Fedora Board Meeting 13 August 2010

The meeting today was a public meeting on IRC (#fedora-board-meeting on freenode) and lasted 1.5 hours. It was the first time we tried out a new format. The next meeting will be at the same time next Friday, and will be held over the phone.

Log Links


  • Matt Domsch is on a plane and won be able to join us.
  • We’ll start today’s meeting with general questions and answers from the community.
  • Our new meeting protocol is documented here: https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board_public_IRC_meetings
  • In general, “?” means you’d like to ask a question, “!” mean you’d like to comment on the current question, and “eof” means you’re done talking.
  • We typically do 40 minutes of Q&A and leave 20 minutes for other board business.
  • No more than 8 minutes per question so at least 5 questions can be reached.
  • Board members can speak without moderation, in the interest of not being too slow.

Question 1: Schedule

jjmcd: “In view of our recent slip, is the Board as passionate as poelcat about learning how to keep a schedule?”
Jared responded that he is very sensitive to it and doesn’t like seeing it slip. Jon said he doesn’t like to see it slip either, but the reality is that things come up. Jared said he doesn’t want us to ship something simply because we reached a date on the calendar – there’s got to be some human judgment on the right balance between the two. He feels our Go/No-go meetings give that the right balance.
Smooge said that he’s inured to slippage, as the installer has often faced last-minute OMG realizations. Máirín agreed and noted that the installer folks work very hard but without a working installer there’s no distro, so that team is far less able to make mistakes than other package maintainers are. Jared also pointed out the installer has to adjust to many other changes in the distro frequently, and Rex pointed out anaconda is almost always highlighted for blockers, and schedules are captive to those being fixed. In this situation the anaconda folks have gone out of their way to help get things in shape. Jon suggested that FESCO look at considering anaconda freeze earlier.

Question 2: Vision

mizmo: “I was wondering if we can work on a vision statement for Fedora, because I think a lot of conflict in our project stems from not having a clear vision.”
Jared answered, “Absolutely… It’s one of the things I’d personally like to work on over the next month or two. I certainly have my own vision of what I think Fedora is and should be, but I want to work with all the key stakeholders (the board, steering committees, etc.) to make sure we’re all working in concert with each other.” Smooge also noted, “I wanted to say that it has been on my mind. I have been reading various books and wondering about the various ‘vision/mission statements.'”
Jared also said, “In general though, I think we’re probably closer to agreement on “vision statement/strategy” and less in agreement on “tactics””, but mizmo disagreed, “There’s definitely a consumer camp and a for-techies camp that do not always see eye-to-eye.” Jared responded, “Sure… but I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. I’m gonna be honest — I’m not treating anything (well, OK… maybe anything except the four freedoms) as sacred things that can’t be revisited/discussed.”
Jon responded as well, “The real goal is somewhere in the middle of that…. the previous boards have come up with something. Not saying that we shouldn’t revisit it, but this has been done.” Mizmo responded, “That’s target audience though, vision is what you do with it. The techie camp sees Fedora as a bucket of parts, the consumer camp a polished desktop experience. Techie camp sees more emphasis on development tools, etc.” Jon said, “It has to be a bucket of parts that can be put together :)” Mizmo replied, “but do you call it a bucket of parts?” Jon replied, “Yes and no. The default configuration should be a put together bucket.” Mizmo continued, disagreeing with the suggestion, “Or have a bucket of parts and call that a standard / ABI / SDK? Language is really important and we’re lazy with ours. Fedora is a community, a desktop, a bucket of parts – it’s too confusing.” Rex agreed, “I would agree terminology needs to be improved.”
inode0 brought up a point, “Since Fedora is a community, this sort of thing might be worked on by the community rather than the board to begin with.” Mmcgrath answered, “The community has no facility to make decisions.” inode0 also suggested, “another review of how the wikipedia people do this sort of thing.” Jared asked if inode0 could write a summary to advisory-board list on how Wikipedia does things, and inode0 agreed to see that someone does, mentioning that rbergeron understands their process better. Robyn spoke up and said she would be happy to summarize it. Jared also encouraged anyone else to bring up these sorts of things on the list. Jon also noted he’d like to see more things discussed on advisory-board list in general. Caillon also pointed out there was a study posted on the list a while ago that helps outline the wikipedia stuff.
Mizmo noted the Fedora website redesign has been very difficult without a defined vision.

