal) through email.
(Just in case, I want to make clear that the hackfest meeting is something separate from board meetings.)
Perhaps we could do a trial run of say 5 meetings, and then decide if there seems to be plenty to discuss and attendance remains high through all 5, to continue?
Attendance should be mandatory, and so if attendance is low, that would mean something bad.
No, more likely it would mean that people just find meetings boring and useless. Which would hardly be a unique discovery. ;-)
-1 to mandatory meetings. We have no means of enforcement, and I'm not seeing the necessity. I think it'll end up consuming time better spent on development work.
Who feels strongly that we need to have regular meetings? And why?
I do not feel very strongly about having regular meetings. But I do think they will help us.
If there is a will to have these meetings, we can easily make them happen. If there is no such will, then this whole discussion is in vain anyway.
Throughout this, I do not think "not having time" is a valid excuse; as board members, I think we owe it to the community to reserve time for board issues, besides development. If someone wants to be a developer, that is perfectly possible without being a board member (and I reckon he will be much happier off).