Open edX Conf 2022 - open session on collective ownership


How do we build collective ownership?

Open session, Open edX Conference, Lisbon, April 29, 2022

Resources: keynote slides “From Open Governance to Collective Ownership”

Facilitation: Tobie Langel (@tobie)

Zoom: https://tcril-org.zoom.us/j/88274090827?pwd=MFh2VE90MkJtQ0YrdTV6K1JoQzE3QT09


Attendees

Agenda

  • Logistics: can we take collective notes in here?

  • Figure out agenda

  • Would a summary of Tobie’s keynote be useful?

    • Yes, link to deck above.

Meeting notes

  • Recap of keynote from slide 25

    • Tightly-knit communities are more resilient

      • Increases adoption

      • Better software results

    • With the tCRIL split, there are many things to figure out about roadmaps, user input, etc.

      • Relationship with teachers and learners

      • How can the open collective have access to contributors’ private data?

    • Assignments

      • Move away from client/vendor relationship

      • Think about business value of investment in community

        • Know what you are getting out of it

      • 2U

        • Teach the community to fish

      • Broader community

        • Open-source projects are do-ocracies

        • Learn to fish

      • tCRIL

        • Innovate

  • The technical architecture of the project, how it influenced how people could contribute

  • Other comparable open source projects? Ones that went through a similar transition successfully?

    • Lots of unsuccessful projects…

    • Successful projects

      • Node.js. Started by 1 person, employed by Joyent. Everything was owned by Joyent for a long time.

        • Community rebelled, forked and renamed to io.js, then named back to node.js (history)

  • Would there being good will on the terms of the vendor (Joyent, in the example above) would actually make the transition harder?

    • Definitely not. Good will would only make it better.

    • Often, the problem is not ill will. It’s not getting involved, not doing the work. “People of goodwill not standing up”. Or, good will, not followed by good action.

  • Does there need to be key infrastructure that should be in place to ensure a smooth transition?

    • There needs infrastructure in the new home

    • The vendor has to figure out how to transition to the new home

      • The transition needs to wait for the new home to exist

  •  Transitions from Vendor to Community driven projects

  • Education about biz value of level playing field

    • Role tCRIL could play here

    • The list of benefits could vary by organization

    • Hard to know what the magic words will be for an organization

    • “Engineering and business are very emotional things, contrary to belief”

  • Education Program 

    • Onboarding not just for contributors

      • Also for orgs joining

  • What makes orgs contribute to open source?

    • A match between here are your benefits, and here are your costs

    • Sounds awkward, but this is how biz works

    • Moral good doesn’t make a biz do things

      • They need to see benefits

    • Need “Salespeople” from tCRIL selling the benefit

    • A number of open source foundations (esp for verticals) spend a lot of time talking to execs about this to sell them on the benefit

    • You’re trying to sell the org in investing on their human resources being involved in the project

    • This education needs to happen

  • Benefits

    • Hiring incentive: engineers like working on open source

    • Decision-making

  • Question to orgs in the room: why are you using Open edX?

    • eduNEXT: was going to write their own, but Harvard/MIT offered Open edX

  • Tobie redirects us to not flesh out the list of benefits, to do that async

  • Can we build a better process around the people already involved?

    • Different than attracting more people

  • Plenty of Zoom difficulties and hijinx

    • “With their powers combined… AdolXavier Brandoviaque”

  • Ed clarifies: tCRIL is not looking to accept members

    • tCRIL is a member of the project

    • tCRIL is a center for the project, with funding

      • Can provide services to the project

    • Community needs to own the project

    • tCRIL not being a member-driven org makes it different from most other open source organizations.

      • The tCRIL legal structure has no incentive to find more members

      • Might want to do outreach for a different reason

      • Need to figure out a different way to get the good parts of having members

      • Formalized commitment is good

        • Open Collective?

  • Important to have a commitment of core contributors

    • tCRIL will have an Open edX instance with training

    • But: execs are a completely different target than contributors

  • Motivation isn’t enough: we need to enable contribution

    • Core Contributor program helps 

  • Open edX has no presence in non-tech arenas

    • To a lot of private companies, it helps them to have a badge: “W3C member”

      • This is a benefit to the company

      • This helps spread the message

    • Idea: Make the programs more visible and push them independent of them being related to tCRIL

    • tCRIL has a Preferred Provider program, provides status to companies

  • Level playing field

    • There’s a tension that needs to be acknowledged

    • 2U is a huge contributor to the project

    • Important that it remains easy for 2U to contribute

    • But: special-casing 2U is counterproductive

      • Make a non-level playing field

    • Need to understand what the plan of what the outcome will be

      • How do we get to equal footing?

      • Without ruining 2U’s velocity

      • It’s a complex engineering and people problem

    • We are working on the problem

      • Maintainership, etc

    • Important: be transparent with the community about the process

      • And include the community in deciding on the end result

  • Classic business is simple: raw materials, add value, pay wages, make money

    • Open source distorts this

    • Contribution has a real cost, without a direct return

      • These factors are hard to include in calculations

    • Teaching tools could help

    • Businesses make a big deal about the cost of contributing,

      • But they also spend on other hard-to-measure things (marketing, etc)

      • Open source is similar

    • “This is an investment that will help on these intangibles”

    • Investing in your future

  • Identify the different modalities of intervention

    • Different ways to bring people together to answer specific needs

    • Tobie is not a community manager or developer relations.

  • Last question:

    • Open by default (no private discussions)

    • 2U being a core contributor:

      • Can we have that discussion in public?

    • Transition periods are complex and difficult

      • Trade-offs have to be made

        • Sometimes people are ready to be 100% public

      • Focus on the outcomes you want to achieve more than the ways you are achieving them

        • Might need to bend the rules

        • But note that you are bending the rules

        • The outcome is worth it

      • It’s a problem if the transition-period activities become habit

    • Need Expectations of how things happen in the community

      • Similar to code of conduct

      • “Hey that’s not cool”

      • Project values can be written explicitly

    • If a year from now, 2U still has special access, “you have failed”

    • Tobie: by the end of the year, 2U should be treated like everyone else

      • Otherwise you will never do it

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