[openbeos] Re: Openness

  • From: "Jorge G. Mare (a.k.a. Koki)" <koki@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: openbeos@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 17:32:59 -0700

Hi Thom,

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

It was just an example. But, nevertheless, it is not just for openness sake. Human nature is much more complex than that.

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.

In the same vain, you also have to recognize when your closeness hinders your ability to grow your project, which I think is what has been happening to Haiku. There are ways to keep the focus and still be more transparent. I think that's what the community is looking for.

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.

Well, in reality, Haiku belongs to Haiku Inc.; but the code is there for anyone to grab, which makes it quite irrelevant who it belongs to. But more importantly, if you are a volunteer-based project and you want to grow your volunteer base, a "Haiku belongs to XXX so they will do as they please" message, which is a form a elitism, is probably not going to inspire a lot of people to help you out.

Volunteers who give their time and skills to a project find motivation in a number of intangibles, affinity of goals and a sense of community/participation being two very important ones. I think the point being made in this thread is simple: that Haiku would benefit from becoming more transparent as a means to inspire motivation among potential contributors.

I realize that it is impractical to have several thousand people participate in the decision-making, and that is not what is being suggested. But you can certainly find ways to be more inclusive by keeping the community in the loop of what's happening, and what may be coming down the line, as well as providing rules of engagement and tools that could nourish community driven initiatives.

The request for information about donations and financial status, the disclosure of the admin meetings or the idea of having a detailed yearly budget as a basis for a donation drive are, I think, are all legitimate.

I have been looking at other projects for hints, and I like what the Gnome Foundation states in its charter, and I quote:

"As GNOME has grown, so have our goals. Over the next few years, we want to offer a state-of-the-art, fully free desktop to many people who today are not using computers because they are too expensive and too complicated to use.

In short, GNOME is growing up.

To achieve our goals in a timely manner, the project will need more focus than the current structure can offer. When GNOME was a smaller project, Miguel was able to make most of the key decisions. Today, there is a need for a forum that can provide GNOME, and the projects that make up GNOME, with the structure and support they will need to continue to grow. We need a more structured environment to smoothly integrate new citizens into the community. The GNOME Foundation will provide this support. The Foundation will also provide a place to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in a diverse community. Equally important, the Foundation can voice the decisions and positions of the GNOME project, and, therefore, can act as a liaison with the press and corporations who want to be involved with GNOME.

Most importantly, the GNOME Foundation will provide transparency and representation. Whereas decisions in the past have often been made in an ad-hoc fashion and in private conversations between a small number of people, the foundation will provide a forum that is elected by the GNOME community, that is accountable to that community, and that will conduct its affairs in the open."

It is possible that in all my recent rants I have not articulated my ideas very well. But I think the above quote from Gnome more or less summarizes what I think needs to happen with Haiku if it is to grow. In my mind, Haiku Inc. needs to perform a role equivalent to that of the Gnome Foundation if it is to become really relevant.



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