Openmod governance

The openmod initiative needs some minimal governance so that we, as a community, can make decisions, like e.g. on this issue: Relation of the OpenEnergyPlatform (OEP) and openmod initiative.

Matt Gidden made a presentation at the Frankfurt workshop on governance models in other open communities.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a governance model we could adopt?

It should include at least:

  1. A decision-making process
  2. A code of conduct

It’s not clear to me that a “steering committee” is required, but other projects have one.

Some recommendations for voting systems were made in the topic linked above, but ideally we could just take over an existing system without devising one ourselves from scratch.

To officially approve the governance model, we could e.g. define the “community” as the union of the members of the mailing list and the forum. Approval of the governance model would require the consensus of the entire community.

The “openmod”, howsoever defined, currently has the ability to chuck miscreants off the forum. I presume something similar applies to the google groups mailing list.

Yes, Ingmar and I are “Owners” and Berit and Jörn are “Managers” of the openmod Google group mailing list. There is the ability to ban members, but to my knowledge this hasn’t had to be done yet.

Why do you ask? Is it in case we have to enforce the code of conduct?

On the decision-making front, it seems to me the anonymous polling should be sufficient for reaching decisions, e.g. where to host the workshops if there is more than one potential host. We could have a procedure that if we need a decision:

i) Someone asks a question to the forum

ii) It’s discussed

iii) If a decision has to be made, they create a poll, email the list and give everyone 1-2 weeks to respond

The terms of acceptance would have to be discussed. Consensus decision making would not require a poll; all it would need is for someone to object at stage ii). If we go for majority voting, we’ll need a decision threshold, e.g. 50% or 66.7% or some such and some minimum number of people participating in the vote, e.g. 10% of the email list / forum membership.

Hello Tom, all

Not a question, just some background. Although I cannot imagine circumstances where a code of conduct or sanctions would be warranted.

In terms of decision-making processes (the more interesting question in my view), Red Hat (2009) (Red Hat produce and support open source enterprise products, including their own Linux distro) published a rather scrappy document on open source management, based in their 15 years in the field. A couple of points caught my eye:

  • “only have as much ‘governance’ as you need at the time, never more” (p10)
  • “practice radical transparency from day zero” (p13)
  • “avoid private discussions … making important decisions in private is like spraying contributor repellent on your project” (p13)
  • “seek consensus — use voting as a last resort” (p23)

People new to open source development (while noting that openmod is more of a network than a project) might not realize how central consensus is to the success of the undertaking. Everybody needs the opportunity to be involved, needs to be kept on board, and should be happy with (or at least not opposed to) any collective outcomes.


Red Hat. (2009). TOSW 0.2.2 The open source way: creating and nurturing communities of contributors. Raleigh, North Carolina, USA: Red Hat.

Those points seem very sensible. What would a minimal governance model look like? Are you suggesting we don’t need a code of conduct?

I understand your argument about consensus. So somebody seeking a yes-no answer would publicise the question and wait to see if anyone object.

Voting might still be relevant for e.g. choosing a new logo.

Organising the workshop needs some structure. Maybe the organiser of the previous workshop organises the multiple-choice vote for the next location, then the new organiser takes over finding a workshop committee and organising everything.

That way nobody has to be in any permanent steering committees or anything.

[It’s also possible voting is not the right strategy for choosing the workshop location either and should be subordinated to the goal of hosting it in a new place to bring in new members.]

On voting. A distinction is needed between contentious issues (hypothetically, a proposal for the community to endorse one particular license) and straightforward matters (like selecting a logo or venue … perhaps). If voting takes place and significant disagreement remains, then nothing is gained.

On a code of conduct. If serious conflict develops within the community, a code of conduct will not be of much help. A code of conduct really only codifies what will happen anyway if an individual consistently misbehaves, namely that their accounts will be closed by those administering the various services. That said, there are no downsides to adopting a code of conduct.

Given the lack of interest in the topic of governance, my guess is that most people want as little formalism as possible. No one seems to be calling for a management committee or even establishing a registered society (eingetragener Verein). On the flip therefore, the openmod should not involve itself collectively in issues, projects, or endorsements which might unwittingly embed liabilities.

Over the years, I have been involved in a number of environmental, IT, and open source groups. And have seen my fair share of disagreements and conflicts, including pro bono litigation. I think that the openmod has little to worry about if people respect consensus decision-making and do not speak or write in its name without due discussion.

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