Regular meeting of the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors, 9 November 2020, 15:00 UTC






To be approved as a block, by consent (no vote required).

Discussion agenda

  • Financial report
  • Approve 2020-21 interim budget #190
  • Approve GNOME vision and mission statement #187
    • VOTE: the board approves the following two statements as GNOME's vision and mission statements:
      • "A world where everyone is empowered by technology they can trust."
      • "Building a diverse and sustainable free software personal computing ecosystem."
  • Strategic objectives discussion
    • Recap OKR framework
    • Generate potential strategic goals
    • Organise generated ideas
    • Indicative voting
  • Status updates:
    • Guidelines for technical terminology #177
  • Board-only discussion


  • Approve consent agenda
    • No objections. The minutes of 14th September and 12th October are approved.
  • Financial report
    • Neil walks through the interim budget.
      • One of our Advisory board members haven't been contactable recently, hence a drop in the adboard fees level
      • Income and expenses from conferences is basically zero until we know whether conferences will be possible in 2021.
      • Marketing expenses are much reduced, since most of that is spent on things at conferences.
      • The restricted funds from the Coding Education Challenge donation are split out into more specific categories.
    • Allan: What is specifically meant by interim budget?
      • Neil: "Interim budget" means that this is the forecast that will be used for the time being when determining what falls under the spending authorization policy. When we have agreed on the strategy, then we will make changes to the budget to reflect the strategy.
      • Allan: Does "interim" mean we approve it for a specific length of time?
      • Neil: It's up to the board.
    • Federico: If in a few months it starts looking like we can hold GUADEC in person, does that mean we need to revise the budget?
      • Neil: That's correct.
    • Philip: with the Advisory Board member potentially dropping off we are losing a big amount of advisory board income. Is that worrying? How do we attract new people for the advisory board?
      • Neil: We have a number of names that we are approaching. Networking with people from companies has been hard due to the lack of in-person conferences.
      • Philip: How alarming is this?
      • Neil: Mildly. We had seen this coming for a while, but it does highlight that we need to continue to raise funds from a diverse set of organizations.
      • Federico: It seems we've had a lot of trouble attracting new advisory board members. Neil and Molly have mentioned in the past that it's easier to fundraise for specific projects, but advisory board fees are general funds and so more flexible. It would be difficult to fundraise specifically for travel sponsorships, for example.
        • Neil: That's one reason we make sure that when we do appeals, we state that the excess funds will go into general funds.
  • Approve 2020-21 interim budget
    • VOTE: The board approves the interim 2020-21 budget for 6 months (until May 14, 2021), as presented by Neil
      • Vote passes unanimously.
  • Approve GNOME vision and mission statement
    • Allan: We discussed this last month and Rob has been the main motivator of preparing these statements.
    • Rob: We wanted to do something broader than just "everyone sits at free software desktops using free software browsers." Why is free software good? We decided that our vision of that is that free software empowers you. It does allow us to look at other personal devices, like phones and tablets. We want it to be about individuals. As for the mission part, in the board we went back and forth on whether we specifically mention personal computing, community, etc. We settled on "ecosystem" intentionally rather than "community". The community needs to reflect the people that we are trying to reach, so we are opinionated about diversity. "Personal computing" is in our Form 990 purpose. In short, there's been lots of bikeshedding around each word.
    • Federico: Thanks to the people who took this to the finish line.
    • Philip: What are the main differences from when we discussed this last month?
      • Allan: ""Universal access to personal computing software that respects and empowers users" by "Building a diverse community of contributors and creating a powerful, usable and trustworthy free software desktop and application ecosystem." This is a more concise refinement of what we had.
    • VOTE: the board approves the following two statements as GNOME's vision and mission statements:
      • "A world where everyone is empowered by technology they can trust."
      • "Building a diverse and sustainable free software personal computing ecosystem."
      • +1 Rob, Philip, Felipe, Federico, Allan
      • (Regina connection issues)
      • Philip: would like to confirm with Regina and Kat even if we have a majority vote.
      • Allan: I will reach out to both of them, and we can put confirming this on the consent agenda for next time.
  • Strategic objectives discussion
