Strawman: attach more kudos to PMCs

Do we publicize the role of PMCs and PMC Chairs enough outside of the ASF?

We’re holding the annual member’s meeting of The Apache Software Foundation this week. One of the regular activities we do at member’s meetings is vote on electing any individuals who have been nominated for membership in the intervening months. Existing members nominate individuals who they believe have shown merit within the ASF, and then the body of members votes +1/-1 on admitting them.

ASF Members actually have very little direct power, other than the ability to vote for board members and nominate new members. Members are also allowed to read most of our private email lists, virtually all of which are organizational (i.e., not technical) in nature. In terms of the actual workings of our projects, it’s the PMCs that do it. Should it be important to us to better showcase the role of PMCs in the ASF, and show what an honor and kudos are deserving to PMC members, and especially PMC chairs?

I bring up this strawman idea for a couple of reasons – better showcasing our PMCs, and better managing growth.

PMCs do the work

As a leader in the open source arena, the ASF’s organizational models have been copied many times. One of the key structures we use is the PMC. PMCs are the actual groups that run our projects. They are both the formal body that approves software releases on behalf of the ASF itself, as well as the community/consensus model that is running the project for the long term. PMC members are elected, typically from within their committer communities, or are setup when a new project comes out of the incubator and becomes a TLP.

Given that PMC members are really performing the mission of the ASF – providing software for the public good – do we really showcase their role, and especially the role and honors that individuals serving there deserve? This is not at all to detract from all the good work that committers do, either through code donations, documentation, or helping on mailing lists. But PMC members have shown the merit and community spirit over a period of time to take it to the next level, and deserve broader public recognition for that.

The ASF is big

In thinking about the growth of the ASF – in this case, in terms of new members – I was also wondering about what makes a good member. There is a wide variety of opinion on this topic, and it’s hard to see where the “center of the consensus” lies. Some factors have broad agreement: individuals who have shown consistent merit over a period of time, and who can work well with communities, both key things for our success. But I wonder if the fairly flat structure of the ASF (members elect board, PMCs run themselves with oversight) is sometimes pushing us to nominate new members partly to honor their contributions – the kudos or honor associated with membership can be notable – and not always because they’ll be a strong resource in working on ASF-wide issues.

I think virtually all members agree on the first kind of criteria: Has an individual shown merit? But I’m pondering another criteria these days, as we attempt to scale: Would their membership be beneficial to the ASF? While I appreciate the work various committers (and non-committers) do, and definitely believe we need to honor that effort they’ve donated to the ASF, I wonder if there are other ways we can honor that, without the next and only step to elect them as a member. Hence the thought: do we showcase PMCs and their members enough, to ensure the world knows what they do?

Perhaps I’m being overly cautious. There is a wide variety of opinion; I think I fall somewhere between the middle and the grumpy old man view of electing new members, although this is a difficult topic to judge (votes on nominations are private). There are certainly some members who appear to rubber stamp virtually all nominations, or some, very respected members, who believe that anyone who’s contributed good work for long enough deserves to be elected in, period. But there are definitely growing pains associated with growth, both in terms of our internal size,

How I vote

  • Solid and reasoned support from multiple existing members.
  • Commitment over a significant period of time (year+, more is nice).
  • Productive participation, and playing nicely with others.
  • Demonstratively cares about the big picture (>1 project, more is really nice).

So, there’s my strawman idea: showcase PMCs more, to even out the perceived honors of doing the work of the ASF. Does anyone have a match? I know that @gstein is planning to bring one to the meeting…

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