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Community management

Many modern FOSS software projects run their project from within a Foundation (or local equivalent). In most cases this is done by an open development model (using Open Source tools like GIT, SVN, Joomla, TRAC, etc.) and a FOSS license. However, against general conception, there’s more to software freedom than just the license.

First of all, a lot of free software projects are loosely-managed (giving up on central control). Discussion chiefly occurs on a number of public mailing lists, IRC and open/closed forums. More professional software Foundations have their center of power in their governing boards. (commercial companies are mostly run by the CEO and the executive team). I believe government is necessary for a variety of functions but primarily to protect the weakest members of the community, but should also encourage and incentivise self-reliance. I think it’s hard to regulate the regulators and that their power needs to be kept in check.

Just the statement: “We are an open source, community driven entity” is a statement which will only do justice to the true spirit of open source when some justification off its’ surroundings are made. This is transparency. Since I fear a typical setup for open source, not-for-profit Foundation surrounded by some profit cooperations (which is the case with more and more software foundations surrounded with some unnamed companies owned by Board Members), I ask myself before contributing or donating: Is this Foundation credible and trustworthy? (at that moment I already feel some commitment towards the software)

In my opinion, there is a responsibility for FOSS software Foundations to identify, define and manage risks related to the responsibility of oversight of what is a very valuable item: the intellectual and creative work embodied in the software products. This is ignored only at great risk to the software, its users and those responsible for the continued development of the software.

The main purpose of a foundation is to act as the steward of the software being developed and to ensure its long-term survival. The sourrounding of this project (like ownership!) determine the way things are overseen. A foundation has various responsibilities, including the following:

  1. organize the project community;
  2. actively market the software;
  3. clarify and manage intellectual property rights;
  4. set strategic directions for the software;
  5. respond and remain accountable to its members; and
  6. run all relevant back-office processes.
  7. reallocate the profits to the projects. i.e. donate to charity in case of selling all assets.

Below is a very interesting powerpoint slide, which illustrates perfectly what communities are and how they should be managed.

I try to define the XBMC community (“A community is an environment in which people’s mutual needs are met and various aspects of their lives are shared.) as it should be: This article gives some inside info and this post provides some info over swarms.

Shared needs:

Since we don’t like all hardware vendors, content providers and internet entrepreneurs have their own platform for offering those new style media, we need some great FOSS software like XBMC to control this diverse stream of media with a unified Graphical User Interface.

Shared purpose:

Empower, support and educate a global volunteer community with an open development model, knowledge-sharing tools and discussion-tools so FOSS Media Centre Software will be freely available for the public and fully complies with The Free Software Definition and /or The Open Source Definition.

I feel it is best to have ownership, oversight and operations split for better governance. So let’s devise a process of governance that is open, fair, trustworthy and participatory.

see: http://timreview.ca/article/636

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