The XMPP Council

2009-09-10

As just posted to the members@xmpp.org discussion list, I have decided not to stand for election to the XMPP Council this year. Although I have served on the Council for many years, I think it is time for me to open up a place on the Council for some of the strong technical minds on the XMPP community. I think the elections this year will be quite interesting!

UPDATE...

Herewith some further thoughts on the role of the Council and the qualities that I will be looking for in Council members as I try to figure out whom to vote for (it's really difficult this year!).

The only responsibility of the XMPP Council is to ensure that the XMPP Standards Foundation produces high-quality protocol specifications. It does so mainly by acting as an input filter (deciding which proposals to accept as official XEPs) and an output filter (deciding which XEPs to advance from Experimental to Draft and from Draft to Final). XMPP Council members usually take an active role in discussions on the standards@xmpp.org mailing list as a way of guiding XEP authors and the community toward technically strong solutions to problems that are worth solving. In addition they often implement specifications in code and sometimes even write specifications (although historically I have done most of that).

Thus Council members need to have a good design sense, understand the fundamentals of XMPP and how various XMPP extensions can or should fit together, see how a given protocol extension can be implemented (or why it can't), pay attention to possible security issues, know what they know and what they don't know (thus realizing when they need to seek outside input), listen closely to each other and to the developer community, prepare for and attend meetings every ~2 weeks, and sustain an interest in serving over the entire 12-month term. Given that I won't be serving on the Council this term, those who are elected will also need to generate meeting agendas, run the meetings, stay after Council members to vote, write meeting minutes, follow up more directly on action items (e.g., proposing text changes to XSF specs), communicate with XEP authors, and complete other such tasks that I've traditionally shouldered by myself (I'm not complaining, just being realistic). I'll probably still do some of that, especially toward the beginning of the term, but I won't do all of it. It's time to spread the wealth. :)

Furthermore, I think it's important for the Council to contain a mix of people. XMPP is a client-server technology so it's good to have both client and server developers (library and component developers, too!). XMPP is widely deployed so it's good to have folks with experience running public messaging services. XMPP is increasingly being used for non-IM use cases (e.g., pubsub notification services and multimedia systems) and in non-traditional contexts (e.g., mobile computing and distressed networks), so it would be nice to involve people working in those areas if possible.

Thankfully, the XSF has a deep bench of talent, and I think we would do well with any of the people who are standing for election. I won't reveal whom I'll be voting for because I haven't figured it out yet. However, I will be putting a premium on those whom I think best meet the criteria I've outlined above, as well as on giving many non-incumbents a chance to serve. Heck, I might even be in favor of formal or informal term limits for XMPP Council members, such as no more than three consecutive terms and then you need to take a one-year break before you can serve again (which would disqualify me, Ralph, and Kev from standing for election this year) or four terms (which would disqualify me and Ralph).

A parting thought. Some folks on the members@xmpp.org list have wondered if I'm retiring, quitting, burnt out, or moving on. Far from it -- I am still full of passion and energy for our work on XMPP technologies. However, I sincerely want to give more people a chance to contribute and I consciously want to reduce my own power in the XMPP community. If I persist in controlling the XMPP Council (however benevolently) then I am merely paying lip service to the ideals of openness and decentralization that I hold dear -- and I do not want to become a hypocrite. Besides, I reserve the right as a member of the XSF to stand for election in the future, so you're not quite rid of me yet. ;-)


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal