Oct 3rd OpenStack Foundation Board Meeting

On Oct 3rd, the OpenStack Foundation Board held a two hour conference call meeting which was open to anyone to join. The agenda was published in advance.

As usual, this my informal recollection of the meeting. It’s not an official record, etc. Jonathan published an official summary on the foundation mailing list.

Preliminaries

Our chairman, Alan Clark began the meeting by holding a roll call. If my count was correct, we had 21 of the 24 members of the board on the call, which is a pretty good turnout.

Alan introduced Chris Kemp as a replacement for Devin Carlen who had been representing Nebula and the Gold Members. Chris briefly explained that changes in his role at Nebula has left him more time for “strategic stuff” and is delighted to spend more time with the OpenStack community and join the board. He thanked everyone for their work in progressing the foundation to date.

Before getting down to business, we quickly voted to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.

Executive Director Report

Jonathan Bryce took the floor and gave a really excellent update on the Foundation’s progress.

First off, he described the launch of the OpenStack Foundation Training Marketplace at LinuxCon in New Orleans. The site now has 12 companies listing training events at over 30 cities around the world and has seen over 10,000 unique visitors over the past 2 weeks. He reiterated how one of the Foundation’s stated priorities for this year is to help training providers get the word out on their education programs and thereby expand the pool of people with OpenStack skills.

Next up, Jonathan gave an update on preparations for the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong. Everything is coming together nicely and the finalized speaking agenda has now been posted. He explained that, while they had received some 250 submissions for the summit in Portland, there were over 600 submissions for Hong Kong and yet not many extra speaking slots. The track chairs had a tough job whittling down the submissions but he thinks the end result is an agenda packed with great sessions. Jonathan warned that, unlike previous summits, we have a hard limit on the number of attendees and the “full access” passes will sell out in the next week or so.

Eileen asked exactly how many full access passes were issued and Jonathan explained there are 2,000 but that there are many more passes for the general sessions and expo hall. Joseph asked for some insight into the demographics of the registered attendees and how it compares to previous summits. Jonathan felt that we would see a large number of attendees from the region and that, while some companies may have reduced their numbers travelling from further afield, there would still be plenty of representation from all of the companies we are used to seeing at summits.

The discussion then moved on to looking ahead to 2014 and a sneak peak of next year’s budget. Jonathan explained how 2013 was a great year financially – particularly because the summits were larger than expected – and the Foundation goes into 2014 with a healthy budget surplus of over $1M. We expect to continue to see large summits and this will lead to increased revenues and expenses. Jonathan expects the Foundation to continue to invest in technology and infrastructure over 2014. He described the Foundation funded projects in 2013 to improve the member database and tie it to the contributor agree process and an improved system for handling summit speaker submissions.

Rob Hirschfeld asked whether the Foundation had budgeted for certification testing infrastructure being proposed as part of the “what is core” discussion. Josh felt this it not be necessary for the Foundation to fund this, and there was a brief data tracking and authentication systems.

Jonathan continued by describing the rapid growth in Foundation staff during 2013, but that he expects ongoing staffing costs to have mostly levelled off for 2014. He went on to talk about how he sees the role of the Foundation over the next year to be around connecting different parts of the community, helping to gather data on users and deployments and sharing information with the world about new features in each release.

One Jonathan had finished, Lew Tucker congratulated Jonathan on the progress and asked whether a written summary could be prepared for board members so that we could help get the word out. Josh pointed out that we were soon due an annual report which would contain much of this information.

Josh then asked a question about the project budget for gold member fees and how many new members this assumed would be added in 2014. There was some confusion on the issue because gold member fees are based on the member’s revenue, but the conclusion was that the addition of 4 new members was projected. This would bring the total number of gold members up to 20 out of a total possible 24 members.

Election Committee Report

Next up, Todd Moore delivered an excellent summary of the discussions and conclusions of the committee established to consider whether any changes were need for the individual and gold member director election systems and what those changes might be.

Todd’s report – which will be published in full soon – described how we considered three separate questions. Firstly, whether and how concerns about the fairness of the individual member director election system (particularly the issue of large blocks of affiliated voters) should be addressed, secondly whether we should consider any rule changes around foundation employees eligibility for the individual member director election and, finally, whether the eligibility rules for the 2013 gold member director elections had been properly enforced.

