Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Rahul, CEO, FOSS United

UPDATE: See info about upcoming AMA session at Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Rahul, CEO, FOSS United - #5 by rahulporuri

Roughly a month back, I outlined FOSS United 2.0 : The Community, the Organization, and the next two years. Over the past month, I had a number of 1-on-1 conversations with people within the FOSS United Organization (org), attended and talked to people at the Second anniversary meetup of the FOSS United Bengaluru chapter, and met a number of people in the broader FOSS Community in Bengaluru. But the number of people I can meet in-person dwarfs the total number of people within the FOSS United community and the broader FOSS Community in India overall.

Starting this Saturday (8 June, 2024 from 12 PM-1 PM), I will be doing an online Ask Me Anything (AMA) session every week for the coming few months. The AMA will happen on Jitsi Meet

Please consider joining the AMA if you

  • want to know more about the FOSS United Community or the FOSS United Organization that lives within the Community
  • want to understand what the Community is doing in India
  • want to contribute to FOSS in India but you’re not sure how to
  • want to voice your disagreement with the decisions that the Organization or the Community have taken
  • or anything else FOSS or FOSS United-related

If you’re unable to join the AMA but if you have questions, please ask them below and I will try to answer them to the best of my abilities. I will document the QnA from the AMA and share them with the broader community in this topic after the calls.

4 Likes

It was a good thing I asked @SphericalKat to drop by during the AMA because no one from the community showed up and we ended up talking about “Community involvement in Governance”. For those of you who don’t know, @SphericalKat is an active volunteer with the FOSS United Mumbai city chapter, who also helps review Talk proposals for FOSS United meetups as part of the larger Distributed Review Team. @SphericalKat will also be one of the reviewers for the upcoming IndiaFOSS 4.0 conference!

  • We talked about the words we use when it comes to Governance - “Community” and “Organization”. “Community” refers to the broader FOSS United Community. The Community includes city chapters, student clubs, IndiaFOSS and FOSS Hack participants, Telegram group members, followers on social media, and anyone who considers themselves a part of the “FOSS United Community”. “Organization” refers to the full-time and part-time employees and interns who work at the FOSS United non-profit, the volunteers for the IndiaFOSS and FOSS Hack events, the volunteers for the city chapters and the student clubs, and other volunteers who help the FOSS United “Community” to gather
  • We talked about bringing transparency into the Governance of the FOSS United “Community” and we discussed a few examples of Governance failures in the broader FOSS ecosystem e.g. nix community, NumFOCUS concerns, and the Linux Foundation
  • We discussed the possibility of individuals within the FOSS United “Community” and the broader FOSS ecosystem in India financially supporting FOSS United through donations. For example, tens of people have bought the 2,500 Rupees “Contributor Ticket” for IndiaFOSS 2024 instead of buying a discounted ticket, to financially support the conference. Similarly, we discussed the possibility of individuals donating to specific activities e.g. donating to a specific City Chapter or a Student Club, donating to the FOSS United Grants program, etc. @SphericalKat mentioned that he has professionally and financially benefited from FOSS, which is why he is trying to give back, and it is quite possible that FOSS United helped a few people within the “Community” professionally (and financially)
  • We then discussed Community Governance. Vaguely speaking, Community Governance will involve a few advisory and governance boards e.g. a FOSS United Grants Board which will make decisions about grants applications from OSS projects. We discussed a few different options and settled on the Volunteers being able to nominate members of the FOSS United “Community” or the broader FOSS Community in India to the various board. The FOSS United “Community” as a whole then Votes on the nominated board members. “Voting process” might potentially involve a “small roadblock” e.g. having to register on the FOSS United platform or the FOSS United Forum to prevent unidentified votes from being registered

@SphericalKat please correct my notes above or add pieces that I missed.

I will continue doing the AMA weekly and I will also continue having conversations with the “Community” about Community Governance.

See y’all next Saturday.

6 Likes

Phenomenal transparency Rahul, keep your chin up. Nothing substantial was built without facing setbacks.

I will show up for the next one.

5 Likes

It was great chatting with @rahulporuri about various things related to FOSS and FOSS United’s governance. I highly recommend other folks to drop in to the next AMA!
Also, I think you covered everything in the post @rahulporuri :smile:

3 Likes

This weekends AMA is on Sunday (16 June, 2024) from 11 AM-12 PM. The AMA will happen on Jitsi Meet like last week. If you have any questions for me but you can’t join the call, please ask below and I will try my best to respond.

2 Likes

Hi @rahulporuri - I’m staying away from FOSS United these days for all the pain I’ve to re-live when visiting the forum. But you seem to be trying genuinely hard. So I have one question/suggestion. Is FOSS United continuing engagement in policy as representative of FOSS communities in India? If so, please share details because I have follow-up questions.

@Ganeshaaa , @Devdutt and another member of the community and @ansh, @mangesh_x0 from the Foundation attended the call.

Broadly, we talked about how FOSS United can better work with the Design community. For example, we talked about Design participation at FOSS Hack. As a designer, @Ganeshaaa talked about not being able participate meaningfully at FOSS Hack last year, and he was wondering if there was a way to participate this year. We discussed how a number of FOSS projects need design work. We discussed the possibility of helping the projects identify their brand design identity and then potentially break it down into smaller design activities that could be completed during the Hackathon. @ansh provided additional context about the FOSS Hack this year.

