[Foundation-l] A proposal for organisation

Anthere anthere9 at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 14 23:54:15 UTC 2006


I have given a bit of thought in the issue during the past few days, in 
reading all the emails on this list, and I had the opportunity today to 
talk with one of the co-founder of the Apache Foundation, in particular 
about the way their Foundation is organised. I put wikitech in copy, 
because I am pretty sure some of the guys there know the organisation 
and will be able to correct me if necessary.

I thought that his description of his Foundation... would very possibly 
fit pretty well what it seems many on this list are looking for and 
solve some of our current problems.

It has some points in commons with the previous Wikicouncil on which we 
had worked, but one of the problems with the Wikicouncil was ... the 
rather unclear role of this one.

Now, from what I understood from Lars description, I think the Apache 
Foundation model could rather well fit us... if so, why trying to 
reinvent the wheel ?

I will try to describe below, using largely what is explained on their 
site + his comments. Please correct me if you view some 
misunterpretations. Also, if you know the organisation from the inside, 
please comment.


Ant : Bare facts : their goals (please compare with our goals)

What is the Apache Software Foundation?

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit 
organization incorporated in the United States of America and was formed 
primarily to:

* provide a foundation for open, collaborative software development 
projects by supplying hardware, communication, and business infrastructure
* create an independent legal entity to which companies and individuals 
can donate resources and be assured that those resources will be used 
for the public benefit
* provide a means for individual volunteers to be sheltered from legal 
suits directed at the Foundation's projects
* protect the 'Apache' brand, as applied to its software products, from 
being abused by other organizations

Ant : Aside from point 3, that's roughly similar to us


The Foundation structure

At the time the ASF was created, there were several separate 
communities, each focused on a different side of the "web serving" 
problem, but all united by a common set of goals and a respected set of 
cultural traditions in both etiquette and process.

Ant : in short, several projects with rather individual communities and 
a common goal.

These separate communities were referred to as "projects" and while 
similar, each of them exhibited little differences that made them special.

In order to reduce friction and allow for diversity to emerge, rather 
than forcing a monoculture from the top, the projects are designated the 
central decision-making organizations of the Apache world. Each project 
is delegated authority over development of its software, and is given a 
great deal of latitude in designing its own technical charter and its 
own governing rules.

The foundation is governed by the following entities:

Board of Directors (board) governs the foundation and is composed of 

Project Management Committees (PMC) govern the projects, and they are 
composed of committers. (Note that every member is, by definition, also 
a committer.)

Ant : for us, we currently have the board. Something similar to the PMC 
was suggested on the list recently, so as to separate more strictly 
board and projects


Board of Directors (board)

The board is responsible for management and oversight of the business 
and affairs of the corporation in accordance with the foundation Bylaws. 
This includes management of the corporate assets (funds, intellectual 
property, trademarks, and support equipment) and allocation of corporate 
resources to projects.

However, technical decision-making authority regarding the content and 
direction of the Apache projects is assigned to each respective project 
management committee.

The board is currently composed by nine individuals, elected between the 
members of the foundation. The bylaws don't specify the number of 
officers that the board should have, but historically, this was the 
number of the first board and it has never changed. The board is elected 
every year.

Ant : note that the board is elected by the members of the Foundation 
(ASF Member). Not by all developers whatever their status, but only ASF 
members (see below how to get ASF member).

Ant : Lars told me that the board was entirely elected. So entirely came 
from within the community.


Project Management Committees (PMC)

The Project Management Committees are established by resolution of the 
Board, to be responsible for the active management of one or more 
communities, which are also identified by resolution of the Board.

Each PMC consists of at least one officer of the ASF, who shall be 
designated chairperson, and may include one or more other members of the 

The chair of the PMC is appointed by the Board and is an officer of the 
ASF (Vice President). The chair has primary responsibility to the Board, 
and has the power to establish rules and procedures for the day to day 
management of the communities for which the PMC is responsible, 
including the composition of the PMC itself.

Ant : in our case, the PMC (rather than the chair really) might have the 
power to make the rules over copyright issues for example

The role of the PMC from a Foundation perspective is oversight. The main 
role of the PMC is not code and not coding - but to ensure that all 
legal issues are addressed, that procedure is followed, and that each 
and every release is the product of the community as a whole. That is 
key to our litigation protection mechanisms.