Question 3: Code maturity for inclusion

EvilBob: What is the board’s opinion on using something like systemd that as I understand it is still being coded this close to a release? Shouldn’t core code be a bit more mature before inclusion? systemd is but an example. I know this is mainly a FESCo thing but surely the board has an opinion.
Jared replied, “that’s more of a FESCo decision.” Spot agreed that FESCo is free to make that call. Jon also agreed, and said that one of the four foundations is “first.” Stickster pointed out, “I saw that jsmith posted something to the devel list saying he would like to see FESCo taking a more active role in tracking/managing technical development in Fedora.” Mizmo lamented, “Since we dont have a vision who knows if fesco’s policy on the matter meets it :-/.”
Jared concluded with, “In general though, my attitude is that sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Let’s just be careful about how we break the eggs.” Chris Tyler pointed out, “separating ‘first’ and ‘on fire’ can be a challenge,” and Rex also said, “and to balance who many eggs we’re willing to break to get there.”
EvilBob responded, “In this case if it blows up in “our” face it will reflect on the board. That being the case the board should have an opinion IMO rather than passing the buck.” Jared responded, “Sure… all decisions reflect on Fedora as a whole, and on the governance in particular…” and continued to say, “Please understand — I’m not playing ‘pass the buck,’ The buck stops here.That being said, they’re the ones tasked with making the judgment calls on technical features, and whether they’re ready or not for inclusion.” Rex agreed, “the buck stops here obviously, so it’s in all of our interests that core tech pieces do not fail. So, in that regard, if we, as the board, see fesco flying down to fail-ville, it’s our job to step in to help right the ship.” Jared also pointed out to EvilBob, “The Board can obviously go back to FESCo and overrule them, etc.”
Stickster queried further, “Can you elaborate on how you envision that expanded role for FESCo? What’s an example or two of roles/actions you think FESCo could take up for technical management?” Jared answered, “One of the hard things FESCo has to do is say “yay” or “nay” on the new features. A couple of things I would like to see include: 1) Making things more clear as to what constitutes a features being “100%” ready or “90%” ready; it’s not always clear what that means. 2) The other thing I would suggest (not really relevant to this discussion) is to make it clear which types of things should go through the “features” process, and which types of things can just be added as package updates (or new packages).”
Nirik pointed out, “I would just like to note that FESCo holds all it’s meetings in public on tuesday afternoons. Feel free to bring concerns up there or in a ticket to fesco. If there are widespread fears about systemd, please provide TECHNICAL feedback to help fesco decide about it.” Smooge also pointed out, “I think that to be innovative we are going to need to have a VERY high bar for thinking something is going to be FAILville. FESCO is an open body and not a cabal,” and mizmo responded, “but that’s not a great position to have if say having a usable consumer desktop is important.”

