Talk:Membership Process 2016

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History of OSGeo Membership

The following section has originally been compiled in en Email to the OSGeo Discuss list by Vasile (thanks for the great work). Please feel free to amend, correct and extend.


OSGeo charter members [1] are the blood of our foundation. They are voted into this category by the other charter members. They have the right to vote in elections for other charter members and for board members. They are required to act in accordance with the goals and bylaws [2] of the Foundation and have the following responsibilities: (1) annually vote for OSGeo Board members; (2) annually vote for new OSGeo Charter members and (3) be aware of and protect against a hostile takeover of OSGeo.

Each year new charter members are nominated (nomination process is open for the entire community, not only to the existing charter members) and elected by existing OSGeo charter members, in a process supervised by the board [3] and operated by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) [4]. Non-active members can retire or be removed by board decision. An updated list with all the current and past charter members is available on OSGEo website [5]. During the years the charter members selection procedure suffered minor and major changes as you can see bellow.


OSGeo was created in early 2006 [7]. One of the main outcomes of the first OSGeo meeting (held in Chicago) [7] was a list of 21 foundation voting members (most of them high profile figures of the existing FOSS4G projects) and 5 interim directors [8]. Later that month, the first real elections started with a public nomination call [9] followed by a vote [10] and the election of new 24 voting members [11]. This was followed by a new nomination call [12] for the remaining four open seats in the board. After a tight vote, the first four candidates [13] from a list of eight [14] join the board.

In June, after a Face-to-Face meeting, the new board redefined the OSGeo membership categories as we know today [15]. The voting members are now called "Charter Members" and they have the right to vote in elections for other charter members, and for board members. The other member categories (participant & members) have the right to nominate charter board members but they cannot cast votes. In March 2007, with the approach of the new charter members elections, discussion started about the ned for a CRO position, the number of new seats (and by who/how the number is decided) and the voting procedure (e.g. nomination and voting period extend, right to designate a proxy, the number of votes each charter member can submit) [16]. In June 2007 the nomination process [17] started with the aim to elect 15 charter members (the number was arbitrarily selected by the board). During the vote [18], each charter member was entitled to cast votes up to 15 names from the nomination list. It was possible to cast more than one vote to the same nominee (even all 15 votes).

The same voting procedure was used for the 2008 charter member elections (including the number of seats, 15) [19]. However, the nomination list included 18 great names [20] and people start asking to accept all the names. Again, the method to pick the number of open seats was questioned again. Some people ask not to change the rules during the game and to select only 15 names. And 15th it was. Ironically, "there was a four-way tie for last place. So, the 15th person on the list was selected by a random process." [21].

In 2009 the elections [22] followed the same rules but the number of seats was raised to 30. Though, as before, the charter members were able to cast only 15 votes. All nominated members [23] were elected as the number was bellow 30.

2010 [24], brought an important change. Due to lack of time for proper organization, it was decided to switch the election order and elect the charter members after the board elections. This way, the new charter members were not able to vote in the same year were elected. Also, the board decided, in a f2f meeting, to "add 10% of existing members each year - 10 new members this year." [25]. The charter member were able to cast a maximum of 10 votes using the same rules as before. However, a number of voices noted that the list of nominee [26] had many great names and it was a pity to cut down to only 10. Some suggested that is time to make some changes in the charter member selection procedure (e.g. [27]).

In 2011 [28] the elections order remain the same as in 2010. The board agreed on opening 20 seats (20% - [29]). Each member were able to cast a maximum of 20 votes using the same rules as before. In the end, 21 members were elected (all nominees [30]) as it was a tie for the 20th slot and that still fits within the limits of 20% new charter members set by the board. The voting participating rate was 65% and some voices ask about the charter member retirement procedure.

In 2012 [31] the election schedule return to the initial order: first charter member and then board. 20 seats were open and the board decided to accept all 22 nominations [32] as it was inline with OSGeo bylaws (is possible to add between 10% and one third of the existing charter membership).

2013 [33] elections followed the 2012 scenario. 30 seats open. 37 nominations received [34]. The board decided to accept all the nominations.

