An alternative structure for the Joomla! Project

Published: 22 October 2014

You might have read my article ”Hard Truth“, this here is in some way a follow up.

I must say that I haven’t taken too much attention to the structure change discussion the last years. I can remember that I suggested that we should look outside of the US because my feeling was that the NYC State law has too many restrictions and is not really a good place for having OSM as organization located. Anyway, I don’t know if someone looked into this, so I did today.

What could work and would be a chance to really increase democracy and involvement is to found a non-profit organisation in Switzerland (it is called Verein there). We would allow all community members to be member of that organisation.

There are tools available to involve a lot of people and allow communication and making decision in a bigger group [1]. The keyword here is “liquid democracy“.

One side effect is that we probably could save some money because we don’t have to pay all the taxes in the US we are paying now. We would also not need to have someone from the US on the board (don’t get me wrong this isn’t a problem).

As far as I see it, there are no restrictions that would be a problem for us - the Swiss law is not very strict. But I looked only for an hour to check this possibility.

To understand what this would make better we need to find out what is going wrong.

1) The decision making process is broken. The reason for that is quite clear to me, we don’t have enough people in leadership position that are taking the risk to make a wrong decision.

So how we can fix that? Putting a structure of accountability in place! I don’t believe that this is the way at all. We need to teach our leaders to be leaders, we need to allow people to do what they want to do and give the trust that what they are doing is not a waste of time. We need to give people the safety that their contribution counts.

Someone told me that the Typo3 association has spent a lot of money for teaching their people in leading positions to make them prepared for the job. Wouldn’t that be better than spending money to pay taxes to the NYC State department?

We pull people into our project but do not give them the tools and the knowledge to fulfill a position. Leading is not an easy job.

If you have some minutes I would like to encourage you to look at the following video, I think it is really great and if you only have 2 minutes start at 9:58. It is worth watching.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe 

2) There are only a small group of people electing others into positions. I was part of the club for a time and it gives you a lot of power. This works well when the people electing are doing it with the best in mind and I wouldn’t say that this was not always the case. But at the end of the day it is only a small group of people. The presented proposal makes the group bigger but it is not a fix for the basic problem. It is a bit better but because we only have 9 people at the top that are able to fire the underlying structure the total risk is also a bit higher. I am not going too much into this debate because it is not so important. Let us look what problems (list is from the structure-wg-chat) should be solved:

  • More trust: äh no.
  • Better accountability: Never ever. Such a structure supports to have non-leaders in leading positions (Peter Principle [2]).
  • Increase transparency and communication between teams: What the hell you are smoking. Everyone has to handle more than 10 teams with at least 3 members. This is a job for 30 people full-time and the 9 are expected to do it in their free time.
  • More understandable structure: Yeah maybe.

The big question is: Is this brave is it Joomla! Is that how we roll or is that only an uninspired answer to fix a problem with a hammer. It is really interesting to see how the words stumble when someone asks what are the problems you are trying to fix.

After asking a couple of times I got this list of goals that should be achieved with the structure change proposal:

  • Empowering more people to be involved
  • Distributing decision making effectively
  • Encouraging active volunteers to continue contributing
  • Increase transparency and communication between teams
  • Placing trust in individuals and teams
  • Defining a more understandable structure with defined positions and workflows

I didn’t ask what the leadership did in the last years to reach that goals and why it fails within the structure we have now. I seriously think that at some point the idea of a structure change was so in peoples mind that something must be happen. The structure change in the proposal will be killing the culture of the project, it is no longer “all together“ it is “all lead by nine“ (and we all know what had happened with the people having the 9 Rings [3]).

Conclusion: The structure change will not reach the goals, it will harm the projects culture. It will result in less people contributing because this is no longer the project that they love.

One last thing: Did anyone think about the organisation overhead to report results to the bosses so that they can make proper decisions.

[1] just some examples


[3]ûl (That’s only a joke!)


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