Thunderbird: Paths Forward

Benjamin Kerensa bkerensa at
Thu Dec 17 22:56:00 UTC 2015

I personally dislike Kent's proposal on governance because the current TB
council was elected by a exclusive minority of the active TB council. It
would not promote participation or inclusion for another small group of
people to select our new governance for this community especially in a time
of transition and deciding the future of Thunderbird.

Instead I would offer the proposal that:

- Public Call For Nominations

- Gerv or other neutral person collects nominations

- CIVS poll is setup with each nominee (

- Public vote open to vouched Mozillians who identify as members of TB

I believe this counter proposal does not create any more administrative
burden but instead promotes transparency, fairness and inclusion to any
governance process.

We have an opportunity to get elections right this time and I think
considering the current discussions and potential influence a new council
might have on transition discussions, it would behoove Mozilla to ensure
that the next TB council is vetted by any TB community member who would
like to cast a vote or make a nomination.

On Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 9:41 AM, Gervase Markham <gerv at> wrote:

> Dear tb-planning,
> As promised, two weeks have elapsed, and I am coming back to you with
> some proposals for ways forward. While the 'quiet period' was related to
> PEP, the proposals I am making have wider scope. I apologise for the
> length of this message, but there are a lot of aspects to Thunderbird's
> future :-).
> 1) A Reminder: tb-planning Is Public
> In past discussions, messages from several participants have discussed
> potential partners, their characteristics and presumed motives in ways
> which are... unhelpful, to say the least. I want to remind everyone that
> when talking on a public mailing list, particularly about relationships
> with third parties, you need to speak respectfully, weigh your words,
> and assume good faith. The more allies Thunderbird can cultivate, the
> better its chances of success.
> 2) Fiscal Homes: Hiring a Consultant
> One question facing Thunderbird is that of where the best fiscal/legal
> home for the project is. There are several of these on the table (MoFo,
> TDF, SFC, Apache, ...), and Kent and others have already done some
> research into them. Mozilla has indicated that it is willing to pay for
> someone with expertise in this area to produce a public report listing
> the pros and cons of each option from Thunderbird's perspective, as
> input to the Council's decision on which path to pursue.
> Mozilla will be engaging Simon Phipps[0] to do this work. Those of you
> who know Simon will know he is an experienced open source community
> member and an expert in the particular area of legal structures for open
> source. He was previously President of the OSI, and while in that
> capacity entirely reorganized that organization for the better. I know
> of no-one else with a better grasp of the options and their
> characteristics.
> Simon is already involved in this situation because he's been asked by
> The Document Foundation to work out a plan for how TDF might become a
> fiscal home for Thunderbird. We are asking him to expand his remit to
> consider the other potential options also. I feel that even though he is
> associated with one of the potential fiscal homes in question, he has
> the integrity to be objective in his assessments.
> The decision on what path to take rests, of course, with the Thunderbird
> leadership.
> 3) Technical Future: Hiring An Architect
> Mark Surman believes, and I agree, that there is value in engaging
> someone outside the immediate Thunderbird community (but perhaps with
> existing knowledge of the Mozilla codebase) with a particular
> architectural skillset, to make a dispassionate assessment of all of the
> different technical hurdles facing Thunderbird over the next 2-3 years,
> and write a report giving some options as to how they might best be
> overcome. These hurdles would include the process of setting up
> independent infrastructure, the build and release issues, whether to
> fork Gecko, the XUL transition and so on. The output of this work would
> probably come in the form of one or more written reports giving options
> and pros and cons for the different challenges, rather than the
> determination of a single path forward.
> It's important to realise that an architect is not the same thing as a
> contributor - you don't need to understand the nsIAccountManager
> interface to do this job, and they wouldn't need to ramp up on the
> codebase as a contributor would. It's a different set of skills.
> This will be a difficult post to fill and we have no names in the frame
> yet; the first thing we need is a job specification for such a person.
> Doug Turner at Mozilla has agreed to help draft that specification,
> which would then be circulated for comment so we can be sure we are
> looking for the right thing. Once the spec is agreed by the Council, we
> will start looking for someone to fit it.
> 4) PEP
> Speaking frankly, the relationship between the PEP leadership and the
> Thunderbird leadership is currently... less than optimal. And both sides
> probably feel that the facts about the situation currently in the public
> domain do not tell the entire story of what happened. Without wanting to
> attribute blame for any of this, there have clearly been quite a few
> misunderstandings here which need ironing out, and mechanisms put in
> place to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.
> The complete path back to good relations is not clear, but I propose
> that we start with some confidence-building. One issue that has been
> raised on the Thunderbird side is that people are not familiar with
> PEP's technology, and so feel unqualified to make commitments or