2014 [35], the year of the change for OSGeo charter member elections. First big change was the implementation of an electronic voting system [36] to replace the e-mail voting. The selection process itself was also revised from the bottom. Each charter member received an email with a personalized url to access the electronic voting system. Each charter member can vote with Yes/No/Abstain for all nominated charter members. Each candidate with more YES votes than NO votes, and greater than 5% of voting charter members voting YES for them, were included as new charter members. The result was that all 64 nominations [37] were accepted as Charter members. For the first time, the board decided to publish the elections results on the internet with detail numbers of YES/NO/ABSTAIN for each nominee [38]. Some concerns were raised about the low threshold of voting charter members voting YES for a nominee.


Now we are getting to the current year. In 2015 [39], the elections will follow the same pattern: charter members and then board members. For the charter members elections, the OSGeo president, Jeff McKenna, propose to change the the above mentioned threshold from 5% to 50% [40]. Jeff did a simulation on the last year votes with the new threshold and discovered that 45 nominations would be accepted, versus all 64 nominations. The item was briefly introduced during the board meeting held in June [41]. Due to the lack of time, no detailed discussions or vote follow [42]. However, a motion on the item was introduced to the board via e-mail [43]. The board was not able to reach an consensus with six votes to approve, one abstain and two to reject the motion. Some other charter members join the discussion but also with split opinions. Some are pro for a more exclusive charter membership and some are for a easy way to join. A consultation with the entire community was demanded. For more details see thread "[Board] motions from June 18 meeting - making OSGeo Charter membership more exclusive" on the board mailing list [44]. The thread expanded on the OSGeo-discuss mailing list and more concerns were raised. Like: the YES/NO/Abstain options should be better explained to the charter members; ask the charter members to vote on the threshold; the algorithm to measure the support for a nominee should be modified as Abstain votes are counted right now as No votes. The "YES / (NO + YES) = percentage support" [45] and "(YES-NO) / (YES+NO+ABSTAIN) = percentage support" [46] formulas were suggested; Arnulf suggested that "charter member" term was misused by OSGeo in the past and the foundation should embrace a regular membership mechanism and even ask for a low annual membership fee [47].

I hope I did not make any mistakes and also did not left important information outside this recap. I so, please correct/add points. Charter member elections process is vital to OSGeo, therefore we should proceed further with great care. The time is also not on our side as we need to do this before the board elections. Until now we have the following options:

  1. Go with the unmodified 2014 selection process;
  2. Change the threshold percent;
  3. Change the algorithm that measure the support for a nominee;
  4. Change both b and c;
  5. Change the selection process from the ground up (e.g. move to regular membership);
  6. Other options not expressed until now. (please add)

Please take some time, think about the existing voting system and if/how should be improved, and express your opinion here. Thanks to the electronic voting system we can put your options into a survey and all vote for the best solution.


Two personal notes from Vasile after doing some research about the selection/voting process in other open source software organizations:

  1. All of them seem to have difficulties in finding the best solution (apparently such solution does not exist)
  2. OSGeo is a very transparent organization.



Older Comments

This doc is about adding new members, it would be good to have a brief section on general way for members to be removed, i.e. when they volunteer to quit and no longer want to be involved. A clear process will also become important when removing members who have not participated. Or else retitle this "New Member Process" or something like that?


Charter Membership Criteria section - I think it would be good to also note that "Participation in or support of OSGeo activities" is a good pre-requisite for charter membership. It was logical that this didn't apply to the initial charter members since OSGeo didn't exist, but doesn't it make sense that those who have participated the most over the last year would be the first that should be added? After all, there hasn't been any barrier for anyone to participate. Just an idea that came to mind as I think about who I'd nominate...

  • Also I think that "For instance, we have a strong desire to see the "Java tribe" well represented in the foundation." makes sense but should be removed or made more generic so people don't think we specifically need more Java folks instead of .NET, etc. The rest of the text sets the context fine, or else change to "We have a strong desire to see all aspects of the open source geo. community represented in the foundation, e.g. all programming languages, projects, etc."


Number of new members - this topic was brought up a lot in discussion list questions about the process. Changing it to some percentage (i.e. 10% growth per year) or some less precise number or range was suggested.