XSF @ 10

2011-07-12

Ten years ago, Jeremie Miller, Michael Bauer, Andre Durand, and other interested people (including me) founded the Jabber Software Foundation to openly document, improve, and extend the Jabber protocols. A lot has changed since then, including IETF standardization (as XMPP) and widespread adoption of our technology by the Internet community, so I think it's time for us to think about what has worked, what hasn't worked, and what we can do to make the next ten years a success.

I see one basic problem in our community: we have too much organization (XSF processes and procedures, voting, teams, boards, councils) and too little energy (individual contributions, actions, and decisions).

Some of this is caused by the maturity of XMPP -- it's no longer a hot new technology, we have fewer active code projects, etc. However, some of it is caused by excessive bureaucracy within the XSF. I can't cause new projects to emerge, but I can try to fix the XSF to some extent.

The XSF has one core purpose: to public high-quality protocol specs and related materials (schemas, registries, etc.). Our websites, servers, validation software (I wish!), and other tools exist to support that basic mission. If we have organizational cruft, then let's clean it out as much as possible. (Some changes might not be possible given the XSF's legal structure.)

The basic idea floating in my head is to make the XSF into something like an "open-spec project". A meritocracy, not a bureaucracy. Just as with open-source projects, the XSF as an open-spec project would have two basic levels of involvement: contributors and committers.

A contributor would be anyone who writes specs, maintains the registries, reports bugs, submits patches, helps out with the infrastructure, edits the website or the wiki, runs the Summits, codes our tools, mentors GSoC students, assists new developers, helps people deploy XMPP, etc.

A committer would be anyone with full or partial commit access to our core output: specs, schemas, registries, etc.

Yes, we also might need project leads and even overall "leadership" of some kind, but I'd really like us to evolve beyond "members" and "leaders" toward "contributors" and "committers".

This would require some changes in our bylaws, but those changes are easy compared to the changes needed in our thinking and attitudes.

Members would need to think and act as contributors -- not as people who just like XMPP and vote four times a year.

Leaders (XMPP Council members, XSF Board members, etc.) would need to think and act as committers, as stewards of the technology, and as mentors of our contributors -- not as anointed experts who have a permanent place at the top and can say no to new ideas. (And yes, I include myself in that criticism!)

I've been thinking about this for a while, but I don't have all the answers. Rather than design a perfect plan for a top-down revolution, I wanted to share these thoughts with the rest of the community so we can have a conversation about problems and solutions. Your feedback is important, because we need to work on this together if we want to succeed for another ten years.

(As posted here.)


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal