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From Ross Gardler <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] Having New Committers also be on the PPMC
Date Fri, 30 Sep 2011 15:42:02 GMT
On 30 September 2011 15:15, Rob Weir <> wrote:
> On Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 5:04 AM, Ross Gardler
> <> wrote:
>> On 30 September 2011 03:04, Rob Weir <> wrote:
>>> On Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 9:09 PM, Dennis E. Hamilton <>
>>>> It has been the practice, thus far, that all newly-invited committers
are invited to also be on the Podling Project Management Committee (PPMC).
Some decline being on the PPMC, some accept, some accept but don't actually
show up at the PPMC, etc.
>> ...
>>> Note specifically that a committer can have a narrow focus.   But a
>>> PMC member has broader responsibilities.  I'd expect a committer to
>>> have demonstrated competence in some area of the project that requires
>>> committer access, such as coding, testing, doc, or admin work.  I'd
>>> expect a PMC member to additionally have a strong interest in the
>>> overall direction of the project, and to have exhibited insight and
>>> judgment that would be an asset to the oversight of the overall
>>> project .
>>> The Podling Guide [2] also supports this view, when it says:  "The
>>> PPMC should take an active role in watching committers develop into
>>> community participants, identify those who are participating at a
>>> community level, not just a technical one, and approach them with an
>>> offer of PPMC membership."
>> This is an area where ASF projects differ from one another. Some
>> projects prefer to have a separation, others prefer not to.
>> In my experience a flatter organisational structure is generally
>> better. However, on a project as large and diverse as OOo this may not
>> be the case.
> Do you know offhand what the largest Apache project is that uses such
> a "flat" approach?

I'm afraid I do not. And I confess that whilst typing the original reply I
thought this would be a useful data point. I'll see what I can find out.

I will say, however, that size is not really the issue. THe larger the
community the more effective the Apache Way is - that's the beauty of it.

> By my count we have 72 committers right now, almost all of them also
> PPMC members.  With the new IBMers coming on board, as well as
> possibly forum admins/moderators/volunteers (at least according to one
> draft proposal), we could shortly have 120+ committers/ppmc members.

They are just numbers. Activity is what matters. Now, if you said there were
120 active PMC members then you might have a point. But the vast majority of
those people will not be active in the vast majority of decisions.

However, that is not necessarily a disagreement with your following
paragraph. If we found those 120 people were active then your next paragraph
is very relevant.

> This is not just quantitatively different.  This is qualitatively
> different.  It is no longer a committee.   It doesn't work like a
> committee.  It doesn't think like a committee.  It is not necessarily
> a bad thing, but it is qualitatively a different thing.  It is more
> like a congress, where factions form and individual voices are less
> heard.  The voice of reason is less often heard in a "committee" of
> 120 people.  It doesn't cut through the noise.
> Honestly, any sane organization that had a leadership committee of 120
> people would quickly form a system of subcommittees to discuss and
> make proposals, reach initial consensus among those most interested in
> that issue, and then bring the consensus resolution back in plenary
> for ratification.  Is that what we're headed for?

I agree that would be the likely outcome and in this instance the ASF Board
would be saying "OOo is becoming and umbrella project, we need to fix that"
and the OOo PMC would be requested to consider spinning out sub-projects as
defined by the various sub-committees (the ASF has done that on a number of
occasions, most recently with Hadoop and friends, which itself span out of

However, the flip side is that we have a centralised control influence (the
PMC) which is a closed self-selecting group. If this were the case then the
board would be saying "OOo is not a meritocracy we need to fix that". This
has also happened a few times (I won't name names in this case as the issues
are resolved now).

One of the tasks the PPMC needs to tackle is how does OOo find the right
balance to prevent either of these situations occuring. Which is why I
recommend a full and open discussion involving as much of the community as
possible. It would make sense for us all to step back for a while and let
the community explore this.

>> The reason for "flatter is better" is that people tend to be more
>> engaged when they feel more empowered. Once OOo graduates PMC members
>> will have binding votes on everything committers may not have binding
>> votes on everything (this is something that the PPMC needs to resolve
>> nearer the time). By creating the separation of roles you are creating
>> the potential for a hierarchy to emerge.
> Who is more empowered, an active participant in a PMC of 25, or a
> passive observer on a PMC of 150?

The passive observer. That's the surprising thing about The Apache Way. So
much of it is counter-intuitive.

If I don't care to get involved (and most people don't) then I am a passive
observer. However, I'm an observer that *can* become engaged simply by
stepping up with a "-1" and a well reasoned argument. I may be passive, but
I am empowered. I can stop the active 25 from doing something that is bad
for the other 125, and so can any other of those 125.

> If anything, a PMC filled with
> passive bystanders, uninvolved in the oversight of the project, but
> ready to bike-shed at a moment's notice on a dull day, reduces the
> empowerment of those who are interested in community-wide oversight.

Since everything is done in public anyway those people who want to bike-shed
will still be able to do so. Giving them a vote make no difference to their
ability to bikeshed if they want to but it does make a difference if you
want to bypass a bike-shed argument from a newcomer who is still learning
the rules of the game.

> If someone has the inclination and interest in community-wide
> concerns, then that is great, and we should be inviting them to become
> a PMC member.  I'm not saying we should never invite someone to be a
> committer and PMC member at the same time.  I'm just saying we
> evaluate them for each role, and offer them the most appropriate
> role(s) based on the contributions they've made and the interests they
> may have had in community-wide concerns.

Sure, this is pretty much what I said at the end of my own mail. It's not an
either/or situation. However, the PPMC needs to develop a feel for when
someone should be a PPMC member.

>> Generally we find that people will not meddle with areas of the
>> project they are not qualified to meddle in. It's kind of hard to do
>> so anyway since a veto requires an alternative course of action that
>> the community supports. If one isn't qualified to meddle how can one
>> come up with a proposal that will be supported?
> I don't buy that.  It certainly has not matched what we've seen in
> this podling.

But this is a *podling* I'm talking about mature, healthy communities. Right
now this community is starting to develop its identify and define its
boundaries. People are working out where and how they fit. As the boundaries
become clearer then people will find their place.

Mind you, I'm not claiming it will stop completely, so you're point is

> We wouldn't now be familiar with the term
> "bike-shedding" if that were true.

I was referring to using a vote to disrupt a process, rather than wasting
time typing emails that people will learn to ignore.

Anyway, as you can see there is no clear answer and certainly no right
answer. OOo has to find it's own place.


Ross Gardler (@rgardler)
Programme Leader (Open Development)

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