[Osmf-talk] Board statement - Membership Working Group report on unusual signups before OSMF election

Mikel Maron mikel.maron at gmail.com
Fri Feb 1 15:07:11 UTC 2019

Thanks Joost. That's a good assessment of the dynamics we've been facing. 
As the Board, we can ask for sympathy but can't expect it. We signed up for a hard job. What's perhaps most helpful is to give as clear a picture as possible of how we work, or don't work. Here's a few lines of what this looks like to me. It's certainly not comprehensive, and I might get something wrong, and certainly this won't satisfy everyone, or even be what you're looking for from the Board. But I want to give a try at sharing a good picture.
What's not visible externally is that the Board has been in almost constant communication over the past month. We have an IRC channel, and email list. On any issue, what we attempt to do among all 7 of us is gather our viewpoints, find consensus if possible, and formulate and vote on circulars when we don't have that or need a clear decision. We then need to write statements together, usually with one or two people starting a draft, and then all the other Board members commenting and editing, and then all of us agreeing on it.
While I think the 7 of us share a lot of fundamental understanding and views, we have 7 different viewpoints. Even figuring out what we might disagree on takes work. We have to take into account what we are hearing from members, or not hearing from members. We have to take into account other stakeholders in an issue (like GL). We have to consider the legal framework of the Companies Act and our Articles to guide what are possible decisions are. In parallel, we have multiple pressing issues to address (like Crimea statement; like Brexit which we haven't even had a chance to explore deeply). And we have bigger picture things to discuss, like what kind of governance changes we'd like to put in place. We put a lot of work in because that's what's called for.
This is all very hard to do with one monthly public Board meeting, with Board members arranging schedules to call in across 8 timezones. And while we are nearly constantly chatting, at any moment, it's unclear who of the 7 of us are online and available. We all have other full time jobs and lives, and working between public meetings is ad hoc.
This is exactly why the face to face has been useful over the years. It's amazing how much quicker we can get to consensus and common ground, decide on actions, and work towards them. Transparency is a good example -- it was a difficult issue prior, but in person we sorted out the major contours of what we wanted to do after an hour. We immediately took some actions. There are other actions that took longer, or that we are still struggling to operationalize -- not because we don't believe they're right, but because everything takes work to put into practice, and so many issues demand our attention.
I'm not sure how we improve on the fundamental issues of Board work, but clearly we need to for ourselves and future Board Members and the OSMF as a whole. Obviously we can't work in person together frequently. And though I expect some might suggest this, we can't open up our private discussion spaces. One idea is to schedule specific working time outside of the Board meeting -- maybe immediately after it, or offset by two weeks from it. Another might be for Dorothea to report out more regularly on Board status. There are probably other ideas as well. All will take consideration and hard work.

* Mikel Maron * +14152835207 @mikel s:mikelmaron 

    On Friday, February 1, 2019, 3:59:53 AM EST, joost schouppe <joost.schouppe at gmail.com> wrote:  
I personally did sign the candidates letter to the board. In fact I was actively involved in the proces that Guillaume led. Supporting this letter was a difficult decision for me. After all, you are actively working on changing the electorate you are a candidate for. There are other honourable reasons why you would not want to support such an initiative. At the time, we did not know all the details we know now - and even now, we can only make assumptions on several things. So it does feel like a bit of a witch-hunt to want to identify the non-signers.For me, at the time, the most important issue was a quick and clean solution - which IMHO the board found when they discovered the subscriptions were from after the registration deadline. This took away most of the sense of urgency for me: while it's still obviously a huge issue, it means there is no immediate impact on the organization. I thought that would give us time to deal with things more slowly.
However the new board, being new and being on a break*, did not properly involve the MWG researchers in further action. MWG was left with the impression that the board simply did not care and would not take any further action after rejecting Guillaume's proposals. When the MWG let us know about their research and their deadline, we reacted extremely poorly as a Board. For the MWG only strengthened their beliefs about the board. We were only able to start actual work on the content of the research after we stomached the MWG-deadline and its implications on what that says about the relation between board and working groups. By the time we had confirmed we actually wante to talk to Global Logic, and managed to do so, the deadline was three days away. It then took us two days to finally set a course of further action. Which somehow turned out to be exactly what the MWG had wanted us to do - send out the report ourselves. We did not consider that the MWG was that annoyed with us that a minor delay to allow us to act on this would further insult them. And then when they offered a paragraph in their e-mail, we failed to let them know we didn't have consensus about doing that (trying and failing at this is mostly my personal responsibilty BTW).
I was only able to understand things as outlined above after extensive chats with Steve and Guillaume helped me see how things felt from their perspective. There are many ways in which we as a Board could have done better - but it mostly comes to better communication. There seems to be a pattern of us "forgetting" about properly engaging our partners (this BTW cannot be attributed to any one fraction of the Board). But that should be relatively easy to fix. We probably should have involved them more in our thought processes - at least then they would have known, for example, that anything close to suppressing the report never was proposed by anyone.There are also things that the MWG researchers could have done better, like giving more arguments why a strict timeline was necessary. In absence of those arguments, it was easy to see it as purely a lack of trust. This of course does not set the stage for productive discussions either.
I have the feeling (and have seen clear evidence of this happening) that we act on assumptions about other people's ideas - which then sometimes forces people to act in exactly the way you would have assumed them to act. That's nice, because then we don't have to re-evaluate our own beliefs. I know mistakes have been made (plenty), but this war-like mentality only makes it worse. As a Board member, I will do everything I can to not go along in this and try to keep looking at problems from all possible angles - including yours.

Looking forward to the dissection of this message**,Joost

* The break might not have been official, but you simply can't work on a difficult case like this with several people not present. ** Not really
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