Reorganizing the Council

R Kent James kent at
Thu Nov 12 19:10:10 UTC 2015

Originally we had planned to re-organize the council about once per 
year, and that year has now past.

I had always assumed that we would need to do some complicated set of 
elections for that. But I had a talk with a senior Apache Software 
Foundation person at the Software Freedom Law Center annual conference 
in New York a week ago, and asked him about how they do governance of 
individual projects. (This was Shane Curcuru, Director & V. P. Public 
Relations). For their projects, a leadership council is initially setup 
when the project joins Apache, and after that the leadership council is 
self-governing, which in most cases means that the councils pick their 
own future members. Obviously that is a lot easier than trying to agree 
on who can vote, maintaining some voter list, nominating people for the 
council, voting, etc. Really the main issue here is arm-twisting people 
into serving, not having an election to let "the people" (whoever that 
is) have a voice. The primary example within Mozilla of a voting process 
for a Council, which is Mozilla Reps, has been mired in controversy, and 
I don't think we need that right now.

There needs to be some mechanism for a rogue council to be replaced, but 
that can be done by the parent organization in the rare cases that it is 
an issue (Mozilla for us, Apache for their subprojects). Should we ever 
believe that it is appropriate for Thunderbird to register as a fully 
independent organization, we might need some more complex system of 
electing leadership such as you see at the highest levels of Debian or 
Apache, but given our current status and challenges we really don't need 
the complexity.

We discussed this at the last Thunderbird bi-weekly meeting, and there 
were no objections to following this approach.

Looking to a reorganized Council, there are many really critical 
decisions pending that will affect the very existence of Thunderbird, so 
we really need leadership that represents all of the critical 
stakeholders and people who need to agree to critical decisions, as well 
as leadership that is willing to put in a bit of work to analyze 
proposals and comment on them. We need to start having regular online 
meetings for example. I don't think that the actual number of people on 
the council needs to be fixed, but it should be at least 5 and less than 
12, and presumably an odd number.

Really most people who are current module owners or peers, or taking on 
major roles, should be considered to join the Council. The main criteria 
at that point will be whether they are willing to take the time to 
participate in discussions about critical issues.

I would appreciate comments on:

1) Whether you are supportive or not of just letting the Council 
self-select new members.

2) Suggestions of people (probably privately to me or other existing 
Council members) of people that might get neglected who might be good 
candidates for a Council position. You can assume that anyone who is a 
module owner or peer is already under consideration.

Let the arm-twisting begin!

R Kent James
Chair, Thunderbird Council

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