The last topic was easily dispensed with – Todd and the committee worked with the foundation staff to verify that all eligibility rules (i.e. eligibility as a candidate and eligibility to vote) had been properly enforced.

The first topic proved to be substantially more contentious. The pros and cons of changing to an STV based election system or tweaking the rules of the current system to halve (from 8 to 4) the number of votes which you could allocate to a single candidate were explained in great detail. Todd explained how the committee felt that changes were not necessarily warranted but that it would be wise to seriously consider the option of the “max 4 votes per candidate” tweak.

A motion was proposed to not fundamentally change the voting system and was almost voted for until it became apparent that Monty wanted to speak but was unable to come off mute. Once that was sorted out, Monty stated that the cumulative system was utterly broken and that block voting did, in fact, influence the outcome of the election. He felt strongly that a change to STV was needed. The debate then took off in earnest with many well put points made by various members. I explained how I agreed fully with Monty but that I was convinced by the “it’s working reasonably well; this doesn’t warrant a the disruption of a bylaws change” but that we needed to be alert to any renewed concern from members after the next election. In the end the vote was passed with no abstentions and Monty voting against.

The discussion then moved on to the question of the “only 4 votes per candidate” tweak. Much of the discussion hinged on whether this tweak required a bylaws change. The election committee and Jonathan felt that it was compatible with the “cumulative voting system” language in in section 3.9a of the bylaws but legal counsel for the foundation (Mark Radcliffe) disagreed strongly and felt “cumulative voting” was “binary in the eyes of the law”. Since the committee had suggested this tweak on the understanding that it was easy to implement, the idea was dropped.

Next, we discussed the second issue – the question of foundation employees on the board. The committee did not have a consensus recommendation on this but Todd did summarize the different viewpoints and arguments. One approach proposed that the executive director would be granted a new, automatic seat on the board and (because there is a limit of two members per organization), only one additional foundation employee could be elected to the board rather than the current limit of two employees. There was lots of debate and I felt Jonathan’s input was particularly interesting – that he did not see the need for an automatic executive director seat and he had reservations about restricting employees from being directors since they could bring invaluable and passionate input, should the electorate choose to elect them. In the end, it was felt there was not sufficient cause to warrant a disruptive bylaws change and the motion was withdrawn.

So, in summary, there will be no election system changes proposed to the electorate during this cycle. However, the board again re-stated the importance that all members adhere to the community code of conduct which states:

Respect the election process. Members should not attempt to manipulate election results. Open debate is welcome, but vote trading, ballot stuffing and other forms of abuse are not acceptable.

Finally, the committee took an action item from the board to analyze the results of the next election and provide the board with a report on the potential effect of any of the options proposed.

Wrapping Up

Because of the lengthy debate on the election system, we had run out of time and the rest of the agenda had to be postponed until the in person board meeting in Hong Kong.

Edits

  • Changed from “legal counsel for the board” to “legal counsel for the foundation”. Thanks to Richard Fontana for the correction.
  • Included a reference to the code of comment. Thanks to Rob Esker for his question.

3 Responses to “Oct 3rd OpenStack Foundation Board Meeting”

  1. Rob Esker says:

    Hi Mark,

    In the interest of clarity, do I understand correctly that the motion passed indicates no further change to voting systems in the interest of eliminating orchestrated block voting? My company explicitly avoided such orchestration the last go around in the interest of fairness and to avoid the appearance of impropriety. It sounds like the board, however, doesn’t discourage the practice and if we decide to field a candidate we’d be foolish to not engage in such to advance their chances (after all it’s undoubtedly the means several of the board owe their seat to). Please advise if I have that right.

    Thanks,
    Rob Esker

  2. markmc says:

    Good question Rob.

    I completely forgot to mention that part of the “it’s not broken” thinking here is that we have a code of conduct which all board members feels should be adhered to. If it is being adhered to, then there is/will be no orchestrated voting happening.

    I added a paragraph to the post and quoted the code of conduct.

  3. […] guilty of not pushing this election system issue hard enough over this past year. At one point I favoured experimenting with a tweak to the cumulative system over a more dramatic change because I found the prospect of getting a majority of over 25% of our […]

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