Tag Archives: open source initiative

Endorsing Megan Byrd-Sanicki and Justin Colannino for the OSI Board

I am endorsing Megan Byrd-Sanicki and Justin Colannino for the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative. As an individual member of the OSI, I intend to vote for Megan. I intend to advise Affiliate Members to vote for Justin Colannino.

I’ve been on the Open Source Initiative board of directors for four years and have seen a lot going on in the organization during that time, as a board member, as an officer of the board, and as an activist focused on ethics in technology.

I pick these two candidates out of sincere enthusiasm for both of them, but I also pick them out of concern for the future of the OSI and open source.

These candidates as people

I will start off by disclosing that I actually just really like Megan and Justin. I think they’re both great humans who do wonderful things and are genuinely nice. They have traits I admire – they are generous, work hard for what they believe in, and keep their egos in check.

Megan and Justin are presenting themselves as people in their running from the OSI board. They work for two of the major tech companies (Google and Microsoft, respectively), however they don’t present themselves in context of their employers. They instead focus on their work for the open source community as members of the open source community.

They have lots of experience with non-profit organizations – having worked for important non-profits in the open source ecosystem, and continuing to volunteer within the community outside of their paid work.

These candidates as potential board members

Megan has an incredibly impressive non-profit background and an amazing ability to get things done. She knows how organizations work, what they need to work, and how to make that happen. The OSI needs to expand its organizational capacity through hiring and recruiting non-board volunteers. Megan understands this and knows how to make it happen. In spite of its age, the OSI lacks a lot of the infrastructure necessary for a growing non-profit, and I believe she’ll help rectify that.

For the past several months Megan has served as an advisory resource to the OSI – connecting us with consultants and experts to help with these organizational issues. She has demonstrated a desire to see the OSI succeed by actually helping it take the steps forward it needs to.

When we were making the decision to appoint board members, Megan was nominated by multiple people. I reached out to the nominees I could find contact information for. I had a great conversation with her, during which time she expressed a concrete vision for how she could participate and what she would bring. She had actual plans and detailed knowledge on how to execute them. I was impressed then and I was ecstatic to see that her interest in the OSI continued such that she stepped up to run for the board.

I’ve known and worked with Justin in several different FOSS contexts. He’s worked with friends of mine in a wide range of legal contexts – covering just about everything lawyers do in open source. I respect his expertise and opinions not just because he has shown himself to be knowledgeable and trustworthy, but because others I respect hold him in equally high regard.

Justin is familiar with the needs of non-profits from all of his work with them over the years – as an employee, as counsel, and as a volunteer. He understands what non-profits need to succeed from his years of experience. He is dedicated to the success of FOSS organizations and projects in ways I have seen few others demonstrate. I would especially like to highlights Justin’s work in helping to set up the legal foundations that enable Outreachy to be so successful and help so many people.

Justin is, of course, an expert in licensing and would be a boon for the organization. He goes a step further than just knowing about licensing and the Open Source Definition through theoretical and practical experience. Justin really believes in the ethics behind the OSD.

My major concerns

When defining myself in the context of open source, I am above all else a true believer and user freedom activist. This is what drives all the work I’ve done and do in my professional and volunteer life, from starting my involvement as a organizer at Penguicon in 2007; my volunteering with Debian, the OSI, the Software Freedom Conservancy, and Software Heritage; my work at the Berkman (Klein) Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, One Laptop Per Child, MIT, the Free Software Foundation, and the GNOME Foundation; and my many additional projects relating to FOSS communities, some of which you can find published in the Journal of Peer Production.

My fear for the future of open source is that it becomes overly controlled by corporate interests. I think it is currently on this path and will only become worse if things continue the way they’re going. The OSI carries responsibility for this, as well as other individuals and organizations. It is imperative moving forward the the OSI is led by people who focus on the rights recognized and protected by the process of open source licensing. The board members need to understand the way open source fits into the narrative of our undeniable human rights.

Megan and Justin both work for some of the largest, most monolithic, and, at times, most egregious tech companies out there. However, these companies have also done a lot of good under their guidance. Most importantly, however, is that Megan is not running as an employee of Google and Justin is not running as an employee of Microsoft. They are running as people who care about the future of open source.

OSI Board elections – 2019

I’m running for the Open Source Initiative board of directors!

To be more precise, I’m running for re-election, as I’ve served on the board for the past three years.

Deciding whether to run again has caused me to ask a few questions:

  • Do I feel like I accomplished enough over the past three years?
  • Do I think I would do a better job than other candidates?
  • Is this the right use of my time?

What have I accomplished?

The first and foremost responsibility of a board member is to participate in calls and meetings. I’ve participated in weekly check-ins with the general manager, team calls for the Membership team, monthly board calls, twice a year face-to-face meetings, and other miscellaneous calls and meetings as they became necessary.

When talking about the election, I keep emphasizing the mundane aspects of being on a board. Having policy opinions and vision and ideas are great — but can you focus during a six hour meeting?  (I knit and keep my laptop mostly closed to help with that.)

I enjoy tabling at conferences, and have done a lot of this on behalf of the OSI at events like Paris Open Source Summit and OSCON.

