[Foundation] membership, money, and meritocracy

Peter Saint-Andre stpeter at jabber.org
Fri Apr 4 14:44:36 CST 2003

On Fri, Apr 04, 2003 at 10:17:24AM -0700, Peter Millard wrote:

> We aren't trying to strengthen the community, we're trying to strengthen and
> organize a non-profit organization.

This says things better than I did in my original mail. I think the
Jabber community is strong -- we measure it by all the people who are
active on the mailing lists, releasing software and code, etc. And the
roles that people fill are well-defined here -- they're coders, tech
writers, webmasters, marketers, testers, protocol geeks, advocates, etc.
All of this is important, and it is what makes the Jabber community so
vibrant and so diverse.

I think things are less well-defined within the JSF. As Ragavan says,
the only requirement of membership to date has been voting on certain
issues. While voting is nice, that is not what strengthens the JSF per
se. As far as I can see, the mission of the JSF is threefold:

1. Develop the protocol
2. Assist the community
3. Promote Jabber

(Some of these may have several parts: for example, the JSF assists the
community by hosting JabberStudio (thank you, temas!), running a big
Jabber server, posting news stories, answering email to info at jabber.org,
providing documentation, etc.)

So I think members should be those who contribute to the goals of the 
JSF (not necessarily Jabber in general) in certain well-defined ways.

I now think that collecting money from members is not the answer (even
from those who are representatives of commercial entities). Part of the
answer (and again, I provide this as a suggestion) may be that there are
no members except those who are working on a specific JSF team. Right
now there are three teams: the Jabber Council (effectively the protocol
team), the Marketing Team, and the Compliance Team. It may be that there
should be other teams for things like infrastructure, interoperability,
community relations, and finance. I'm thinking right now that there
should be no members except those who are on one of the teams, i.e., no
general members. If you are on a team and contributing, you're a member.
If you're not contributing, you should be voted off the team somehow. If
you want to join a team, you would need to get someone currently on the
team to nominate you, and then the team (or the full membership) would
vote whether to accept you. But there are no "general" members who are
not working hard on one of the teams.

Many of these teams would have open counterparts enabling community
involvement, as we have in the relationship between the Standards JIG
and the Jabber Council. Some perhaps would not (finance?). So those in
the community could be active in assisting in many activities of the JSF
(e.g., by giving talks to Linux User Groups to help promote Jabber). But
as Peter Millard notes, you can join the community easily enough: join a
mailing list, translate some docs, help out on the JADMIN list, write
some code (whether you release the source or not), etc. There are lots
of opportunities for strengthening the community. There are fewer
opportunities for strengthening the JSF, because those opportunities
involve a different and quite focused kind of commitment, which is not
for everyone.

The JSF needs money, yes. Why? To build a presence at conventions, to
host the community infrastructure, to create a compliance program, and
many other things that are in line with the JSF's mission. Much of what
the JSF does is not free. Although we really have not spent much money
at all in the last 2 years, it's only because IBM and Hitachi both
provided early support (and because Jabber Inc. paid or pays salaries
for people like me and temas and Jer) that the JSF has been able to
achieve what it has achieved so far. There is a lot more we could do,
and money will be required for some of those things. But I now think
that there are better ways to raise money (seeking sponsors, selling
branded merchandise) than by collecting membership fees.

So that leaves JSF membership as purely a matter of merit, which is as
it should be. Exactly how we determine who should be accepted as a
member of certain teams is not clear to me right now, but I do think
that membership should mean that you are contributing to one of the
JSF's teams. That is what really helps the JSF, and helps it a lot more
than money. Writing copy for outreach kits and press releases, working
on core protocols, writing docs, running the servers and websites,
providing technical assistance to projects and companies that are
writing Jabber-based code, developing and performing compliance tests,
and so on -- these are not necessarily fun activities, but they are what
make the JSF go. What the JSF needs is people who are active in these
areas. Maybe we haven't communicated that very clearly in the past. But
we're having this discussion to try to clarify this stuff.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. Jabber is a journey for all of
us, and in large measure we're figuring things out as we go along. We
also face new and different challenges all the time, and we need to
change and adapt in order to meet those challenges. Maybe a smaller,
nimbler, more focused membership will help the JSF do what it can do
best. Maybe some changes will enable the JSF to better assist all the
activity out there in the broader Jabber community. I think this is
true, but again I'm still not sure exactly what those changes need to

One thing that continues to impress me, and has impressed me about this
thread, is that people are passionate about Jabber. I love that passion.
It's one reason I do all the things I do for the JSF and Jabber in
general. You would never see such passion about AIM, MSN or SIP/SIMPLE.
This discussion is not about discouraging that passion. It is about
figuring out the best ways to run the JSF so that the passion can
continue and grow.

Anyway I'm out of time for today, so I'd just like to say thank you to
everyone who cares so much about Jabber.


Peter Saint-Andre
Jabber Software Foundation

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