When I ran for the OSI board in early 2019, I set three goals for myself:
- Grow the OSI's membership, and build a more representative organization.
- Defend the Open Source Definition and FOSS commons.
- Define the future of open source, as part of the larger community.
Now that the OSI has announced hiring an interim General Manager, I thought it would be a good time to publicly reflect on what I've accomplished and what I'd like to see next.
As I promised in my campaign pitch, I aim to be publicly accountable :)
Growing the OSI's membership
I have served as our Membership Committee Chair since the May 2019 board meeting, tasked with devising and supervising strategy to increase membership and deliver value to members.
As part of my election campaign last year, I signed up over 50 new individual members. Since May 2019, we've seen strong 33% growth of individual members, to reach a new all-time high over 600 (638 when I last checked).
I see the OSI as a relatively neutral organization that occupies a unique position to build bridges among organizations within the FOSS ecosystem. In order to facilitate this, we need a representative membership, and we need to engage those members and provide forums for cross-pollination. As Membership Committee Chair, I have been running quarterly video calls on Jitsi for our affiliate members, where we can share updates between many global organizations and discuss challenges we all face.
But it's not enough just to hold the discussion; we also need to bring fresh new voices into the conversation. Since I've joined the board, I'm thrilled to say that 16 new affiliate members joined (in chronological order) for a total of 81:
- Brandeis University
- OpenStreetMap Foundation
- TODO Group
- OpenStack Foundation
- Network Time Foundation
- Open Culture Foundation
- FUSS Project
- Open Preservation Foundation
- Open Source Community Africa
- Open Forum Europe
- GNOME Foundation
- OpenJS Foundation
I was also excited to run a survey of the OSI's individual and affiliate membership to help inform the future of the organization that received 58 long-form responses. The survey has been accepted by the board at our August meeting and should be released publicly soon!
Defending the Open Source Definition
When I joined the board, the first committee I joined was the License Committee, which is responsible for running the licence review process, making recommendations on new licenses, and maintaining our existing licenses.
Over the past year, under Pamela Chestek's leadership as Chair, the full board has approved the following licenses (with SPDX identifiers in brackets) on the recommendation of the License Committee:
- LBNL BSD License (BSD-3-Clause-LBNL)
- OpenLDAP Public License Version 2.8 (OLDAP-2.8)
- CAL Beta 4 (CAL-1.0)
- Mulan PSL v2 (MulanPSL-2.0)
- BSD 1 Clause (BSD-1-Clause)
- PHP License 3.01 (PHP-3.01)
- The Unlicense (Unlicense)
- MIT No Attribution (MIT-0)
We withheld approval of the following licenses:
I've also worked to define the scope of work for hiring someone to improve our license review process, which we have an open RFP for!
Chopping wood and carrying water
I joined the OSI with the goal of improving an organization I didn't think was performing up to its potential. Its membership and board were not representative of the wider open source community, its messaging felt outdated, and it seemed to be failing to rise to today's challenges for FOSS.
But before one can rise to meet these challenges, you need a strong foundation. The OSI needed the organizational structure, health, and governance in order to address such questions. Completing that work is essential, but not exactly glamourous—and it's a place that I thrive. Honestly, I don't (yet?) want to be the public face of the organization, and I apologize to those who've missed me at events like FOSDEM.
I want to talk a little about some of my behind-the-scenes activities that I've completed as part of my board service:
- Pushing for organizational D&O and liability insurance, which we obtained in July 2020
- Recruiting and encouraging new board members: I helped recruit both our appointed board members, Deb Bryant and Tracy Hinds, who now serve as officers, and endorsed Megan Byrd-Sanicki's candidacy, also a board officer
- Recruiting and interviewing a new interim General Manager, Deb Nicholson
- Forming an Incubator Project Working Group to determine graduation criteria for OSI Incubator Projects and serving as Snowdrift.coop's board sponsor
All of this work is intended to improve the organization's health and provide it with an excellent foundation for its mission.
Defining the future of open source
Soon after I was elected to the board, I gave a talk at Brooklyn.js entitled "The Future of Open Source." In this presentation, I pondered about the history and future of the free and open source software movement, and the ethical questions we must face.
In my election campaign, I wrote "Software licenses are a means, not an end, to open source software. Focusing on licensing is necessary but not sufficient to ensure a vibrant, thriving open source community. Focus on licensing to the exclusion of other serious community concerns is to our collective detriment."
My primary goal for my first term on the board was to ensure the OSI would be positioned to answer wider questions about the open source community and its future beyond licenses. Over the past two months, I supported Megan Byrd-Sanicki's suggestion to hold (and then participated in, with the rest of the board) organizational strategy sessions to facilitate our long-term planning. My contribution to help inform these sessions was providing the member survey on behalf of the Membership Committee.
Now, I think we are much better equiped to face the hard questions we'll have to tackle. In my opinion, the Open Source Initiative is better positioned than ever to answer them, and I can't wait to see what the future brings.
Hope to see you at our first State of the Source conference next week!