@Ganeshaaa also asked about the rationale behind the recent design overhaul that the fossunited.org website received. He also pointed out the inconsistencies between parts of the website e.g. the landing page vs specific event pages. @mangesh_x0 provided background information about how the redesign happened and the path forward.

We also briefly talked about working on a Charter for FOSS United City Chapters, similar to [Help wanted] FOSS United Public Policy Charter V0.

@Ganeshaaa (and others) please correct me or fill in the gaps in case I missed anything.

3 Likes

Hey @asd. FOSS United continues to engage in policy in India, but we cannot represent all FOSS communities in India. The FOSS United Foundation is having a hard enough time representing the FOSS United Community so even thinking that we can represent the entire FOSS Community in India is borderline arrogant and naive.

Having said that, we would like to work with, and bring together, as many distinct and disparate FOSS Communities in India. FOSS United is in an incredibly privileged position. We have a small but growing policy muscle while most FOSS Communities in India don’t care about the Public Policy in India or don’t have the capacity to be involved in Policy work. To the extent possible, we will work on improving Pubic Policy participation by the different FOSS Communities in India. While doing so, we will share our Policy positions with them and work together if we are aligned.

I used “we” a lot in the previous paragraph. “We” doesn’t refer to the Foundation because we don’t have a Public Policy Director anymore. It refers to the FOSS United Community. And like I mentioned earlier, representing the Community is a hard enough task but we are hoping that activities like defining the Public Policy Charter (see [Help wanted] FOSS United Public Policy Charter V0) will enable active voices in the Community to help identify the overall Policy Objectives that FOSS United should focus on. And the charter isn’t set in stone, as the policy landscape evolves, we will attempt to evolve with it.

Note: A volunteer from the community came forward to put together a draft Public Policy Charter here - [Help wanted] FOSS United Public Policy Charter V0 . It is open for comments from the Community but please note that it was a member of the Community that primarily drafted it (I only added two objectives related to Software Patents). No one individual can comprehend and represent the entire Community so the draft charter is intended as a starting point.

2 Likes

@rahulporuri I’m curious to know how we measure the outcomes/successes of each of FOSS United’s goals: (1) to promote the spirit of hacking and tinkering (2) to build quality FOSS for public good (3) to evangelise the use of FOSS in different sectors.

3 Likes

This weekends AMA will be on Sunday (23 June, 2024) from 11 AM-12 PM. The AMA will happen on Jitsi Meet like last week. If you have any questions for me but you can’t join the call, please ask below and I will try my best to respond.

It’s happening on Sunday instead of Saturday because the Hyderabad meetup is happening between 10 AM - 1 PM.

1 Like

Great question @Anand_Baburajan ! I hope you join the call on Sunday so that we can talk about this further but here are my thoughts. I don’t think we have answers to these questions at the Foundation so these answers are what I’m able to come up with right now

  • (1) to promote the spirit of hacking and tinkering

It is difficult, if not impossible, to track progress towards this goal. But, I think all of us can sense the lack of such a spirit. For example, a few meetups in the Technology community feel extremely formal and constraining. There is no breathing room beyond what is strictly prescribed by the organizing team.

In my mind, the spirit of hacking and tinkering is in enjoying and celebrating the process more than the outcomes. And we can usually read the room to tell if the community is informal or too formal.

  • (2) to build quality FOSS for public good

This is relatively easier to track, when compared to the earlier goal. This goal involves two distinct things - building new FOSS projects of quality and improving the quality of existing FOSS projects

Thanks to the FOSS Grants program, we have some insights into the quality of new FOSS being built in the country. As a community, we also share with each other new FOSS projects all the time, and peeking into them also gives us an idea of their quality. Simply counting the number of quality Grant requests we receive should suffice for the short term.

Setting new projects aside, there are already a ton of FOSS projects that were created in India - some of which might not be of the highest quality. Here, we are trying to work with the community to create guidelines that we can share with existing FOSS projects to help them improve their quality (see [Request for Comments] Recommendations for FOSS Hack (and future) Partner Projects). We could take the help of FOSS grant recipients to regularly update the guidelines. After we give advice (e.g. publicly via GitHub issues) to a project, keeping track of how many projects actually followed through on the guidelines to improve their quality sounds like a reasonable metric here.

  • (3) to evangelise the use of FOSS in different sectors.

I just realized that our (FOSS United Foundation) life would be simpler if we asked the speakers (at conferences and meetup) to identify the domain/subdomain that their FOSS talk pertains to. Then we could just create a word cloud showing all of the different sectors/domains/subdomains that our speakers have covered. At that point, all we need to do is to simply identify missing domains and look for relevant FOSS speakers.

At the moment, even though we don’t have easy to access data to back my point, I think we’re doing a reasonably good job evangelising FOSS use across different sectors. A look at IndiaFOSS 3.0 or any of the other talk recordings available on YouTube demonstrates the variety of sectors/domains that we have been able to pull speakers from.

What do you think?

Thanks for the question again @Anand_Baburajan . I think we (FOSS United Community) should write these things down in a City Chapter Charter to ensure that the volunteers organising an event keep these things in mind.

2 Likes