Inappropriate use of private meetings & lists.

C. Scott Ananian cscott at laptop.org
Tue Jul 1 14:54:37 EDT 2008


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."
  http://www.mozilla.org/roadmap/roadmap-26-Oct-1998.html

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
(http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/sugar/2008-May/005752.html), 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

-- 
 ( http://cscott.net/ )


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