I served as assistant treasurer of the organization, and helped with fundraising activities — I consider it part of the duty of a board member to help with the fiscal stability of an organization. I participated in the organization of activities to expand affiliate engagement in the OSI, and helped instigate initiatives to expand the membership of the organization. I regularly read license-review and license-discuss, to keep up with the conversation around FLOSS licensing.

Above all, I’ve been an advocate for the necessity of recognizing user freedom in all conversations around FLOSS.

Do I think I would do a good job over the next three years?

As I said in my platform, working on a board isn’t glamorous. I’m interested in organizational sustainability and keeping the lights on at the OSI. Having vision and ideas is important, but you have to also be interested in seeing an organization continue to exist and being able to do the work required on a basic level.

In general, the OSI needs a working board. It can be hard to build one from community votes, when everyone involved is already accomplished and hard working in FLOSS. I have a number of other projects I am involved with (most notably my day job in free software, my work on the Debian Outreach and Anti-harassment teams, and baking, biking, climbing, and music). I’ve already proven that I am willing and able to make time for the OSI.

I know I can help the OSI, and that’s my primary goal. I have started projects, and there are more projects I would like to start, that are only possible as a member of the board. I would not like to abandon my work half-way finished, and instead see it through to fruition.

Is this the best use of my time?

I dedicate most of my professional and personal time to creating a world where rights respecting technology is the standard.

With licenses like the Server Side Public License, proposals like the Commons Clause, and criticism of the Open Source Definition, it’s become more important than ever to push for the integrity and necessity of open source. Open source is not a developmental model — though there are certain models of development enabled by using an open source license. Open Source is about user freedom. If I want to make sure our rights are respected in technology, there is no better place to do it than on the front lines.

In summary

Vote for me! I’m running for an affiliate seat. If you know someone who is at or representing an affiliate organization, please share this with them or put them in touch with me! If your user group, community organization, or FLOSS nonprofit isn’t already an affiliate, consider becoming one — even if you miss the opportunity to vote for me.

Why I want you to run for the OSI board

The Open Source Initiative board is homogeneous, stratified across generations.

We fit across three (tech) generations of contributors to free and open source software–those who were involved in the early days of free software; those who found places in the community after open source had been established; and the group paultag humorously dubbed the GNU generation–none of us have lived in a world without the explicit concept of user freedom.

Within my cadre of FOSS-loving millennials, several of us have fairly similar stories, both inside of our FOSS lives and out: we all had formative life experiences of financial hardship, and tech helped us emerge into comfortable, middle-class lifestyles. We’re all community-focused and have worked as community managers. We’ve been finalists for the same jobs.

That is to say, while we have different opinions and different outlooks, we all come from fairly similar places.

While I would not go as far as to say the same is true across each generation represented in the board, we do a fairly good job of agreeing with one another. Occasionally we argue, but that frequently comes from practical points and specific concerns relating to the gritty logistics of making decisions for an organization.

We have a range of experiences represented when you take the board as a whole, but not as different as I would like to see.

The fact is, the board does not represent the greater FOSS community. This is why it’s important for more people to join the OSI–in order to vote in elections and make sure their voices are represented. In order for this representation to be real, we need people from different backgrounds and viewpoints to stand for election and become board members.

To say this in more explicit terms: the OSI board is extremely (exclusively) white. Two board members are European, eight of us from the United States, and there is one Canadian. I think this is a problem.

What do I want from you? If you’re from outside North America, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you’re a racial minority, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you come from a background that is a part of the FOSS movement, but not represented, I want you to run for the OSI board. Are you from North America? Are you white? Are you a college educated coder working in a cool tech job? That is -awesome-. I am some of those things. I want you to reach out to your friends with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge and encourage them to run for the OSI board.

Think you’re unqualified? You’re totally not. One of the things I’ve learned about life–and especially FOSS–from three of my amazing free software mentors is that we’re never qualified when we start something new–or at least we don’t feel that way. I had no clue what I was doing when I first thought about running for the OSI board. All I knew was that I wanted to do more for the community.

Think you’re too busy? You might be! You might not be! We’re a pretty busy lot, and we each put in what we’re capable of. Sometimes that’s advice and ideas; sometimes it’s fundraising, financial literacy skills, ideas, organizing, writing, and anything else you bring to the table.

Think you’ve nothing to say? I bet you do.

Joining a board is not only about you–it’s about giving back to the community that has given you so much. It’s about pushing a movement forward. It’s about bringing the ideas and voices of others to the table, and making sure that everyone is heard.

If you’re interested in running, but scared, uncertain, don’t think you’re qualified, want help, or just want to talk more about the responsibilities, please email me at molly [at] opensource [dot] org or Josh Simmons at josh [at] opensource [dot] org.

Board members also get sweet email addresses, and that alone is reason enough to run. 🙂

Previously, the board was appointed by the board. This gave them the opportunity to create a group representing a range of experiences and skill sets, as well as fill necessary niches of knowledge (licensing, technical skills, community organization, etc). Now that we have a board elected by membership, it’s more crucial for people to both nominate themselves, if they don’t see enough representation, and join the OSI. In order for elections to actually reflect the FLOSS community, wee need a strong, varied membership from all over the world. So, in addition to running or encouraging your friends to run, consider joining as an Individual or Affiliate member.