This year's Eclipse board election promises to be by far the most interesting to date. I feel that the incumbents can claim significant credit for that being the case. As a group, we have helped increase awareness of the role and the value of participating in it. I had a quick look through the candidate vision statements, and have a few opinions about them, as well as some opinions about the performance of the incumbents during the current term.
Firstly, I think all the incumbents did quite a good job of representing the committer's interests. For the most part, each of us has avoided toeing our organizational party line. Of course our primary fiduciary responsibility is to act in the best interests of the foundation. In addition, as employees of a company, we are also expected to act in the best interests of that company. Interestingly, there isn't actually a legal obligation to act in the committer's best interests, though clearly there is a strong social obligation to do so.
It's clearly possible for the various interests to conflict. One example of a potential conflict is the seemingly universal desire to see the parallel IP process expanded as much as possible. Kudos to Jeff and last year's other representatives for having gotten us this far in the first place! Certainly the committers don't want to be bogged down by legal obstacles, but that has to be balanced against the foundation's legal risks of an IP free for all. It's been a tough struggle to make progress on this issue. I've personally taken a very active role by getting involved on the board's IP committee and of course I get to see IBM's internal struggles with this issue as well.
Being bound by the strict confidentiality constraints both as an IBM employee and a board member makes it a challenge to discuss the machinations openly, which is quite frustrating for someone as gabby as me. Suffice to say, lawyers want to avoid risk---obviously doing nothing is the least risk of all---while developers want to make rapid technical progress and typically have little awareness or understanding of the legal risk. It's been painful but eye opening for me to be sure. It's certainly made me feel useful to be able to bring the developer's perspective to the table.
Many of the candidates specifically mention improvements to the IP process as something they want to pursue so I fully expect to see continuing progress. Probably many people will have noticed how much the process has already improved, with much faster turn around and a better sense of time to completion. Of course Janet's team and Mike's management direction deserve the lion's share of the credit, but we committer representatives too worked hard to make this happen.
One thing that struck me reading the candidate positions is that some will likely be frustrated to discover the many limitations of a board which is often powerless to effect change because there is so little resource for it to actually direct. The board also tends to avoid controversial issues and prefers to act only where there is consensus. It's also very important to realize that the board's role is not to treat Mike as a puppet we exploit to vicariously control the day-to-day operations of the Eclipse Management Organization. Mike will give new board members a nice little book that helps make it much more clear what a board should and shouldn't do. Mike needs to be empowered to manage his own organization while the board needs to focus high level direction that avoids getting bogged down by the minutia. A significant amount of what some of the candidates are outlining isn't really the role of the board at all. Of course I avoided all this by outlining very little in my vision statement other than clarifying the principles I use to guide my thinking. Anyone will tell you that I've been very outspoken.
I think that Jeff and Darin have by far the strongest and most well-considered platforms. Since Jeff has been on the board the longest---experience is definitely huge asset---I hope that he wins a seat. He's the diversity candidate of choice, being an independent now. And, to belabor the point of my previous blog, his one vote for himself will have more impact than will the votes of any group of committers from any member organization. So take note that he's taking the public position of one committer one vote. For a number of reasons, Jeff ranks at the top of my list.
Darin is the only candidate actually running for reelection; he's always running some or other horribly long marathon This guy has stamina! He is soft spoken and unassuming, but he's done an awful lot to improve the visibility of the committer representatives and has proven to be very constructive on the board. I have the greatest of respect for him and he's definitely an asset.
Chris is kind of the poster boy of Eclipse and has personally done more for Eclipse's sense of community than anyone else I can think of. He always brings a fresh youthful perspective to the picture and that's very useful on board composed to a large extend of senior executive types. Many of the good things I've done in the past year are a result of following his example. I think many will agree that he's an excellent example to follow.
Kosta has been active with issues like a common components project and a common build infrastructure project. They're very difficult issues to tackle without significant support from many involved parties.
The new candidates are especially exciting to see. Mik is an amazing guy! The two Dougs are both passionate people who blog actively and have each done a lot to help grow the community, to foster its diversity, and to promote Eclipse as a whole. No matter who wins, it's going to end up being a great set of people; the committer community should feel proud to have fielded such an excellent set of candidates. Of course I'd really like to win a seat myself. I've gotten such a kick out of being involved in something I had always considered completely outside of my usual little box. It's nice to have grown as a person. It has truly been a honor.
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