Inappropriate use of private meetings & lists.

Kim Quirk kim at
Wed Jul 2 01:43:50 EDT 2008

I think we all agree that communications can improve and constructive ideas
on how to do that are always welcome.

I'm not sure how you decided that we had consensus on following Mozilla's
design principles. I don't remember being part of that discussion. I'm not
sure how we define consensus, which brings me to one of the problems that
consensus-driven decision making often faces -- how do we know when we've
reached consensus?

What strikes me as more fundamental or underlying in your comments is the
disconnect between how some people think or want OLPC to be managed versus
how we are actually managing and making day to day decisions.

There are top-down decisions being made by a few people that drive the
direction of OLPC. These decisions are not waiting for consensus, and they
are made by a small number of people. I don't believe this is going to
change (at least not in the short term).

At the same time, there are many decisions that are driven by the community
that come from the bottom up. This seems to work pretty well to involve the
community in many areas of OLPC operations.

I believe this 'business model' is intentional and that OLPC is not trying
to be an organization run by consensus.

The interesting discussions come from the areas where the top down meets the
bottom up. We have a lot of decisions and discussions that need to happen in
this middle ground. I would argue that this is where we are making our
efficiency over consensus trade offs. Sometimes efficiency wins, and
sometimes consensus wins.

You (and many others) are helping to identify once we've made an efficiency
trade off if there are better ways to communicate and how to make the
information public. This is very helpful.

There is an analogy here with pushing code upstream. It is often a good
idea, but there are many reasons why every patch does NOT go upstream
(you've argued quite a few yourself).

Let's keep having the discussions, but recognize that these two decision
making models exist at OLPC. Those who are employed by OLPC and need to
carry out OLPC goals (sometimes in conflict with community goals) are asked
to help make decisions in this middle ground.


On Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 2:54 PM, C. Scott Ananian <cscott at> wrote:

> When Mozilla went public, the first item on their list of "design
> principles" was:
>  "External development counts more than convenience or ease-of-habit
> for internal-to-Netscape developers. The Netscape X-heads, for
> example, have moved all of their mail usage except for
> I'm-out-sick-today and any truly-proprietary messages to the
> mozilla.unix newsgroup. Likewise with NGLayout hackers and the
> mozilla.layout group. So it shall be for all development."
> I thought we achieved broad consensus a few weeks ago that this
> principle should be adopted by OLPC, and it was indeed heartening to
> see more engagement on the devel@ lists and a shift away from private
> ad-hoc mailing lists.  We created a list of 'truly-proprietary'
> messages, and occasionally even successfully moved conversations to
> devel@ when the topic strayed away from the proprietary and
> confidential on that list.
> I also thought I was successful in convincing management of the
> pressing need for a community liason, to help ensure that our openness
> was persistent, and to take personal responsibility for prodding
> people to use appropriate public fora.
> I was away in Europe for almost two weeks, and while I've been gone
> I'm sad to say it seems OLPC has been backsliding.  On the "truly
> proprietary" list I have received messages about OFW2 status, even
> though it was made public at a press-invited event back in May, on our
> public mailing lists by our CEO himself
> (, and on
> sites such as OLPCNews.  I've also received many many other messages
> that don't pass any sort of "confidentiality" bar.
> Part of the problem, of course, is (as I raised earlier), without a
> community liason with authority, no one can definitely say what is
> safe to disclose and what is not, so people are erring on the side of
> caution and forgetting their prime directive of transparency.
> Further, many meetings and discussions that used to happen on public
> IRC channels, so as to better include our many non-local contractors
> and employees, not to mention interested members of the community,
> have reverted to face-to-face meetings.  "Expediency" is the rationale
> given -- which of course is exactly the rationale rejected by the
> principle as stated above.  Often transcription or call-in access is
> offered as a poor substitute to equal access for the community and
> external developers.
> Perhaps transparency is not actually a goal of OLPC.  But if it is,
> OLPC has stopped making progress towards this goal.
> I am wondering if it is appropriate that I unsubscribe from the "truly
> proprietary" group and refuse to take part in face-to-face meetings,
> to encourage the sort of openness OLPC claims to desire.
>  --scott
> --
>  ( )
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