jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
[personal profile] jennyst
Since my last post seems to have sparked off a lot of discussion, there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify. Firstly, attendance is not the whole story, particularly for board meetings.

Obviously, it's a problem if someone can hardly ever attend, misses a lot of meetings in a row, etc. But if someone misses one meeting, reads the transcript shortly afterwards, participates in discussion via email and votes via email a few days afterwards, it's not a big deal. So long as people are still doing the work, still contactable, still have time for discussion, it can work. The problems come when someone is too busy to do the work. Attendance figures are a symptom, not the root cause and not the whole story. Statutory holidays and illness can easily mean missing 20% of meetings or more. So yes, I was frustrated by the difficulties in getting quora for votes and particular discussions, and I still am. But that's more about responses to emails and participation in discussions than just numbers of meetings.

Secondly, I wanted to talk a bit about barriers to entry for experienced developers. We've made some huge steps forward over the past year in lowering these, and we're still working on it. I know a lot of people in fandom have never worked for another OSS project, so might not be familiar with what's considered normal or common procedure.

In particular, there's been some discussion recently about hosted development environments and Github pull requests. (See [personal profile] branchandroot and [personal profile] troisroyaumes for more context). The kind of hosted development environments that Dreamwidth and OTW offer are actually pretty unusual in the OSS world. We're not the only project to have followed Dreamwidth's example, but most of the big OSS projects don't. This kind of service directly costs us money - $160 per month at the moment. We think it's worth it, because it helps bring in newer developers, and reduces barriers for experienced developers, but it's not actually free; we just offer it for free to our volunteers, to support them in their work for us.

For most OSS projects, experienced coders would set things up themselves. For example, when I was looking at coding for CiviCRM, I had to set up not just their code, but Drupal as well, on top of the usual Apache & MySQL. That's a lot more of a barrier than using Rubygems to set up unicorn and nginx, where the default config and install commands do everything for you. An experienced coder with no previous experience of our project and little Ruby knowledge still managed it in an hour or two, though she also said that a new coder without that experience would have struggled. And all of that is a lot easier on Linux than on Windows or Mac.

If someone is prepared to give us a pseudonym, email address, tick a box to say they want to do coding and hit submit, we then give them not only easier access to all our tools, but also the hosted environment and a lot of hand-holding and support. That process used to involve jumping through a few hoops, but Volcom and Web have put in sterling work over the past few months and streamlined it a lot. They're currently working on simplifying it still further for all committees, which is why we're currently closed to new volunteers in most areas.

Obviously there are still many things we could improve, both in terms of publicising all this, and in making the community culture more welcoming and structure more efficient. Those who've been reading this journal for a while will have seen some of my previous posts on those topics. But I'd rather focus on the accurate criticism than get sidetracked by stuff that's not actually true.

In happier news, thank you to everyone who gave me hugs on my last post - it's given me an injection of energy, and we've managed to redistribute a couple of tasks so that several of us are making more progress again. New board minutes are now posted, Sidra's thank-you is posted, and so is strat plan's latest update. And although the annual report is several months late, it's getting very close to being ready. So there is some improvement in various areas, even if it's not as much as we might have hoped six months ago.
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Jenny S-T

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