Monday, July 2, 2012

Open by default

KDE is an open community. We are following an open development process, and our structures and processes are intended to be open to contributions and participation.

All our tools are openly accessible, be it our central source code repositorythe bug tracker, code review system, mailing lists, or the community Wiki. Even parts which tend to be closed for many other software development efforts, like our release management or marketing activities are open.

The barrier to become a contributor and committer is pretty low. We don't require a contribution agreement, although we do provide the FLA as an option to ensure that the community is able to maintain and defend our code from a license perspective.

Getting commit access to our code repository can happen in a very short time, if people are doing valuable contributions. Once they have access commit access, they have access to the whole repository, there are no hierarchies or technical restrictions based on where people are coming from or what they are doing. We have a strong sense of common ownership of code.

We do have maintainers for the various bits and pieces which make up the software KDE creates. But maintainership is based on merit and respect by peers, not on appointment or formal membership. That creates a very flat structure, where those who do the work decide, and the people doing the best work are taking the decisions.

The formal organization behind KDE, the KDE e.V., has consciously decided to not control development, but leave that to the open community mechanisms, so that it's not some closed group deciding about where the development goes, but the whole community in an open process.

If you consider all this and apply something like the open governance index, KDE scores high on being open. I think it's fair to say, that KDE is open by default.

But we are not perfect yet, and while we have been growing over the last couple of years, one thing became more and more obvious: We are lacking a forum for informing and discussing about non-technical community topics, which are not only relevant for some sub-project or team, but for the whole community.

Some of these discussions are happening on the development or promo lists, or on the KDE e.V. membership list. But this is often not the right place to discuss things which are relevant for a wider group of people. Examples are discussions around how to provide better interfaces between the KDE community and companies, what consitutes a KDE project, or how to better cater to users and non-technical contributors.

So here is a proposal how to address this: Let's create a mailing list as a home for community-relevant information and discussions, which is not technical, with the following charter:
  • The purpose of the mailing list is to provide a place for non-technical information and discussions which are relevant to the KDE community as a whole.
  • All people who consider themselves to be part of the KDE community are invited to join.
  • Conversations on the mailing list are respectful, considerate, polite and constructive.
  • The list is used to collect announcements and information relevant for the community, which are coming from other sources.
  • The list is used to collect results and reasoning of discussions which happened in other possibly closed forums.
  • The list is used to discuss and get feedback on non-technical questions of relevance for the whole KDE community
With this list we can hopefully provide more clarity about what's happening within the community, and make sure that KDE continues to be open by default.

Update: I wasn't clear enough, that all this is not the idea of me alone. Mirko with his talk at Akademy and various other discussions with other people as well are the base for this post. The idea of the kde-community mailing list came from Jos, I think. And this is a proposal, so that we can have an open discussion, not a means to shortcut any debate.


  1. If "regular" users were interested in mailing lists I suspect that more would have looked at eg. etc., which does not seem to be the case now.

    1. kde-devel is a development related list, what Cornelius writes about is a list dedicated to community topics.
      So this proposal would indeed be more relevant for regular users.

    2. I know it's a development related list, it was only an example. What I tried to get at is that from my point of view many complaints leveled against kde originates either from a lack of understanding on the users part (an understanding which in many cases can be had from watching various mailing lists and blogs) or, as I understand it from various blogs the past few days, that developers use bugs.kde for everything and have little user interaction. If that is the case, and the case is being made that developers and users would meet on this new community-mailing list, I think there will be a problem.

      That is however not a reason not to try, but it should be considered that a lot of people don't want to deal with mail.

  2. If you want to reach "normal users" (i.e. non-developers and non-tech-freaks), a web forum will probably make a lot more sense than a mailing list.

    1. Also, if you go with a mailing list, will be a much nicer name. seems kind of redundant.

  3. I agree about - much nicer


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