    • Allan: We have a vision and a mission, how do we get there? Potentially we might make some changes to the status quo. First question: GNOME has been around for 20+ years, and we have not had a breakthrough like what would be implied by the vision. Is that breakthrough something we need to reach the vision and what is standing in the way of it?
      • Federico: Why is it that people being paid to work on GNOME only work on the core GNOME platform and much less on the applications when applications are what people use? I'm sure people use GNOME-ish apps a lot more on Windows.
      • Felipe: That brings me to allowing developers to monetize contributions.
      • Felipe: Considering that computers are still inaccessible to a lot of the world what can we do to go to people who don't currently have access?
      • Allan: Targetting everyone doesn't mean we have to target everyone at once.
      • Rob: I've sketched out some objectives below:
        • The product is good: it meets the needs of the audiences we care to reach
        • People know about us!
        • The product reaches the users: channels (people know what we do), affordable devices, incentives and recognition for distributing GNOME
      • The product lets people get their work done: apps, developers
      • The ecosystem is diverse: financial incentives for apps as well as distribution so that financial ability to contribute is not a barrier
      • The foundation survives: well-run, funded, developer contributions, etc
    • Philip: staying competitive with proprietary devices. People generally choose convenience over empowerment; if we don't have software that makes people's lives easier, they won't choose GNOME.
    • Federico: This is not a strategy point, but I thought it would be interesting to look at: a flame war on Reddit about someone asking where to get GEdit for Windows. There is a link to an old binary, but the current maintainer has made it for sale in the Windows store. Is it important to make GNOME software available on non-GNOME platforms?
    • Rob: Strawman...? If the Foundation's role is to build a free software personal computing ecosystem, then I'd say that's not part of our ecosystem. But potentially the developer can make money and then use that money to support our ecosystem. Personally I've spent a lot of my career making the argument that if a company makes money doing something, they can spend it on benefitting free software. I'm not sure it's the Foundation's place to make that argument though.
    • Federico: I'm not sure if it undermines our mission or if it's positive for mindshare.
    • Neil: Do I spend my time fighting Apple's code signing tools again or instead should I be reaching out to Adobe so they can get Photoshop onto our desktop? Which of those is most likely to help us reach our vision?
    • Rob: You can see our reach or impact as a multiplication of three variables, how good is the product, how many people can get it, how many people are aware / incentivised to use it GNOME. Whichever one of those is closest to zero is the one that we should prioritize.
    • Allan: It's important for us to ask questions like, why in 20+ years of GNOME have we not achieved significant market success, and how would this strategy succeed where previous attempts have failed? Why have none of our partners achieved market success? The desktop numbers have been stable for years, not even chromeOS made a significant change. We need to seriously examine the obstacles we face if we want to take these five points from Rob and turn them into a realistic strategy.
    • Federico: I like this line of thinking and I would like to contrast it with my experience here, Windows is everywhere, and Apple is for rich people. Piracy is everywhere, there's a big underground market for pirated applications. I would like to see what we can do with our partners in this area. Endless has done some work, but I'm not sure whether everything they learned percolates back up into the core of GNOME.
    • Rob: We can't win a direct war of attrition with Windows and Mac. Global desktop use is going up even though sales are going down because desktops become obsolete less quickly. Endless has a take on this, and GNOME can have a take on it, and those can be complementary.
    • Federico: There's been a big surge in demand for cheap computers in Mexico, mainly for kids taking online classes, but also for remote work. I gave away three old laptops and the recipients reformatted them with Windows. Do we need to do anything to make it easy to resurrect old computers with free software? It's kind of embarrassing that screensharing doesn't work.
    • Allan: I think this is as far as we can probably get within a half hour. We'll be having these conversations in the future with John Lass, but what should we work on in the meantime? Rob's list seems like a good place to start. Should we have a call about this? How much depth do we want to go into at the expense of dragging out our own process? Should we put together something now in order to allow ourselves the time to work through the issues with John Lass?
    • Neil: It will be useful if people have time to think about this some more. That will enable the work with John to go more smoothly.


Next meeting will be 14th December 2020, 15:00 - 17:00 UTC.

FoundationBoard/Minutes/20201109 (last edited 2020-12-21 21:05:09 by EkaterinaGerasimova)