Monday, December 6, 2010

A week in the life of a KDE e.V. board member

Did you ever want to know how life as a KDE e.V. board member is? From the questions I get I know that at least some of you do. So here you go. I took some notes last week to give you a brief impression of what I did in my role as board member of KDE e.V.


Domains. As legal representative of the KDE community, KDE e.V. owns most of the central KDE domains, most prominently of course, but also a couple of other domains like the main KDE domains in some countries. This comes with a certain amount of administrative work, such as domain transfers and a bit of technical administration like updating of name servers. Today the domain of our wonderful Indian community needed some care. This also triggered a discussion with the sysadmin team and we came up with a way to simplify the domain handling by delegating the name server administration. Will make things easier in the future.

Diplomacy. The board of KDE e.V. is one of the few groups of people in KDE, which is formally elected. Thanks to German association law, which is the governing law for our organization, this is a very solid, well-founded, democratic process. So the board is well legitimated to represent KDE. This comes with responsibility, as sometimes the board is asked for official decisions and guidance. Today we had to deal with one of these requests. These issues are not always easy to handle. While they certainly are one of the more challenging parts of the board work, I think they are also one of the more important parts. Having the board to handle these issues allows the community to get things moving, where it would be much harder without officially legitimated people.

Administration. Running an organization like KDE e.V. with its 400 members, its 300k EUR budget, its responsibility to support a global community, comes with a good amount of administrative work. Fortunately we have Claudia, our business manager, in our Berlin office, to handle a good deal of it. But there always is something left for the members of the board, be it deciding about reimbursement requests, handling membership data, moderating the board mailing list, or something along these lines. This creates some steady inflow of work. I usually take some time on the weekend to handle at least some part of it.

Email. The board acts as a point of contact for KDE as a whole, and for KDE e.V. in particular. So we get a lot of email. Answering this is of course part of the daily routine of the job. We handle that as a team, and usually it works well. If you have to wait a little bit to get an answer from us from time to time, please bear with us. Sometimes it just happens that we are all busy. But we will get back to you, and in case it takes too long, please send us a gentle reminder.


Preparing board call. We have a bi-weekly conference call with the board and Claudia every second Monday. This is the place where we discuss our daily business and handle stuff, which is not as easy to handle on the mailing list. It also helps to align us as a team. Today I prepared the agenda for the next call, quite packed this time.

Writing dot story. KDE is a partner in the EU research project ALERT. We were looking for a few community members who work on this project and bring in their KDE expertise. So I wrote a dot story announcing the open positions.


Board call. Today we had our bi-weekly board call. It's not always easy to find a date and time for that which suits all board members with their different requirements in terms of other things to do and taking into account the different time zones in which we are. But we found a 45 minute slot in the early European afternoon, which seems to work quite well. The meeting minutes are sent to the members after the meeting. Amongst other topics we discussed the quarterly reports. We have a new design, which is coming along nicely. Should be ready to be published really soon now.

Reviewing dot story. Our promo team does a marvelous job with making dot stories ready for publishing and getting them out of the door. I reviewed a few iterations of the ALERT story until it was ready to go out.


Call with startup company. Today I had a call with the managing director of a German startup company. They are creating a product based on KDE, and I helped them to find their way into the community. This is one of the nice aspects about being one of the central points of contact, you learn about exciting projects first-hand. This particular one is interesting. You'll hear more about that in the next time.


Taking a break. Board work is volunteer work, and all board members have a day job, family, and whatever else real life provides for us. I took a break from KDE e.V. work today, and dealt with some of these other things I'm doing.


Desktop summit program committee. I'm part of the program committee for the Berlin Desktop Summit conference. It's not directly part of my board job, but it comes close, as organizing Akademy or the desktop summit as joint event with the GNOME community, is one of the most important activities of KDE e.V. So I spent some time on getting the KDE members for the joint program committee together and get this going. We have a great selection of people from the two communities, and I'm really looking forward to create a great conference program for the desktop summit.


Reviewing applications. As response to the dot story a couple of applications for the ALERT jobs came in. I reviewed them and prepared them for further selection in the hiring committee of the ALERT consortium. We got good response, high quality resumes, so we'll be able to fill the positions with competent community people.

Discussion on membership mailing list. Luckily our community is an active bunch of people, who enjoys some good discussion from time to day. So today one of these discussions came up on the membership mailing list. I felt inclined to chime in. But there already were a lot of good contributions to the discussion. Usually I'm pretty impressed by the quality of the communication in the membership. It shows that we are a mature community.

Call with Claudia. KDE e.V. has one full-time employee, that's Claudia Rauch, our business manager. She is responsible for interacting with our partners, organizing Akademy, handling KDE sprints, running the KDE office, and much more. It's a bit of an unusual situation, as with the board she has five volunteers as bosses, which are all remote. So this is not the usual management situation. We handle that by distributing the related tasks relatedin the board. One part of it is having a call from time to time to make sure things work well, issues are resolved, and to keep in touch.

So that's my notes for now. It turned out to be a relatively typical week. But I have to say that no two weeks are the same. That's part of the fun, and one of the reasons, why I'm doing this for more than five years now. If you have more questions about the work of a KDE e.V. board member, please feel free to contact me. I'm always happy to tell you more.

Finally, if you are a member of KDE e.V. or the wider community and would like to get involved with some of the tasks, don't hesitate to get in contact with the board. We can't delegate everything, as some things have to be done by the actual board, but there certainly are tasks where help is possible and very much appreciated.

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