Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What the heck is a committer rep anyway?

In a comment to Chris' initial committer rep post Eugene asked:
can you please explain what committer representatives can actually do and what kind of activities should we expect from you all?
It's a great question and I'll take a bit of space here to say what I think the committer reps can/should do.

First and foremost we are full and regular members of the board of directors of the Eclipse Foundation, a not-for-profit yada yada, etc, etc entity. We happen to have been elected to that position but that is neither here nor there. As members of the board we have to look out for the best interests of the Foundation. So no matter what committer motivated axes we might have to grind or business models might be funding the work at Eclipse, when working on Board matters, all members must have the success of the Foundation front and center.

Now different people have different ideas of success. That's actually what makes working on the board interesting IMHO. There are some really interesting people and discussions at the board meetings. In general, the committer reps have naturally tended to focus on things that improve the lives of committers as a way of enhancing the Foundation. Good software drives interest in membership and use which in turn drives success/security of the Foundation. Makes sense. Concretely in the past year that I have been on the board the committer elected reps have worked hard on such things as:
  • IP policy changes to create a fast-track process for incubating projects
  • Improvements in infrastructure and uptime
  • The latest rev of the development process in particular the creation of the mentor role and the potential to rejuvenate the Architecture Council
I just picked a random three that sprung to mind. Committer elected reps are free to join the various committees (e.g., finance, IP, ...) that focus on particular areas as they see the need and desire.

So what should you expect from the committer representatives? More of the same I should think. Actually, last year was particularly fruitful at the Foundation level for committers IMHO. The problem is that we failed to communicate effectively what we were doing. This blog is a tangible attempt to address that failing and you should expect to see more information flowing out to you.

It must be said that the communication issue is complicated by the fact that board discussions are confidential until the board decides to publish minutes, results, policies, ... Board members, elected or otherwise, need to take care in communicating board discussions. It comes back to the role of board members -- to act in the best interest of the Foundation. Going off and blogging that we are considering merging with NetBeans would be counter productive. Well that was a joke but you get the point.

Turning the table around a bit, it would be good for us to hear from the committer community at large what you think we can/should do. Some information flow back to the board. Take the workareas mentioned above as template or examples of the kinds of things that board members can work to accomplish. We can't get a particular IPzilla CQ expedited but we can promote ways of streamlining the IP process. We can't go to project X and demand better quality but we can help put in place a mentorship program that would help X be more successful.

The committer elected board representatives are one of several windows the board has onto the committer community and vice versa. We should seek to be as transparent as is legally possible and act as a lens in focusing committer issues into items on which the board can take action.


Eugene Kuleshov said...

"We can't go to project X and demand better quality but we can help put in place a mentorship program that would help X be more successful." I like that. No offense, but some projects, could really use such mentorship.

Scott Lewis said...

I think the reps should advocate more for cross-company collaboration (with Board/corporate support) for areas deemed strategically key by committers/existing projects...(e.g. subversion, communications/collaboration, identity, modeling, provisioning, etc).