☞ Behind The Scenes

♫ Whitacre Concert

If you were blissed-out by the amazingly beautiful choral music I linked to on Bank Holiday Monday, and if you happen to live within reach of London, you will definitely want to check out the concert that composer and conductor Eric Whitacre is organising in mid-October.

If the review of last year’s equivalent performance is anything to go by, it should be splendid, although there’s no detailed programme listed on the web site yet. The review says:

Eric is almost too good to be true. Along with his musical gifts and rock star-ish appearance (complete with a mane of blonde hair that makes you think of surfboards, though he comes from Nevada), Whitacre is also a ridiculously relaxed communicator, setting up each composition with anecdotes and droll asides.

His comments on Twitter suggested early on that he will be performing some new compositions as well as works from his wonderful album Light & Gold, which I have been playing repeatedly ever since it arrived from Amazon UK (it’s also on Amazon US). From the blog posting, he’s definitely performing the Grace he composed for Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge:

as well as premièring other new works. So buy some tickets and I’ll see you there!

☆ Writer’s Almanac

Over the weekend I realised how much pleasure I get from listening to Garrison Keillor each day with his small but perfectly formed “Writer’s Almanac” podcast.I’m also a fan of the Lake Wobegone podcast, but the Writer’s Almanac is a different, more thoughtful creation.

Catching up with a few days, I heard (among many other fragments) a deep and thoughtful poem about death and relationships as well as fascinating biographical background about American poet Mary Oliver. If you love poetry, enjoy literature or just take a delight in serendipity, it’s well worth subscribing.

☆ How Many Foundations Do We Need?

One of the sessions at Transfer Summit concerned open source foundations. I made a comment during the Q & A that some people wanted recorded, so here it is!

Imagine you’re starting something new with a group of acquaintances. You join with them to do some new, brilliant and concrete thing.

You all trust each other, know how to work together and have the resources to make that thing happen.
To support, sustain and protect this vector of values, you decide to create a legal entity.
  • If the concrete thing is about making money together, you create a company;
  • If the concrete thing is about just your group making money separately, you create a trade association;
  • If the concrete thing is about enabling anyone to benefit, you create a charity.

That last one is what open source community members tend to label a “foundation”. And obviously I’m simplifying here, a lot.

So how many of those do we need, seriously?

No Quick Fix

You’ll note that each of these treating-groups-of-people-as-if-they-were-collectively-a-person – “incorporations” – encapsulates existing motivation, trust and treats the result as if it were independent of the individuals who originally came together. It’s important to realise that it does not bestow the vector of values.

If there’s no working community of trust, motivation and resource, creating a foundation will not magically cause it to come into existence. There is no point trying to create or join a foundation to solve absent community values. If you have problems, solve them before you incorporate, as incorporating will just make your problems permanent instead of curing them.

No Force Fit

Similarly, it’s also possible that attempting to join an existing foundation as a short-cut won’t work either. To succeed, the existing foundation’s well-established way of working will need to be compatible with the already-functioning vector of values of the group joining.

There’s thus no One Model To Rule Them All. The world is too diverse. No matter how effective a given structure may be for existing groups, there are in my experience always factors that differ. If those unique factors can’t be eliminated, the only answer will be a new incorporation. Given the bureaucracy involved in starting and sustaining a charity it’s worth avoiding it you can, but it’s better than force-fitting your community into the wrong structure.

So the answer is, we need as many foundations as there are sufficiently unique communities for them to encapsulate. Maybe we need some patterns for people to follow as they incorporate, maybe there will be plenty who fit an existing incorporation like Apache or Eclipse or Outercurve, but ultimately it’s about the project, not about the incorporation that encapsulates it.

[Also published on ComputerWorldUK]

☞ Credit Where It’s Due

☞ LibreOffice Governance Progress

  • Nominations are now open for The Document Foundation board of directors. Anyone who is eligible to vote is also eligible to stand for election. I’m acting as the Elections Officer so that all the people who were actually involved in setting up LibreOffice (I was not) are free to stand for election – my small contribution to the project.
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