Secondly the role of the PMC is to further the long term development and 
health of the community as a whole, and to ensure that balanced and wide 
scale peer review and collaboration does happen. Within the ASF we worry 
about any community which centers around a few individuals who are 
working virtually uncontested. We believe that this is detrimental to 
quality, stability, and robustness of both code and long term social 

As the PMC, and the chair in particular, are eyes and ears of the ASF 
Board, it is you that we rely on and need to trust to provide legal 

The board has the faculty to terminate a PMC at any time by resolution.


How does someone get PMC Member ?

PMC member is a developer or a committer that was elected due to merit 
for the evolution of the project and demonstration of commitment. They 
have write access to the code repository, an apache.org mail address, 
the right to vote for the community-related decisions and the right to 
propose an active user for committership. The PMC as a whole is the 
entity that controls the project, nobody else.


How does someone get ASF Member

ASF member is a person that was nominated by current members and elected 
due to merit for the evolution and progress of the foundation. Members 
care for the ASF itself. This is usually demonstrated through the roots 
of project-related and cross-project activities. Legally, a member is a 
"shareholder" of the foundation, one of the owners. They have the right 
to elect the board, to stand as a candidate for the board election and 
to propose a committer for membership. They also have the right to 
propose a new project for incubation (we'll see later what this means). 
The members coordinate their activities through their mailing list and 
through their annual meeting.

Ant : note the subtle difference between an PMC member (dedicated to his 
project , acquire a right to manage his project) with an ASF member 
(dedicated to the Foundation or at least the general goal as opposed to 
a specific project). Most people on this mailing list are typically ASF 

Ant : a subtility mentionned by Lars is that there is no limitation to 
the members of ASF. It is a sort of confirmation process rather than 
election. A person is recognised as "involved and trusted", hence she 
becomes a member. So, there is not this notion we had previously thought 
in the wikicouncil idea that 5 seats should be given to english 
wikipedia, whilst only 3 for the french wikibooks and 1 for the catalan 
wikiquote. As a result, the membership grows and grows... roughly 150 
people if I remember well. Lars mentionned that when the quorum for vote 
will become hard to reach, they will probably un-ASF memberise the 
inactive members.

What do ASF members do ?

They elect the board...

Ant : now, think about it. If ASF members are *officially* ASF members, 
they are not anonymous. All of them have their real name known. They are 
real members of a legal entity. For us, anons or people refusing to give 
their real names (at least privately) could not be ASF members. However, 
they could elect (or support) other people to become ASF members.

Ant : another thing not mentionned on their website but which I was 
explained : each project committee must mandatorily have at least 2 ASF 
members on it. They also have an incubator area, where new projects are 
started and tested. Similarly, these projects must be "headed" by a 
committeee (elected by its own members), on which must be found at least 
2 ASF members.


Other Foundation Entities

After infrastructure and incubator, the foundation hosts several other 
entities more or less formalized open to ASF members and to invited 
experts or individuals that do not directly create code but serve for 
specific purposes. They are:

the conference organizing committee (aka concom) -- responsible for the 
organization of the official ASF conference (aka ApacheCon)

the security committee -- responsible for the handling of potential 
security holes in the software produced by the foundation that might 
impact our users. It gets contacted by the finders of the problems 
before the problem report is made available to the public, to allow the 
projects to provide a fix in time for the report, thus reducing 
vulnerability to a minimum

the public relations committee -- responsible for the fund raising 
(collaborates with the concom since the conference is one of the major 
sources of income of the foundation) and public relations - including 
trademark licensing and other issues regarding management of the Apache 
brand, raising of funds, and is responsible for the press-related issues 
like press releases for major ASF events or dispatching requests for 

the JCP committee -- responsible for the liaison between the ASF and the 
Java Community Process (the ASF is a member of the JCP Executive Committee)

the licensing committee -- responsible for the legal issues associated 
with licensing and license compatibilities and for the revision of the 
Apache Software License

Ant : guess what ? That looks as our committees...


Congrats to all those who made up so far.
I summarize.

An organisation with
* a board
* members (ASF members)
* aside committees (event, public relations etc...)

ASF Members elect the board.

A collection of projects, whose participants elect ASF members.

Each project has a governing committee in charge, on which there are at 
leasts 2 ASF members, and which report to the board of the ASF.

Comments ?


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