Executive Report from the President 2009

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This is a verbatim copy of the "Executive Report from the President" published in the OSGeo Journal - Volume 5 - OSGeo 2008 Annual Report with minor corrections and enhanced with a few links and subtitles that did not go into the paper version.

From the President

During the past year OSGeo has grown and matured. As far as I can tell the past year was a thorough success. But how can we measure the success of a nonprofit organization like OSGeo? A good measure is always to compare numbers. For example the number of graduated projects, the number of subscribers to mailing lists, the number of public appearances at conferences, in presentations, trade shows and case studies. Also the number of Wiki edits, software releases, bug fixes and the evergreen "lines of code". These are only a few quantifiable indicators that shed some light on the health of OSGeo. And all of them show steady growth, find out more about the details in this Journal.

World Economy

During the same past year world economy took a hard blow. More and more financial experts have to admit that there are very concrete limits to growth. A growing number of financial institutes have already collapsed, large industries stumble and fall, employees lose their jobs and in the wake of this global downfall whole economies have come to a painful grinding halt.

OSGeo Ecolomy

Eventually the growth curve of OSGeo may also flatten out, but not quite yet. There are still too many people left to teach about the viability of Open Source Geospatial Software and there is still too much profit in learning about the opportunities that arise from having access to free spatial data and educational material. But what comes to my mind when I look at the quantifiable success of OSGeo is that it appears to be yet another business that is driven by revenue and the need to meet its investors’ expectations. But who are the employees and who are the investors?

OSGeo's Structure

First let’s have a look at who "runs" the fundation. It seems obvious when you have a president and board of directors. These directors decide that something needs to be done, tells the CEO to do it and then it happens. Unfortunately, it does not work this way. As the Executive Director is our only employee, he has to focus on things that really need to get done. Beyond that we are dependent entirely on volunteers. The most the president and directors can often do is politely ask people whether they would be interested in doing this or that. Some believe we are just a small and "managed" organisation "run" by a few individuals who have the power. I can very much assure you that OSGeo does not work this way.

Do-ocracy

How does it work if everybody has different expectations of what OSGeo is, what it should be and what it can do. It works because OSGeo is an active community of people who do things. Furthermore, OSGeo does not have a community but the community is OSGeo. The community invents OSGeo as it progresses. That needs some explaining. Over the past three years OSGeo has developed into a fairly complex beast. However, it does not exist out of itself but is just the collective representation of many individual resources. OSGeo is crowd sourced (and maybe even a bit RESTful) and will also grow and shrink depending on the interest and availability of its membership.

Formal Structure

As a legal entitiy OSGeo needs some formal structure. In a nutshell, OSGeo consists of currently 73 voted charter members who vote for 9 directors who vote for one president (currently me). The board then appoints the Executive Director (Tyler Mitchell) who takes care of a whole stack of required formalities like handling finances, signing contracts in the name of OSGeo and communicating with sponsors. The board has to approve the budget and find ways to actually fund it, for example by inviting sponsors (the investors) and promoting FOSS4G (acquire funding). Formal committees are created to address different topics, each of them has a list of members who vote for a chair who becomes an officer and Vice President of OSGeo. Thats it.

Volunteers, Commercial Interests and Business

All the RESTful action in OSGeo is done by folks who either have a commercial interest or simply find it fun to do things. Some (like me) are in the lucky situation that they can combine the fun part with the money making bit and can thus afford to spend some time on nitty gritty details of "running" OSGeo. If you are interested and have the capacity to also do this kind of job then please pay attention to the upcoming elections. Anybody (that includes you) can nominate Charter Members, this year as every year it will grow by 15 individuals. Then the Charter Members will vote for the board of directors who will vote for a president. Same story, each year.

Bottom Line

Please note that the grunt work within OSGeo is done by people who have no formal role and who couldn’t care less about having one. If you want OSGeo to do something then you will just have to do it. Want more education? Go teach people, create training material or design courses. If you want to formally change something then please join the corresponding committee. Think that we need better spatial data licenses? Go make them. Think we need more case studies? Go create them. Can you see it now? OSGeo is nothing without you. Correction: ...nothing without you doing it.

Thank you for a cool year of "running" the organization.

Arnulf Christl
OSGeo President
Bonn, Germany
arnulf@osgeo.org