[Members] Why I think the XSF isn't doing enough

Dave Cridland dave at cridland.net
Fri Oct 31 13:25:51 UTC 2014

I'll admit, the subject line is deliberate and shameless click-bait. The
XSF is actually pretty good - the basic functions all operate just fine.
People write standards, the Council acts as a solid gateway for them. The
Board sorts out a summit or two a year. All is well with the world.

Except I worry that we're not doing enough, and much of what people think
we are doing isn't actually the XSF's doing at all.

It's easy to point to things like the IM Observatory as a success story of
the XSF. But Thijs only became a member yesterday, and xmpp.net is not an
XSF asset at all, being owned by Peter Saint-Andre personally. I think it's
hosted by XSF hardware; I'm honestly not sure without asking. The Board,
and the XSF as an organization, has had absolutely nothing to do with the
IM Observatory, and does not operate or control the public server list.

I think there's a strong misconception that this is an XSF activity. It's
not and doesn't claim to be - and while the IM Observatory is clearly
working very well, the public server list clearly isn't. Can the XSF run
its own? It seems very hard if the XSF is already hosting a personal
project doing the same thing, but perhaps we should.

Similarly, the XSF had essentially nothing to do with the encryption
deployment work done last year. The Board discussed it, but not wishing to
claim responsibility (and not even being sure if the members supported it
unequivocally) it was only handled by a couple of blog posts.

I've heard it claimed that the XSF's sole purpose is to act as the
necessary legal entity for owning a handful of assets, and should never
attempt to do more. That to do more would be imposing a centralization and
structure which would somehow harm the community, or at least run counter
to the political opinions of the members of it. But I think it can - and
should - act as a focal point for the community and act as its "face" for
the industry as a whole.

A way to consider this is through looking at the Council and the XEPs. The
XEPs are produced in theory by people both within and outside the XSF
membership, but are submitted through the XSF. The XSF gives them review,
oversight and other nebulous properties. Authors give their XEPs to the XSF
because it gains credibility, audience, and assistance for their work. The
XSF in turn gains the work and effort of it, resulting in a broader, more
capable XMPP protocol suite. The XSF can - and it's fair to say this is a
weaker area - push specific areas of the suite that need work, putting a
spotlight on some desired functionality.

I'd like to see other, non-specification projects work in the same way
(though with the guiding leadership as the Board instead of the Council).
That is, I'd like people to bring their XMPP related projects - like a new
server list, or a security scanner, or whatever - to the XSF and have them

So take the IM Observatory again. I have absolutely no wish for the XSF to
take credit away from Thijs, but I think if this were an official "XSF
activity", it'd benefit from the credibility and "legitimacy" the XSF could
give it. ("Legitimacy" makes it sound like it's not legal now, which is
clearly silly, but I hope you understand the intent here).

And if the XSF wouldn't give it credibility? Isn't that a problem all in

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