Engineering Council plans

Óvári ovari123 at
Tue Aug 15 23:20:02 UTC 2017

Why not call the Thunderbird "Engineering Council" an "Engineering 
Steering Committee" (ESC) like LibreOffice?

Using the same terminology will help once Thunderbird joins The Document 

On 16/08/17 08:54, Ben Bucksch wrote:
> +1 from me
> R Kent James wrote on 18.07.2017 20:17:
>> I've mentioned a few times here my perception that we need some 
>> reorganization of project leadership, and mentioned an Engineering 
>> Council as part of that. We've had discussions with the Thunderbird 
>> Council about that, and are ready to proceed.
>>     A. Why do we need an Engineering Council?
>> Generally, there are several problems we are trying to address.
>>       A.1: Lack of a single focus point for technical decisions
>> Mozilla has used a module system for many years as a way to manage 
>> technical issues. But there are some issues with that system, both 
>> within Firefox (see 
>> as well as how that has functioned within Thunderbird.
>> Within Thunderbird, we've found it difficult to make technical 
>> decisions, particularly if they are larger than the scope of an 
>> individual bug. Existing forums such as tb-planning or 
>> m.d.a.thunderbird are not really designed to reach a concrete decision.
>> The module system more or less assumes an individual will be the 
>> owner/dictator for the technical decisions, but there really is no 
>> one individual with the experience and trust of the community who 
>> could own the technical direction of the project. To some extent this 
>> role has then fallen to the Thunderbird Council, but for reasons to 
>> be discussed below that is not really appropriate.
>> So an Engineering Council will be tasked with setting the technical 
>> direction of Thunderbird.
>>       A.2:  Need to involve people outside of the Thunderbird Council
>>       in key decision discussions.
>> There are two classes of people whose input is sorely needed who are 
>> left out if a closed Thunderbird Council tries to set technical 
>> direction.
>>         - Thunderbird staff.
>> As we move toward having around 6 full-time equivalent staff people 
>> for Thunderbird, those individuals will be carrying a lot of the load 
>> of moving the project forward technically, and are in a good position 
>> to give input toward issues. For a variety of reasons not all staff 
>> will be or should be on an elected Thunderbird Council. This is 
>> particularly important since the Thunderbird Council has fiduciary 
>> responsibility for managing donations, including hiring and managing 
>> staff, so a staff-dominated and closed Thunderbird Council would 
>> create many difficult-to-resolve conflict of interest problems and 
>> perceptions of insider dealings.
>>         - Key volunteers.
>> There are a number of individuals who as volunteers put a tremendous 
>> about of technical effort into Thunderbird, and who should also be 
>> involved in setting technical direction.
>>       A.3:    Need for more open discussions
>> The Thunderbird Council has some issues that need to be discussed 
>> privately, and for that reason their main discussion list is a closed 
>> list. But we should strive to be as open as possible, and that means 
>> that we need a publicly accessible place where decisions are 
>> discussed and reached.
>>     B.    How will the Engineering Council function?
>>       B.1    Location of Engineering Council discussions
>> We have setup a Mailman list maildev at for 
>> Engineering Council discussions. The information page for this, where 
>> people may subscribe or view the archives, is at 
>> Anyone may subscribe to the list to receive postings, or view the 
>> archives 
>> <> 
>> (which at the moment only contain test messages). However, we want to 
>> make sure that the discussions themselves are dominated by people who 
>> are actively contributing as Thunderbird or Mozilla developers, or 
>> who are key Thunderbird leaders, to keep the signal/noise ratio high. 
>> To accomplish this, individuals who are active developers or leaders 
>> will post unmoderated, while others will be moderated.
>> As the list is primarily intended as being a discussion forum for 
>> active developers, posts by others will in most cases not be 
>> accepted, but this decision will be on a post-by-post basis. Also, 
>> moderation requests may not be processed daily, so it may take a few 
>> days to review any moderated postings.
>>       B.2    Scope of Engineering Council discussions and decisions
>> Within Thunderbird and the comm-central code, the core email 
>> functionality is the dominant feature, but there are other subgroups 
>> that may have their own issues or positions, including chat, 
>> calendar, contacts, and SeaMonkey. We discussed how to include these 
>> subgroups, and whether to have some complex system of dividing up 
>> discussions or decisions by affected subgroups. Ultimately what we 
>> decided is, rather than introduce additional organizational 
>> complexity, we would let the core email functionality dominate, and 
>> trust email leaders to include the interests of subgroups in any 
>> decisions that are reached. Developers in those subgroups are welcome 
>> to join the list and participate in technical discussions. Likewise, 
>> other technical work within the Thunderbird project, including work 
>> on infrastructure and build processes, should be subject to 
>> Engineering Council discussions and decision.
>> The Engineering Council will not have any fiduciary responsibility or 
>> approval authority over spending, but will be expected to make major 
>> recommendations to the Thunderbird Council for financial decisions 
>> and appropriations. (This is partially modeled after the organization 
>> structure of TDF which has separate engineering and board groups).
>> On tb-planning and elsewhere there has been discussions of a possible 
>> major project to completely rewrite Thunderbird (TB:NG). The 
>> proponents of that have expressed a desire for such a project to be 
>> as independent as possible from existing management oversight, 
>> following a so-called Skunk Works 
>> <> model. Nothing in this 
>> proposal for an Engineering Council is intended to dictate the 
>> management structure for the TB:NG project, which will need to be 
>> established if and when that project is approved and funded.
>>       B.3    Engineering Council decision process
>> When a concrete decision in a technical area is needed, a key 
>> leadership group will make that decision by voting. We'll call that 
>> group the Engineering Directors. Initially, the Engineering Directors 
>> are rkent, BenB, Jörg, and Magnus.
>> In general, the Engineering Group is intended to be self-managing. So 
>> criteria for inclusion in discussions and other organizational issues 
>> will be managed by the group itself, after an initial seeding of the 
>> group based on criteria setup by the Thunderbird Council.
>> The Engineering Council is not intended to replace the existing 
>> technical module owners and peers, or play a direct role in approving 
>> patches. The intent is to deal with issues that are larger than an 
>> individual patch. These are the types of issues that would normally 
>> be dealt with by a product management group, or by an engineering 
>> manager.
>> Within the overall management hierarchy of Thunderbird, the 
>> Engineering Council sits between the Thunderbird Council and the 
>> modules owners and peers. So an overall authority structure for 
>> Thunderbird will be:
>> Mozilla Foundation
>>>> Thunderbird Council
>>>> Engineering Council
>>>> Module Owners and Peers
>>     C.    Next Steps
>> If you are interested in following these discussions, please 
>> subscribe to the Maildev list at 
>> I will be subscribing a few key people whose participation is 
>> critical for success of the process directly.
>> /R Kent James (:rkent)//
>> //Thunderbird Council Treasurer/
>> _______________________________________________
>> tb-planning mailing list
>> tb-planning at
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