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

Peter Saint-Andre stpeter at stpeter.im
Wed Oct 7 13:28:25 CDT 2009


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On 10/7/09 1:38 AM, Mickaël Rémond wrote:

Mickaël, thank you for your comments.

> I was about to offer the same thing because I lost faith in the XSF
> during that past year and the direction it is taking, so I understand
> how you feel.
> 
> 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. 

The XSF started out as a very informal group, with most of its processes
copied from the Python Software Foundation instead of more formal
standards development organization (SDO). We have become more formal
over the years, but we still do not have the level of formality that you
would typically find in other SDOs, such as the IETF or ITU. It is an
open question what level of formality is best. With more formality comes
more process. With more process comes delays in "time to market". So I
think we need to strike a balance here.

> 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.

In fact, anyone can participate on the standards at xmpp.org list. Now,
perhaps some people don't participate. The question is: why not? Unless
we do a survey of some kind (even an informal one), we won't know.

I do know some people who don't contribute on the list. Some of them are
very busy. Some of them are intimidated by the discussions. Some of them
subscribe but then unsubscribe again because they don't want to receive
so much email. Some of them don't want to post in public so they feed
comments to me directly (usually people at big companies). At least,
this is my experience.

Are there people who don't participate in our standards discusions
because they don't take the XSF seriously? I'm sure there are. But
unless they come to us with suggestions for improvement, I tend to think
that they really are not *that* concerned about helping us improve.

> This is what I wanted to promote in my past time at the XSF board, but
> it was clearly not the direction where members want to go.

It's not clear to me that the members have a strong opinion about where
they want the XSF to go. Perhaps the first step is to poll our members
to see what they think.

> So, I remove myself from the board, it will save me another year of
> frustration.

For the record, this is not why I have removed myself from the Council.
Not that I don't get frustrated sometimes, but I recognize that change
takes a long time. When I compare where XMPP is today to where it was in
2004 (when we publishd the RFCs) or 2001 (before we got involved with
the IETF) or 1999 (when our community was just a bunch of small
open-source projects), I take hope from the fact that we have come a
long way. Can we improve? You bet. But overall I think we've done a darn
good job as a community of navigating from a very small, very informal
team hanging out in an IRC channel to a large community whose technology
is being used worldwide by the likes of Apple, Google, and Nokia.

> 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. 

Indeed, I think this is quite a civilized discussion compared to the
true flamewars that we used to have back in the old days. Check out the
discussions from, say, March 2003:

http://mail.jabber.org/pipermail/members/2003-March/001852.html

> 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.

Mickaël, I agree that we can grow and improve. But to figure out what to
fight for, we need to figure out where we want to go. Movement for the
sake of movement is not what we need, and I know that it is not what you
advocate. I do not think we are experiencing a huge crisis here, just
the normal growing pains of a technology and community that is expanding
and changing. It's important for us to try to manage that growth in an
intelligent fashion, but we can take our time about it. Perhaps I have
this perspective because I have been working on XMPP since 1999, but I
don't think there is any cause for panic.

> 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 am sure that every organization can appear to have an inner circle
when you look from the outside. In part this is natural, because people
are involved. When you have people, you have politics and personality
conflicts and all the rest. Often I'm amazed that human beings achieve
anything!

Does the XMPP community have an "inner circle"? I don't know. Personally
I work hard not to play favorites, but there are people I work with more
frequently than others, based on whether they poke me about things or
volunteer to help with certain tasks or write specs or whatever. I don't
think that we have an inner circle that actively excludes contributions
from other people, but perhaps I am too close to things to know for sure.

> 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. 

Agreed. We try to be as open as possible, on our discussion lists and
chatrooms and all the rest. I think we make it fairly easy for people to
express themselves, but they need to take the time to do so. That can be
easier said than done, given how busy people are.

> Every one can have a sensible
> opinion if given enough time and opportunity to express it.

If we do not provide enough time and opportunity for people to express
their opinions, I would like to hear about it.

> I do feel now I have the faith and energy to do that anymore but I am
> sure others can.

Everyone gets burnt out. If you look at the Board and the Council, no
one is still serving there who was serving in 2001 when we founded the
JSF/XSF. This kind of turnover is natural -- it happens in companies,
open-source projects, and everything else. Perhaps we can turn this to
our advantage by encouraging new people to serve all the time, and even
have "term limits" so that no one can serve on the Board or Council more
than two years in a row.

> Sorry for the long rant.

Mickaël, I don't think this was a rant or a flame at all. We have a lot
of smart, passionate people here, but I think we can and do have civil,
reasonable discussions about how we can improve XMPP and the XSF. I hope
you will remain involved in those discussions, because your perspective
matters.

> Take care, be open, free minded and fight !

I can't disagree! :)

Peter

- --
Peter Saint-Andre
https://stpeter.im/


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