On Governance

This post was originally posted at jonobacon.org. You can read it here

While writing a chapter on governance for the Art Of Community, I kick off the chapter with the wonderful story of how Mike Basinger, a volunteer who has never worked for Canonical Ltd, has been able to serve on two of the most significant governance bodies in the Ubuntu community. I think the story itself speaks well for the Ubuntu governance infrastructure; an infrastructure that other Open Source projects have also been building on for their own communities too.

I asked Mike what excited him about the Ubuntu community and he described it eloquently:

“What excites me about the community governance is the sense that Ubuntu is a community of thousands of people from every country, race, sex, and religion who have got together and said ‘we want computing to be this way’. Linux and Open Source has enabled this as opposed to what Microsoft or Apple tell you. It is the sense that our community’s governance is open and anyone who wants to contribute can and has a say in the direction of Ubuntu. It is that the community’s main focus is to help each other, be that is write code, create documentation, or answer questions from our users.”

That made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up. :)

3 Responses to “On Governance”

  1. David Thomas February 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Wow, that is exactly how I feel. Every one in our LoCo has a vote. You feel like you belong and when you feel like you belong you want to contribute. I’ve said it before it really is what makes Ubuntu stand apart from other distributions. However, I see the trend moving to this type of community thinking.

  2. Ellis February 19, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    I think it’s fairly easy to govern a community when it’s aim is clear. The problems arise when people want to shift the aim.

    For example, what would happen if some of the Ubuntu community wanted to move to another Linux set-up, or push towards a full integration with Windows? I’m obviously speaking hypothetically, but I have a “sit-down” policy for leading my community. This sometimes makes it difficult when you see unwise, ill-informed ideas being brought to the table.

    It would be easy to say let nature take it’s course, but governance of a community is also about protection. And sometimes we may need to protect ourselves against the popular vote.

    What systems/processes do you have in place to allow for such corrections? Do you have these within Ubuntu?

    nb. i lead a christian community where the majority of teaching is done around a meal and is discussion based where everybody is allowed to bring their thoughts/insights… er… to the table regardless of background or creed- (i think i’ve said that last bit before)

  3. Sense Hofstede February 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    A good governance body lets people be heard and is semi-democratic. However, when problems arises it also should be able to act quickly on its own without having to endlessly consult the community. Because of this, the governance body should be open to anyone who is suitable, qualified and has enough support from within the community.

    At Ubuntu NL we’re currently discussing the crisis and how to solve it. The thing that stands out most is the fact that there is only something constructive done when someone with authority says: this is what we’re going to do. Otherwise people keep discussing things over and over without coming to an agreement.

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