Re: [Spi-private] Re: Inviting questions from SPI

From: David Graham <cdlu(at)railfan(dot)ca>
To: spi-private(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Cc: spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Subject: Re: [Spi-private] Re: Inviting questions from SPI
Date: 2007-07-13 15:32:16
Message-ID: Pine.LNX.4.55.0707131054020.16589@baffin
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On Fri, 13 Jul 2007, Joshua D. Drake wrote:
> MJ Ray wrote:
> > "Joshua D. Drake" <jd(at)commandprompt(dot)com> wrote:
> >> I plan on actively recruiting new projects. There are many, many FOSS
> >> projects out there that could use SPI services, that have no idea who we
> >> are.
> >
> > There are also many who know who SPI are and then still set up
> > independent foundations anyway. Do you know some reasons why?
> Well I don't "know" but I could guess. SPI, just really doesn't exist.
> This is an advocacy problem. We have been around for years and yet Open
> Source and FOSS have ran off without us.

I, too, would like to see SPI grow and accept new projects, but I prefer
to do this passively. By being an organisation that says 'yeah, we're
here, and if you need us, let us know,' I think we do the best service we
can to the community. If we take an aggressive recruiting stance I think
we raise expectations above what is reasonable for what we provide and
risk hurting the community we seek to help. As projects like PostgreSQL
and others that have joined us in the last few years find SPI's services
beneficial to their projects, word will get out and projects that need the
services we provide will find us.

Thus I don't think it is an 'advocacy problem' so much as a problem of our
history. We have been around for around a decade, but for most of that
time SPI was both dysfunctional and not actively interested in expanding.
It is only in the last few years, largely since board elections were
introduced in 2003, that SPI has become able to seriously accept and back
up projects. It takes time to build up from there to a critical mass where
projects realise that it makes more sense to go to a well-oiled SPI than
to go it alone.

Frankly I believe that for large projects that have their own foundations
to see a benefit in using SPI instead of their own organisations, SPI has
to be large enough to be able to fund a serious paid bookkeeper/accountant
around the calendar to take care of our increasingly complex books, and to
have a handful of preferably pro bono lawyers we can tap as needed for our
member projects, perhaps one day in partnership with SFLC? We also need to
have a track record of problem-free money handling, and while we appear to
be there now, our history still weighs. SPI is ready to accept more
projects, but only just.

> We have the potential to be very influential in the process.

We have to decide as an organisation if our purpose is to influence the
community or simply be the wall the community can lean against while it
does its work. Personally, I prefer and believe the latter. SPI has a very
important role not being filled by any other organisation simply to exist
for its projects and act in the best interests of our projects. This is
our niche.

> > One reason I have seen is that SPI does not advocate and market its
> > projects in the way a single-project foundation usually does. Would
> > you address that and how?
> Oh, heh see above. I have some specific ideas in mind, I mention some of
> them in my platform:
> * A more physical presence of SPI and the associative projects at well
> known events such as OSCON, LinuxWorld, and USENIX.
> * Working in FOSS hubs (such as S.F., Seattle and Portland) to foster
> workshops, talks and training opportunities not only for new FOSS
> community members, but also businesses that can help in the market drive
> of FOSS.
> * Work with SPI members to sponsor individuals to give talks related to
> FOSS at every possible legitimate opportunity.
> * Work to have all associative projects work together to provide a more
> influential presence to communities, governments and businesses.

I believe that we should make every reasonable effort to assist our
associated projects in doing any advocacy they wish, within the bounds of
their budgets and our charter. I don't believe our role is to be an
independent lobby group, but our projects are free to be with our backing.

SPI holds projects' assets and money, and distributes it at their bidding,
but has very little money of its own, most of which goes to administering
projects' collective assets. We can fund our projects with their own money
within the boundaries of the purposes stated on our certificate of
incorporation, but need not and probably cannot afford to do them directly
ourselves. I do not believe SPI needs a presence per se at conferences and
tradeshows and the likes; the presence of our member projects who are able
to handle smaller amounts of assets only because of SPI's backing is all
the presence SPI needs. I prefer to leave advocacy to groups who
specialise in it, and keep our role as that of a backroom organisation
that does whatever it can to sustain its member projects, rather than the
community as a whole. The whole community is the sum of its parts, and
that is the best thing we can do for it.

> > Another reason is that SPI is controlled by developers and not users.
> > Would you address that and how?
> Hmmm... I am not sure this is actually a problem. At least not the way I
> think you think so. As long as the respective projects work to actually
> integrate SPI into their projects, this problem should largely go away.
> PostgreSQL has done this quite a bit. We are very proactive in the use
> of SPI.

SPI is controlled by its membership made up mostly of the membership of
its member projects, not either developers or users specifically. How a
member project chooses to integrate SPI into itself is entirely up to it,
and as long as they are not working against SPI, its goals, or its member
projects, it will always have SPI's blessing. OFTC sees SPI as an integral
part of its own governing structure, while other projects can and do see
it as little more than a wallet.

>From my platform[1], "I to see and assist with SPI's
continuing growth toward a life as a truly relevant member of the free
software/open source communities at large and to the increasing number of
projects now associated with SPI." The best way to be relevant to the
community is to be there for our member projects, not to act as an
independent project in our own right.


- -
David "cdlu" Graham - cdlu(at)railfan(dot)ca
Guelph, Ontario -

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