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From Marvin Humphrey <mar...@rectangular.com>
Subject Re: [PROPOSAL] Creation of the Incubator Ombudsman
Date Tue, 30 Jul 2013 03:55:08 GMT
On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 8:13 PM, Ross Gardler
<rgardler@opendirective.com> wrote:
> The IPMC has been incapable of any kind if action for a long time. Full
> consensus is not possible, what is required is progress.

The Incubator is making plenty of progress.  Day by day out on the podling
lists, contributors are absorbing information and Mentors are guiding; here in
the nucleus on general@, we are also finding ways to move forward.

For instance: While the proposals for exit interviews and an Incubator ombud
may not have panned out as expected, the discussion around them yielded a new
documentation page which has gone over very well:
<http://wiki.apache.org/incubator/WhatToExpect>.  Even better, it was penned
by someone who had not previously contributed to the Incubator in such a
capacity: Alex Harui, who I hope we hear more from in the future.

There is a perception among a small group of highly invested Incubator
contributors that the IPMC is immobile.  Historically, the members of this
group have sent an extraordinary volume of email to general@ advocating for
their favored initiatives (which typically involve restructuring the Incubator
or refactoring its processes), often in highly contentious rapid-fire
exchanges.  It is true that such discussions often achieve little despite
their extreme length; my perception is that they go nowhere because more
effort goes into restating the same arguments time after time and outlasting
the opposition than into trying to think outside the box and find creative
solutions.

The chief effect of these long, hot threads is to suck up all the oxygen in
the room.  In this case, Alex's contribution is going unacknowledged because
we're fixated on the ombud proposal thread -- even though WhatToExpect
constitutes "progress" on the very same issue of mitigating podling
contributor discontent.

It's unfortunate that we have allowed the obsessions of a strident few to
obscure great work being done throughout the Incubator.

> The minority position holders should step aside (assuming their objections
> are unlikely to cause long lasting damage) or step up (assuming they have an
> alternative proposal).

People *have* stepped up -- Alex for starters.  Then there's Dave Fisher, who
argues that the proposed ombud role serves basically the same purpose as the
existing institution of the "Incubator shepherds".  Dave *is* a shepherd, so
by his argument he's been shouldering a portion of that workload for quite
some time now.

Establishing an Incubator ombud is not an imperative and it is not the only
way forward.  The state of the current ombud proposal remains: no consensus --
and that's fine, in my opinion, even though I'm in favor.

> Lets give Marvin a little space to review the thread and then lets move
> forward as appropriate.

-1 on "move forward as appropriate" because the chair does not have the power
to overrule the objections of other IPMC members.  Nevertheless, since my
assistance has been requested in reviewing the thread, I'll oblige.

Chris Mattmann, Roman Shaposhnik and Chip Childers were concerned about
role redundancy:

    http://s.apache.org/rjI (mattmann)

    +1, the chair is already the Ombudsman. Or should be at least.
    No need for duplication and more overhead (and confusion).

    http://s.apache.org/u9 (rvs)

    Personally I don't see much value add over a set of active
    mentors + IPMC chair.

    http://s.apache.org/ZdQ (chipchilders)

    IMO, a PMC chair should both behave and be seen to the community as acting
    in this capacity.  However, others have commented on at least the
    perception not being that this is the case.  Given that, I'd be
    comfortable with this as an experiment...  so +0.

    http://s.apache.org/zmu (mattmann)

    I'm not in favor of an Ombudsman. Seems like an extra layer of overhead
    beyond what the Chair already provides. Seriously does someone need a
    title in order to be the clearinghouse for folks' honest assessments of
    the Incubator, its personnel, or other sensitive issues?

I think the best response to this is that while the IPMC chair needs to serve
as a good confidante when petitioned privately, it is not obvious to people
who are new to Apache that such an avenue is open to them.  Having a dedicated
ombud address will encourage conversations which wouldn't happen otherwise.

Dave Fisher, as mentioned above, focuses on overlap between ombud and
shepherds:

    http://s.apache.org/u3

    I think we are looking for people in the IPMC who are willing to help
    podlings solved their real and their perceived problems. An Ombudsman is
    one title for someone like that  and so is Shepherd.

    I think that there exists an ever changing group within the IPMC that in
    their own serves this function. These people meet at private@.

    Why can't a PPMC go to private@ with any issue and then someone can take
    care of it?

My response is that we need as many shepherds as we can muster, but the role
of ombud is best handled by a single individual for the sake of maximizing
confidentiality and minimizing conflict of interest.

Bertrand was skeptical about an ASF-wide ombud, but didn't raise any objection
to an Incubator-specific position.

    http://s.apache.org/NAa

    We don't have that, and I don't think we need it - people should feel free
    to contact people that they trust (officers, board members, ASF members)
    privately if there's a need, and not having someone elected in the
    ombudsman role means people are free to talk to whoever they think will
    help.

My reaction is that it probably makes sense to run an experiment with an
Incubator ombud -- if it turns out we don't need one, then we conclude that
the ASF at large doesn't need one either.

And then there were my own objections, which have already been addressed.

A separate thread started by Joe Schaefer explored what the ombud might be
tasked with.

    http://s.apache.org/9UV

    1) proactively solicits opinions of exiting podlings
       about their experiences in the form of interviews
       and surveys.

    2) make anonymized results of (1) available to the IPMC
       on a regular basis.

    3) provides advocacy and facilitates solutions for
       committers who report issues with their podling's
       mentors.

Alan suggested a modification to bullet point 3 which was received +1s from
JimJag and Chip Childers.

    http://s.apache.org/FWi

    provides advocacy and facilitates solutions for podling, and IPMC members,
    who report issues that cannot normally be solved through normal
    established processes.

In other threads, the subject of anonymity has proven controversial, which
might argue for leaving it out.  To my mind that's an implementation detail,
though.

I suggest starting a new thread with a modified proposal that addresses or at
least acknowledges some of those concerns.  If there are no objections after
72 hours, go ahead.  My hunch is that with JimJag as the candidate, a new
proposal is unlikely to garner unyielding opposition.

Marvin Humphrey

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