> decisions regarding it. This is understandable, as it was only released
> as open source a few weeks ago.
> So I would like to propose that the Council appoint someone to go and
> technically evaluate PEP's technology so Thunderbird has someone "in
> your camp" who is familiar with it and can discuss how it works and how
> it might fit into a potential future Thunderbird+Enigmail+PEP product.
> I will also continue to talk to both PEP and the Thunderbird Council to
> untangle more of the threads, and I ask for the community's continued
> patience as we go through that process.
> 5) MoFo Accepting Donations
> Once the year-end donations drive is over, MoFo have committed to
> putting in place a mechanism to allow Thunderbird to accept donations.
> They are proposing creating a page at or
> equivalent URL, backed by MoFo's existing systems. This page would give
> a brief summary of what's going on with TB, and offering the reader two
> possible actions:
> * Sign up for a mailing list where they can get subsequent emails about
> Thunderbird's future.
> * Give money to be earmarked for Thunderbird-specific activities.
> I will be working with David Ascher and the MoFo fundraising team when
> January comes to get this done. The Thunderbird team will then able able
> to promote this URL however they see fit. This would be a "minimum
> viable product"; options remain open to enhance this system and do
> additional fundraising work in the future.
> 6) MoFo Disbursements
> If money is coming in, we need a mechanism for it to go out. Building a
> mechanism for this is the ultimate responsibility of Angela Plohman,
> MoFo's VP of Operations, although it will not be her day-to-day
> responsibility to manage the system once set up. This aspect of things
> is less far along as I was unable to catch up with Angela at the Mozilla
> all-hands last week, and she has been very busy this week due to a MoFo
> board meeting. I include it here for completeness, so you know it's
> being actively worked on.
> 7) Governance
> In order to navigate Thunderbird through the choppy waters ahead, it's
> important that the project's governance structure be strong and
> recognised as legitimate by all stakeholders, both inside the project
> and those looking on (e.g. potential partners).
> The current situation is certainly not ideal, with a governance
> committee being formed but then its mandate expiring without
> replacement. Part of this is perhaps Mozilla's fault for not giving the
> Thunderbird team enough support in building best-practice governance
> structures in 2012 or 2014. As someone within Mozilla who thinks about
> governance, I put my hand up for that.
> The message which announced the creation of the council[2] clearly
> implies another vote after 1 year. I believe it's important that such
> promises are kept, but I also don't want to distract the community with
> long conversations about governance models when it's quite possible that
> the move to a new fiscal home will also come with some recommendations
> or requirements about how the governance is done, and so further change
> and rethinking. It would be a waste of time to spend a lot of cycles
> rethinking governance now, and then do the same thing again in 3 or 6
> months when and if Thunderbird ends up with a new fiscal home.
> There is also the issue of changes to the council - if some members want
> to step down, how should that be handled, and how should their
> replacements be chosen?
> Kent has proposed the following process, which I suggest may be a
> reasonable compromise between all the competing factors. The existing
> Council will serve as a nominating committee, and recruit candidates who
> agree to serve on a renewed Council. (This could be existing Council
> members or new people.) This slate of candidates would then be presented
> to tb-planning for a single vote, much like the one a year ago, to see
> if there is consensus. The motion would be something like the following:
> "The Thunderbird community endorses this list of candidates to form a
> Thunderbird Council and lead the project until either one year has
> elapsed from the date this motion passes, or a fiscal home is chosen and
> a new governance model is put in place. A condition is that, in this
> latter case, the new Council commits to working with the new fiscal
> sponsor to implement governance arrangements which are acceptable to
> that organization in a timely fashion. If vacancies arise on the Council
> during this period, the Council may fill them using a mechanism of its
> own choosing."
> If there vote is No, then work on everything else will have to stop
> while a more complex individual voting process is designed and
> implemented. This would also involve defining an exact constituency,
> which would be difficult in itself. I am only being realistic when I say
> that this would lead to a delay of weeks or months in Thunderbird being
> able to make progress on determining its future.
> If the vote is Yes, then I think the council has renewed legitimacy to
> make the big decisions coming up, such as the choice of fiscal home.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> I know there's a lot in here. Comments are welcomed. If you have
> extensive comments, it might make sense to split them into one message
> per section.
> One personal note: I am on holiday (vacation) tomorrow and then only
> around partially over the Christmas and New Year period. Helping
> Thunderbird is a priority for me so I will attempt to be responsive;
> however, please forgive me if it's a few days before I can answer any
> questions. In other circumstances I might wait to start these
> discussions but I promised you something in two weeks, and so here it is
> :-)
> Gerv
> [0]
> [1]
> [2]
> _______________________________________________
> tb-planning mailing list
> tb-planning at

Benjamin Kerensa
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