Why the OpenStack community voting process fails and how to fix it

Open source communities offer a lot of democratic participation. The idea that you contribute to a project and have a say in its governance is a powerful one.  When it doesn’t work, those same projects turn their backs on active contributors and discourage newcomers. The most recent OpenStack elections for Individual members to the Board of Directors is a strong example of how community voting fails and how to fix it.

This time I watched the elections from the distance, as much of an outsider as I have ever been. Now that the results are in, I’m very disappointed to see confirmed four Individual board members — half of the total — whose inaction during 2016 should have not granted them reconfirmation.

It’s also extremely sad to see more than a few very active individuals have not been elected.  Of the eight elected, only one works for a smaller company and only one is mostly an OpenStack user (seven are primarily OpenStack vendors). The Individual members of the OpenStack Foundation were added to the bylaws to keep large corporate interests in check, and clearly this doesn’t seem to be working.

The OpenStack community has a huge problem here: good behavior and personal investments to improve the project don’t get rewarded. On the contrary, affiliation with large companies, spammy promotion, and geographic proximity seem to be more effective at granting a seat on the board. This has discouraged participation already, as some backchannel conversations have confirmed. You have to ask yourself, why would someone like Edgar Magana do what he has done for the short time he’s been on the board, when almost-inactive members get the votes?

A couple of immediate actions can be taken to improve the situation. First, acknowledge that an issue exists at the Board level, where too few small organizations and users are represented. Then, stop tolerating abuse of community resources like planet.openstack.org and use of the OpenStack logo. Actions should have followed OpenStack Foundation’s COO Mark Collier reminder to be nice during the campaign. Mark wrote:

With respect to local user groups and web channels, I think they should remain neutral ground that are open to all local community members.

But then the OpenStack logo (that’s another problem, known and unsolved for many years) was used to promote a single candidate as ‘our APAC‘ candidate. Who’s we exactly? OpenStack AU with the logo of the OpenStack Foundation? From my cursory glance at the candidates, there were others in APAC region, but I bet those candidates didn’t have direct access to the OpenStack AU Twitter feed.

OpenStack Australia suggesting to vote for Kavit as 'our APAC candidate'

And the shared Planet OpenStack (which is syndicated to Reddit and other places) was inundated for a week by the same advertising. My attempt to limit the damage to the community and send a signal was blocked.

One more thing: make the pages of the candidates more meaningful. They’re too wordy now, start with the generic bio and offer no link to hard facts. How many of the 3,000 voters actually read their pages (I bet they don’t, and we can easily find out with Google Analytics)? Members pages should show facts, not generic intention to make the world a better place. I always had the vision to collect data from analytics tools and show those in the individual member pages. Stackalytics already offers a pretty comprehensive view of what each person does, not just code-relate but emails, translations, work on bugs, and I bet more can be added from OpenStack Groups portal.

Communities need constant supervision and nurturing, they can’t be left unattended because as quickly as they have formed, they fall apart or at the very least lose critical focus. OpenStack is under tremendous pressure and now more than ever needs dedicated contributors to keep the project at the center of attention.

Watching the live streaming from Cupertino’s council debating…

Watching the live streaming from Cupertino’s council debating the new Apple campus. Even the environmentalists are defending the massive pouring of concrete in the middle of orchards and farming land. Not sure if I should admire the democracy in action or laugh at these people saying silly things to defend Apple, a company that has deprived them of basic rights like the right to sell or give to your friends the books or music you rightfully bought.

East and West coast so far apart: Moglen vs Jobs

June 6th 2011 was a strange day. Facing the Pacific ocean Steve Jobs was describing his perfect plan to know which books you read, what magazines you buy, what music you listen, who you correspond with, who you love and who hates you.  On the Atlantic ocean Eben Moglen, Lawrence Lessig were describing how that kind of technology is threatening the very foundation of our democracy. Moglen’s keynote starts with:

we have 4 forces doing anything they can to eliminate freedom on the net.

  • governments deeply concerned about the possible loss of control that comes from the freedom to tell stories any way we want and escape the framing that power puts around things
  • content owners who believe that their bits are sacred and the risk that those bits may be copied justifies controlling the net down to each endpoint and down to every eyeball and every eardrum
  • data miners, the industry of the future, their job is to know what you want before you know it so that they can sell you to somebody. All that is required is to read your email, check every party that you go to, check the conversations you have with your friends. And they have arranged to make this possible.
  • network operators that are transforming the end-to-end network (as described by Lessig) into the “everything must come to us” and “all your life are belong to us! aren’t you happy, people?”

platforms, devices that won’t allow you to take the ads out of the webpage or prevent you from sharing a song or prevent you from speaking your mind.

[…] We are losing the autonomy of personality. […] The net has turned against us.

Enter the Freedombox and take back the net as we know it. Watch the full video, it’s well worth it.

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/pdf2011?layout=4&clip=pla_8ad51bab-a440-4e9b-87c8-6e0b9e196903&color=0x000000&autoPlay=false&mute=false&iconColorOver=0xe7e7e7&iconColor=0xcccccc&allowchat=true

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com

Technology is changing politics

That’s the theme of the Personal Democracy Forum that started today in New York.

Too often, the discussion of technology and politics employs a kind of lazy shorthand. We say things like “The Internet is revolutionizing politics,” or “the Internet is helping dictators,” as if a set of network protocols and bits and wires could do anything on its own. Unfortunately, that shorthand often infects our discussion of current events, and we end up debating things like “TwitterRevolution” or “Facebook effect” rather than the real issues, which are what people do with these tools. The Internet, after all, doesn’t empower anyone. We empower ourselves.

Don’t miss the plenary keynote with Dan Sinker, Michael Wesch, Lisa Gansky, Lawrence Lessig, Andrew Rasiej and Eben Moglen that will probably tell the public more about the FreedomBox.

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/pdf2011?layout=4&autoplay=false

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com