[Members] minutes of XSF Annual Meeting, 2009-10-06

Dave Cridland dave at cridland.net
Wed Oct 7 05:37:41 CDT 2009


Mickaël,

I'm afraid I'll deeply upset you by agreeing with you, for the most  
part.

On Wed Oct  7 08:38:16 2009, Mickaël Rémond wrote:
> However, I feel that the XSF should go toward a more neutral, more   
> open and more professional approach of the organisation. Keeping  
> the  organisation this way in an informal mode made some bug  
> organisation  (some of them being customers so I am aware of it)  
> reluctant to invest  into XMPP. They have no clear way to have good  
> technical members, that  are just professional but not XMPP  
> enthousiasts to participate. It  means that we lose lots of value  
> and feedback from good professionals.  My view is that protocol  
> management is the weak point of XMPP and is  what could finally  
> turn out companies from using it.

While I agree we need to improve the professionalism in our standards  
process, I think we've made good headway in doing so, and I'm  
optimistic we will continue to do so. I think we've a relatively  
fresh Council - not actually as fresh as I'd hoped - and I think  
you'll agree, if you look at the Council mailing list, that it's  
already discussing introducing a little more formality in that area  
this year, too - as it did last.

But as Peter said, the Council process is, in effect, the only  
formality we have. And largely, that's a good thing - it's similar to  
the IETF's process, which really only kicks in at IESG level, and  
it's not done much to dissuade the larger companies there.

Yet, and here I entirely agree with you, we have a perception  
problem, and there are some large companies out there, with big  
names, who appear not to want to get involved in the XSF's standards  
process. I'm not sure how we can resolve this one - I've mentioned to  
a few people, including Nicolas, that this is something I really  
think the Board should be looking at.

There's at least one big tech company, for instance, which has given  
us a chunk of money in the past. That's great, of course, but from my  
perspective - and by the sounds of things, yours, too - what I really  
want is their engineers to be posting on the mailing lists. I hear  
rumours about other large names, too, who don't want to get involved.  
Why aren't Sun here? Apple? Microsoft? Google? All these companies  
are actively working with XMPP, and this certainly should be seen as  
the forum to do that. Maybe we should look at why companies like  
Nokia *do* have staff that are involved, too - it's not all bad, of  
course.

> I know I will be flamed for this mail, but I feel someone has to  
> get  his hands dirty and I hope once the flamewar is stopped. For  
> those who  still have the faith, fight for your opinion. Anyone can  
> be wrong at  some point and I am sure the thing can change if you  
> do not let this  boat move on its own inertia where only a few  
> members are actually  really active. Fight and you can make the  
> thing move.

I'm not flaming you at all. I'm not in total agreement with you, but  
I certainly think you've a very strong point.


> Some members told me that it is hard to promote your opinion in the  
>  XSF if your not part if an informal core or inner circle. I do not  
>  know if this is the case but I feel it is not my business, but the  
>  business of the members, but this can change if those who want to  
> help  XMPP makes things change and fight for their opinion. Look at  
> every  document, look at every decision, and share your opinion.  
> Every one  can have a sensible opinion if given enough time and  
> opportunity to  express it.

I hope it's not hard to get your opinions listened to in the XSF. I'm  
acutely aware that many people probably see me as part of this inner  
circle, so I'm not entirely comfortable with discussing this, for  
fear of making myself sound rather more important than I am.

But whilst I do agree there's an informal core of XSF participants,  
who get listened to more than an unknown name, I'd argue that this is  
largely down to a meritocratic structure - if you make useful  
contributions, people tend to listen to you. It's hard to avoid, and  
I'm not entirely sure that it's a good idea to avoid entirely.

The downside of this is that getting heard the first time is  
comparitively quite hard - but I don't think this is any different to  
any other SDO. Newcomers almost by definition have very limited  
experience in XMPP protocol design, and there will be lots of bad  
ideas with the good. There's also plenty of cases of people seeing  
good problems to solve, but solving them in bad ways. Of course, by  
the time they've got over that learning curve, they're no longer  
newcomers, and are established participants in their own right -  
indeed, they're part of the informal core.

In fact, I think we're particularly good at listening to newcomers,  
as a group. I think we were when I joined in a discussion which ended  
up with XEP-0198, now three and a half years ago - comparitively  
recent, by many standards - including yours. It took me about 18  
months to get onto Council the first time, so if we do have an inner  
circle, with all that that implies, it's not at all hard to get into.

But yes, we can make it easier, still, and we should.

Nicolas Vérité has pointed out that non-native speakers find it  
particularly hard, and I'd readily agree we need to be careful in how  
we handle new contributors in general. It's a steep learning curve,  
and we need to be careful to find the good ideas amongst the bad.

Dave.
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