The Open Source Initiative (OSI) Board meet this weekend in San Francisco for its annual face-to-face meeting (generously hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation). There were two significant topics on the agenda. First, we had to review the substantial number of nominations for the two Board seats that become vacant on March 31st when Danese Cooper and Russ Nelson leave the Board due to term limits after a decade each of service. Their involvement in OSI has been pivotal, with Danese serving as treasurer for many years and Russ leading the license review activity. Both will be missed.
After a long series of discussions which finally had to come down to a vote, we elected Karl Fogel, Jim Jagielski and Mike Godwin (yes, that Godwin) to serve as Board members in 2011-12 (and potentially on to 2014), as well as re-electing Harshad Gune and Martin Michlmayr whose first terms had ended. That’s one more than the number of new vacancies, but we really could not pick between the three successful candidates so we used our discretion to create an eleventh Board seat to accommodate all three of them. If it’s not obvious to you why, just take a look at their respective web pages!
Since its inception, OSI’s role has been one of stewardship of the Open Source Definition supported by community volunteers reviewing licenses. For that mission, the Board has been a self-selecting one, with the current Board evaluating nominations and electing its own successors. But it’s gradually become obvious that the OSI needs to look beyond that role to act instead as a meeting point for the global open source communities at large. As you may recall, that switch was exactly the one I joined the Board to assist, following earlier unsuccessful attempts.
This time the Board was able to reach agreement. OSI intends to move to a representative model, with open source communities of all kinds able to become members and participate in OSI’s mission and governance directly. We decided the best approach was to offer a way for those communities to affiliate with OSI. The first step will be to change OSI’s bylaws to permit entities other than the Board to participate in governance.
Once that’s done, we’ll be publishing a vision and discussion document and then working transparently in OSI’s Governance Working Group to devise the rules. My hope is that we will have simple affiliation rules in place by the middle of the year, and then that we can openly evolve the governance as things progress.
My personal goal in all this is to have OSI equipped with governance that gets a high open-by-rule score and thus empowers every open source community collectively to “own” the definition and future of open source. And the sooner the better!