Reorganizing the Council

Benjamin Kerensa bkerensa at
Thu Nov 12 19:59:32 UTC 2015

 My feedback is that I believe the incoming council made a commitment iirc
I haven't actually reviewed the mailing list but made a commitment to
regular selections. It would not be very healthy for a sitting council to
decide whether it could discard that commitment that should be left to the
community to decide.

The problem I see generally with not having any defined election process is
it creates a BDFL model of governance or static governance which is
unhealthy in open source projects. More so if any contributors ever wanted
to be leaders it's unlikely they would challenge a entrenched incumbent
when there are no elections but instead when it would be left up to a

Anyways these power structures and leadership status quos are not healthy
and prevent the flow of new ideas and new energy and new leadership.

I'm of the opinion in open source projects that governance councils should
be one or two year terms and have a limit of two terms.

Gnome, Fedora and many other projects have one year terms to keep their
leadership dynamic.

I'll add that from a module and peer pov static works better (not entirely
without flaw though) because they are technical leadership or meritocratic

I think if you look to projects that have static leadership they also tend
to have lower contributor rates overtime and I know TB doesn't want that.

Also I'm not familiar with reps council elections being mirred in
controversy could you explain that? I've been involved in reps since its
first council and never heard of anything controversial in the election

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 11:10 AM R Kent James <kent at> wrote:

> 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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