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From Rob Weir <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] Having New Committers also be on the PPMC
Date Fri, 30 Sep 2011 14:15:52 GMT
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 <> wrote:
>>> 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?

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.

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?  The PPMC Website
subcommittee, the PPMC release subcommittee, the PPMC community
subcommittee?  I don't see how you avoid this if you try to scale this
up beyond anything that has ever been attempted at Apache.

Note also that Apache does the same thing with its Members.  You
create legal, branding, communications, events, etc., essentially
subcommittees to deal with the impossibility of having day to day
oversight of a larger membership.  And then you also have a Board of
Directors to oversee the overseers.

> 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?   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.

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.

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

>>> My preference is to continue the current practice of inviting contributors to
be both committers and members of the PPMC.  I have seen it recommended for Podlings and
I see no reason to suddenly change.  Also, I expect there will be some culling of the PPMC
on graduation to a top-level project and a PMC.
>> I believe you have misread the recommendation in the Podling Guide.
>> If you read the complete paragraph, it is clearer.
> Never trust documentation in the ASF ;-)
> You will find many many people who do not agree with that paragraph
> but can't be bothered to change it (guilty ;-)
> I think Denis is demonstrating an understanding of the alternative view.
> Every year, just before the ASF Members meeting, we have the same
> discussion about what barriers should there be to people becoming
> members. Typically you will hear the oldest hands saying "minimal
> barriers, we need bodies" whilst the newer hands will say "some
> barriers, we need control".
> I myself went through that process. I was amazed when I was voted in
> as a member. I didn't think I'd done enough to deserve it. I watched
> and learned. I realised early was good, but thought there should be
> some barriers. Today, ten years on, I am of the "minimal barriers"
> camp.
> Now, ASF membership is different from OOo PMC membership. I'm not
> suggesting that you have to go this way. I'm saying that just because
> it is written doesn't mean it is the one true way.
>>> I have seen no harm in the practice whatsoever.  There has been no injury or
damage no matter what apprehensions there are about having a wide membership in the PPMC.
> The argument of "there is no harm" is exactly the argument that
> matters. There really is no harm in having all committers in the PMC.
> The decision making process respects the community as a whole. Should
> a member of the PMC be causing problems there are mechanisms for
> dealing with it (it is very, very  rare).
> Conversely there is harm in not having a broad and varied PMC. There
> is increased opportunity for vested interests to take control. There
> are more rumours of backroom deals on the private list. There is a
> feeling of reduced transparencey etc. None of these things exist in
> the OOo podling, but when independent mentors like myself clear off
> will the community trust the remaining PMC members?
> Note, this decision is not an either/or. You can make it common
> practie to invite committers to the PMC but allow committer proposals
> to say "committer only" in specific cases.
> I suggest you discuss this one widely in the community and then put it
> to community vote since it is a very important issue moving forwards.
> Ross

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