Diary of a new board member

So this happened. It’s the first time I’ve served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and I thought it would be good to write about the experience.

The GNOME Foundation Board can often be a bit opaque. Generally it works in the background, and while you can get a sense of some of its activities through the minutes, it is easy to forget that the board is out there doing its thing.

It has been a bit of a revelation to see just how active the board is. It’s a bit like I’ve discovered a new, secret world inside the GNOME project. And there’s a lot happening in this world – it is always busy.

There’s an IRC channel and several private mailing lists, which are very active. And there are tasks being taken care of all the time – I already have a list of three or four things that I’m sorting out, for example.

I was impressed by the first board meeting I participated in. There was a clear agenda that was followed, minutes were recorded as the meeting went on, and the meeting ran to time. Many of the agenda items weren’t particularly glamorous, but they were things that need to be done, and there was a good level of scrutiny around each one.

There have been a few other things that have surprised me about the board. I wasn’t fully aware of how institutionalised it is. We are governed by our bylaws, which set out how the board has to operate, as well as some of its obligations. I read them recently, and was surprised by a couple of things that are in there. If you’re a Foundation member, you might be interested to take a look.

Another thing is just how important Rosanna is to the board. For those who don’t know, Rosanna is the Foundation’s Director of Operations. Not only does she take care of a lot of the Foundation’s adminstration, but she is a valuable source of knowledge and expertise, having worked for the Foundation for numerous years. She’s another one of those aspects of the Foundation that is both important and, often, hidden from view.

I’m still busy learning the ropes, and there’s a lot I have to learn. So far it is satisfying work though, and good to see another side of the GNOME project.

6 thoughts on “Diary of a new board member”

  1. Well I am glad you are on the board, congrats. But when writing things like a secret world inside of Gnome and private mailing lists. Brings me no comfort in how Gnome is being run. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will but those lines make me nervous as there have already been way to many poor decisions by Gnome.

    1. It’s an established fact that the board has to meet in private due to the type of work that it does – such as dealing with sensitive legal matters, or negotiations with partners. Everything that can be shared publicly is shared, as you can see in the public minutes.

      As for “poor decisions by GNOME”, you’ll have to be more specific. The board doesn’t make technical or design decisions – all that happens in the wider project, which is fully transparent.

    2. Please, leave your conspiracies at the door.

      The Board discusses sensitive material, both in terms of privacy and legal nature; it has access to personal details as well as information from the advisory board, and it cannot disclose everything. Everything that can be made public, is made public as soon as humanly possible.

      As for “poor decisions” you’ll have to be more clear — though I’m already betting where you’re going with that misleading line…

    3. @lostson: in addition to legal matters of all sorts, a very real (and frequent) usecase for the private mailing lists is for members of the community to send their personal information (including banking information for reimbursements, receipts, personal identification details for visas, etc.), drafts of joint statements, etc. You wouldn’t expect that to be out on a public mailing list archive, would you? :)

  2. Congrats again! Now you know what’s on the other side of the looking glass. ;-)

    Rosanna is one of the unsung heroes of the GNOME project. Without her, the life of the Board would be much, much harder.

  3. @Jeff @Emmanuele Thanks for the enlightenment, I had no idea of the separation between “The Board” and other operations or what they do. Now I know and can stop being so paranoid and put my tinfoil hat away, thanks again.

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