[openbeos] Re: Openness

  • From: Thom Holwerda <slakje@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: openbeos@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 22:02:48 +0200

On May 12, 2007, at 9:16 PM, Jorge G. Mare (a.k.a. Koki) wrote:

What goes on at the admin team meetings is, generally, closed to the public. Why? Because it allows the admins to discuss without public comment. We can have crazy ideas and shoot each other down. We use it as a forum for working out details on things like distro guidelines without having to do it in public over 10,000 posts.

Is closed bad? I don't think so. It keeps the signal:noise ratio very high (or at least it intends to). It means that the people who have the right to make those decisions can do so privately. Note, too, that EVERY OSS GROUP OUT THERE HAS THIS. BSD doesn't publish their minutes. Linus has a mailing list similar to our haiku-admin list. Look at the Red Cross, even - you can't get minutes of their board meetings. They are closed.

One thing is to have discussions in seclusion in order to achieve focus (which is good), but another is to keep the community totally out of the loop (which is bad). This is what happens with Haiku: a lot of discussions take place on the admin list or on IRC meetings, but very little trickles down to the rest of us.

You mention other OSS projects, and I have to say that, in comparison, Haiku pales in terms of openness. Remember when I once mentioned to you how KDE discussed their release roadmap on a public mailing list as a good example of openness?


That's what being really open is about.

It feels like to me this is about openness for openness' sake.

You have to look at when does openness stop being functional, and does it become a roadblock? Sometimes, it's better NOT to be open about things or decisions, simply because that same openness hinders the actual goal: to make a decision.

I have a very clear example At OSNews, we are currently in the process of a redesign. The website has been rewritten from the ground up, to accomodate new features, have cleaner and leaner code, which leads to an alround performance increase.

From day one, Adam, our web designer/coder/etc., has been very open about all this. He posted his progress on his blog, posted stories on OSNews to poll interest in new features, that sort of stuff. These bits of openness were very valuable, and we learned a lot on what our readers would expect from OSNv4.

But then stuff went pear-shaped, as soon as we decided to be even more open. We allowed our readers to use the work-in-progress v4, so that they could make comments on it and provide us with input. However, no matter how often we emphasised that it was all in fact *work-in-progress*, and that the artwork was *not* final, people went all mental. A vocal minority started threatening to leave the site, just because they didn't like the (work-in-progress!) logo! We hoped to have an informative, well-reasoned argument with our readers about what OSNv4 should look like, and how it should function. We thought our openness would be appreciated, and that it would help us in developing v4.

It didn't. It became the most heartless flamefest I have ever seen; it has now driven us to close the development down altogether. We don't ask our entire readership for input anymore about v4. We just show it to people we know and people we can trust to provide us with *valuable* input. When it's done, we will make it go live. Whether people like it or not.

What I am trying to say is this: you should not be open in a decision making process just for the sake of being open. You want openness in the decision making process to *improve* this process, *not* hinder it.

OSNews is a voluntary project, and everybody can join in/participate, but that does NOT mean it belongs to our readers. OSNews is owned by those who spend the most time working on it. The same applies to Haiku. And if that group of people who spend the most time working on it believe being more open than they are now hinders the decision making process, I can do nothing but trust them. It is their prerogative.

Thom Holwerda
Managing editor at http://www.osnews.com

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