Question 4: Meeting protocol

rbergeron asked, “We are asking a lot of questions in this public meeting – not all of them will be answered or agreed on as far as concensus in an 8-minute period. Is it possible for us to keep track of these questions and make sure they are answered somewhere – or at least given a timeline for actions to be taken – so as to not have an hour of opinionating? :)”
Jared answered, “In general, discussion should happen on the advisory-board list. I prefer to use board meeting time for answering questions and making the tough decisions. I’m sure others who have much more experience on the board than I do may see things differently. Yes, there will always be discussion in the board meetings, and that’s healthy… but not everybody can attend the board meetings in real time.”
Mizmo said, “I dont think IRC is a great place to make heavy decisions – not in this format. There should be an agenda if its to make decisions.” Jared agreed.
Robyn asked, “Can we perhaps follow up the meeting with what the consensus answer is to questions asked?” Jared answered, “One of the things I’m looking at is a better tool for keeping track of the questions asked and the answers presented, so that I don’t have to keep answering the same questions all the time :-)”
Stickster poined out, “This forum was conceived as a way to make sure community members know Board members are listening to their ad-hoc concerns. It’s always easier to capture an action from that when the question leads directly to a decision point, like “How do we collect data to figure out if ___ is a problem?” or “What should we do to make $PROCESS work better?”” Mizmo asked in follow-up, “How does the agenda for board meetings that are not Q&A get determined? These Q&A sessions should have an affect on that agenda,” noting that she is a new board member and really has no idea.” Rex answered, “Ask jsmith to add it to the agenda, is usually all it takes. doesn’t necessarily have to be a board member asking either,” Jared responded, “Yes, the agenda comes from items brought up in the advisory board list, as well as other things brought to my attention.” Stickster said, “at was part of how I set the agenda in the FPL role — also input on the advisory-board, and specific situations that come up elsewhere in the Project where it seemed the Board was needed or could be useful.”
Jared said, “If you have items you’d like on the agenda, please let me know — I accept patches :-)” Mizmo asked, “Is there a wiki page where the running agenda is stored? It’s hard to submit a patch without the code :)” Jared explained, “I usually build it from Trac tickets with the “meeting” keyword. Board members can obviously create tickets with that keyword to get them on the agenda.”
Mizmo said, “It seems like robyn’s indicating a lack of followup, or maybe a worry about a lack of followup.” Robyn said, “I am just saying – if there is something to be answered, can we call out the clear answer – if there is something to be followed up on, can we please define it, and get a timeline, or at least have someone responsible in the meeting for kicking off that followup on the advisory board list. Just for these public IRC q&a’s – It’s one hour, and we have a lot of community members, and I’d like to see that time well-used, questions answered.” Jared replied, “I’ve started investigating tools that will help with that” and noted he hopes to hae a better answer in the future.
Stickster brought up these blog meeting summaries and suggested they could be a guide in producing whatever’s necessary to track items brought up, and mizmo offered to file and reference trac tickets when posting the summaries. Jon mentioned the trac tickets are private, and if referenced folks cant view them. Jared concluded, “Again, I don’t think we need to answer the technical decision of “how” in this meeting.”

Question 5: Fedora Board Composition

inode0 asked, “I see several negative effects of Red Hat retaining structural control over the composition of the Fedora Board. What benefit does the Fedora Project get from this arrangement? Would anyone on the Board be in favor of transitioning the rest of the appointed seats to elected seats over the next few releases?”
Jared responded, “In general, it’s all up for discussion. Red Hat obviously puts a lot of resources into Fedora, and wants to see that its resources are used wisely. That being said, I’m open to discussion.”
Rex, Spot, and Jon asked which negative effects inode0 was referring to. Inode listed three effects:

  1. prominent community members declined to run for the board and this was one reason given (Spot asked, “really? aside from kkofler, i didn’t hear that from anyone.”)
  2. It reinforces the view (right or wrong) both inside and outside the Fedora family that Red Hat exerts a lot of control over the project
  3. It confuses at least me in understanding the relationship between Red Hat and Fedora (are we upstream with Red Hat as an important participator, or is the community participating in an internal Red Hat project)

Rex asked, “I forget, how many appointed seats are there at the moment?” Caillon answered, “4 appointed, 5 elected.” Spot pointed out, “I think RHT has done an admirable job with the last several round of appointments, and I also think it is a nice way to reflect Red Hat’s investment and involvement in Fedora.” Jared said, “I’ll be honest here — Red Hat pays my salary, but I still feel like an outsider looking in.” Smooge said, “#1 I think that it does not have a large effect because because those same people either don’t run for FESCO or think its too political.”
DiscordianUK pointed out, “I think for example CentOS regards Fedora as upstream.” Rex pointed out, “I would consider the project leader and board chair position appointment to be “enough”, but that’s just me.” Smooge pointed out, “For #2, making it 100% elected would not change the view that Red Hat does not exert lots of influence on the project because well it pays for pretty much everything.” Colin also said, “large amount of “influence” i’d agree with, and it’s hard to avoid when the company invests as much as it does in terms of people and money; as far as “control”, let me assure you there’s no evil master plan.” Jared and Caillon also pointed out the number of deelopers employed and infrastructure provided. Caillon said, “I think that #2 is still okay, because with all elected seats, it is possible (and honestly, not beyond the realm of possibility) to get a board full of Red Hat employees. with appointments, that is unlikely to happen.”
Brunowolff said, “I think that being able to fork Fedora is more important than the board membership. I have been seeing improvement along those lines throughout Fedora’s history. That says to me that Red Hat is guaranteeing their future behavior.”
inode0 followed up with two points:

