[IAEP] Membership issues

David Farning dfarning at sugarlabs.org
Fri Sep 5 18:25:05 EDT 2008

When setting up the membership structure for Sugar Labs we have several
issues to consider. Below is a brief analysis of those issues and how
they relate to sugar Labs. Feed back on issues I have missed or
misunderstood is appreciated. Monday I will post an initial Membership
document to the wiki and this list for more review 

Principles of Membership

One way to define the 'spirit' of membership is to explicitly define
membership principles.

Open – Sugar Labs is open to all; Sugar Labs provides the same
opportunity to all. Everyone participates with the same rules; there are
no rules to exclude any potential contributors which include, of course,
direct competitors in the marketplace.

Transparent - Project discussions, minutes, deliberations, project
plans, plans for new features, and other artifacts are open, public, and
easily accessible.

Meritocracy – Sugar Labs is a meritocracy. The more you contribute the
more responsibility you will earn. Leadership roles in Sugar Labs are
also merit-based and earned by peer acclaim. 

Purposes of membership

Keeping track of membership will be costly. There is the initial setup
costs and the ongoing maintenance cost of keeping the membership roles
up to date. These cost must be out weighed by the benefits of
Governance, Recognition of Merit, Fund Raising, and Defense.

Governance. - On the first level a membership body give Sugar Labs the
ability govern itself. Member will be able to vote directly on issues.
Members will be able to vote for elected representatives. Member will be
able to call referendums.

Recognition of Merit – Individual membership in will be a sign of Merit.
Membership, responsibility, and authority will reflect the value of an
individuals contributions.

Fund Raising - Organizational membership will indicate levels of support
Sugar Labs receives from outside entities. Support can include cash,
engineering resources, event and travel sponsorship.

Defensive – Broad definitions of membership will help prevent the Sugar
Labs foundation from being hijacked by a hostile entity.

Membership types

Individual – Most projects have a category for individual membership.
Membership is earned through quality of work.

Organizational – Some projects have categories for organizational
memberships. The fee structure for Organization membership can vary
based on the size of the organization and the degree of influence the
organization has over the Project. 

Membership Documents

In order to keep track of members and their contributions we will need a
basic set of documents. 

Application – The membership application will ensure that Sugar Labs has
at a minimum the real name and contact information for members.

Code of Conduct – The code of conduct will establish a set of principles
and expectations for Sugar Labs Members.

Membership structures

Now that we have defined why we want a membership we need to chose a
membership structure that reflects our needs. Below are some categories
of Membership, projects using them, and pros and cons to their use. 

None – One of the most successful foss projects has no formal membership
criteria. The closest thing the Linux Kernel has to a membership list is
who receives an invitation to OLS. Pros: Very cheap. Cons: Requires a
dictator to govern the project.

Twin – RedHat/Fedora, Ubuntu/Canonical, Open Office/Sun are examples of
tight couplings between community projects and specif commercial
entities. In twins, the commercial entity provides resources to the
community in exchange for community involvement. Pros: Form the basis
for sound business models. Limited fund raising required by the
community. Cons: Possible tensions between the needs of the community
vs. the needs of the corporation.

Stand alone – Gnome is an example of a stand alone project. They are not
aligned with any single entity. In stand alone projects, the members can
have differing levels of control over their project. Sometimes members
can affect technical decision, other times a separate group of commiters
make technical decisions while the membership governs the infrastructure
needs of the project. Commercial entities can have membership status.
Pros: The most common form of membership. Well understood. Cons: There
is no 'vision' provided by the twin, the membership must determine the
projects direction internally. Requires fund raising. 

Umbrella – Apache is an example of an Umbrella organization. Umbrellas
tend to form when there are a number of closely related projects that
share a common goal. They introduce and additional level of management
as the individual projects are governed independently. The umbrella
organization can play an active role in individual projects or it can
focus on providing the infrastructure of sub project. Pros: Good for
establishing ecosystem. Cons: Can be complex. 

Space Shuttle – Eclipse is an example of a space shuttle project. It is
so complicated that it is amazing it gets off the ground;) On the other
hand, it was designed to handle some hostile situations. Eclipse
provides a common standard and platform for competitors to collaborate. 

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