  1. there are respected and very valued contributors who aren’t running because they don’t feel the board can ever really change from one view to another because of this structural constraint
  2. there is really no evidence that the composition of the board would look much different whether it was entirely appointed by the FPL or entirely elected – so this is I think more about perception in the short term

Ke4qqq wondered, “I wonder if some of those problems couldn’t be mitigated with term limits.” Jared asked for clarification on which problems h meant. Ke4qqq replied, ” specifically inode0’s original #1 – but also his second #1.”
Inode0 pointed out, “Removing the structural control of the composition of the board would empower the community to *actually* reform the board if it felt that was needed.” Smooge replied, “that would require an elective that is interested in voting or forced voting. Basically too many people DON’T vote to make a difference.” Rex responded, “it obviously goes both ways. voting apathy perception about not making a difference.”
Jared said, “I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I’m certainly open to suggestions on how we can make Fedora stronger.” inode0 suggested making the Board elected. Rex said, “I’d like to at least consider the idea proposed, about reducing the number of appointed seats… sometime over the next few months.” Jared concluded, “OK… in the interest of time, let’s move the discussion to the list.”
Update: Smooge did so, and the discussion has now started on the advisory-board mailing list.

Topic: Updates

As everyone is probably aware, we had our Go/No-Go meeting and the Alpha release candidate did not pass the release criteria. The schedule has been pushed back a week. I see that there’s active discussion on the lists about how to improve the process, and as long as we’re learning from our slips, we’re making progress.

Topic: Other Board Business

In last week’s board meeting, I asked each of the board members to go through the list of board tickets in our private Trac instance and see what tickets can be closed. There are a number of items that are in limbo. I didn’t see much action on that front this week, so I’m going to make an extra effort this week to close as many as possible. I especially need the input of people who have been on the board for a while, as you’re probably more in-touch with some of these issues than I am.
Mizmo pointed out a Board discussion about revealing sensitive private issues discussed by the Board once they are no longer sensitive/private, as Jared explained “That we open up private matters after some embargo time, with the possible exception of personnel matters, so as not to embarrass said people. We’ll need to work through the details on the list, but in general, I think we’re all in favor of more transparency. In short, there are times the Board discusses private matters (usually things that would damage relationships if discussed openly — personnel matters, fiduciary matters, etc.) We certainly want to be very careful about those things, but in general, there are items that can be revealed publicly at a later time. mizmo graciously accepted the task of helping us to keep track of said items, and I thank her for that.”

Meeting Format

Stickster asked, “Do the Board members agree the change in the way the meeting was run was helpful? Or did it cause obstacles for you?”
Mizmo answered, “It was much easier to take notes this time – last time it took over an hour to unravel the spaghetti. I’m all caught up at this point.” Jared said, “I personally thought the change of IRC protocol helped eliminate confusion, but it did lengthen out the conversations.” Chris Tyler said, ” I think it was a good improvement.” Rex chimed in, “I liked the format, thought it a fruitful balance of discussion vs organized productivity.”
Jared pointed out, “We may need to schedule more time to properly address more questions (or convince people to ask more questions on the advisory-board list).” Mizmo replied, “Asking questions to a mailing list though, there’s no guarantee of a response. So i can see why people wouldn’t.” Jared said, “I think we’ve been pretty good at responding to questions on the advisory-board list.” Mizmo responded, “Well I’m just saying in general, I don’t think the list has been socialized that way, even if it does perform. Fedora lists in general do not. The list doesnt have a description, nor does it say it’s a place you can ask questions https://admin.fedoraproject.org/mailman/listinfo/advisory-board – I actually wasnt even subscribed to it as a community member until a year or so ago, i didn’t know what it was. I thought it was board members only. https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board#Contact doesn’t say it’s a place to ask questions, it says its a place for the board to discuss.”
Jared suggested using the list to discuss how to make the list more visible as a place to ask questions. Rex said, “Mizmo’s concerns are valid, having a better description of the list in mailman and on wiki would be definite improvement.” Jared took an action item to get a better description of the advisory-board list, and blog about it.

1 Comment

  1. I'm glad to read the vision bit. IMO that's crucial to design well (and not just aesthetic design). Speaking as a newcomer it looks like Fedora is sometimes in a bit of an identity crisis.
    Thanks for bringing that up. 🙂

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