Open Letter: Why I, Kevin Kofler, am not rerunning for FESCo

Kevin Kofler kevin.kofler at
Mon May 3 00:20:51 UTC 2010


You will have noticed by now that my FESCo term is about to expire, that the
nomination period for FESCo just closed and that my name does not show up on the
list of candidates. No, this is not an accident or negligence, the decision not
to run for another term was intentional, for several reasons:

* When I ran for election a year ago, one of my reasons for running, and also
  something I made part of my campaign, was that it shouldn't always be the same
  people who are sitting on FESCo. We have a much higher number of active
  contributors than FESCo seats, so it makes sense to see some turnover
  happening. So it would be very hypocritical from me to attempt to sit another
  year on FESCo myself, now that I'm myself a FESCo "veteran".

* I have never been a committee person and have always hated sitting on
  meetings. I have done it anyway for a year because I believed it to be
  important for the good of the project. But I'm really fed up of those meetings
  (I'm feeling burned out) and prefer focusing on more practical, less political
  areas of Fedora. The fact that I don't feel my presence in those meetings
  being of much if any use (more on that later) doesn't help either.

* When looking back at what happened over the year I've been in office, I have a
  feeling that I have been able to acheive basically nothing:
  - The vast majority of votes were either unanimous or 8-1 against me. In both
    cases, my vote was entirely redundant. Even for more contested votes, my
    vote hardly ever mattered.
  - Any attempts to discuss those issues where everyone was against me went
    nowhere. In most cases, people rushed out a vote without even considering
    the real issue at hand and then shot down any discussion with "we already
    voted, we want to move on". In those few cases where there actually was a
    discussion, my position was always dismissed as being ridiculous and not
    even worth considering, my arguments, no matter how strong, were entirely
  - Basically any proposal I filed was systematically shot down. Even things
    which should be obvious such as:
    . calling GNOME by its name rather than the generic "Desktop" or
    . eliminating the useless bureaucratic red tape of FESCo ratification for
      FPC guidelines which just wastes everyone's time and constitutes pure
      process inefficiency
    got only incomprehension.
  I have come to the conclusion that it is just plain impossible for a single
  person to change FESCo's ways and that therefore I am just wasting my time

* I am very unhappy about FESCo's recent (and not so recent, which were what
  made me run in the first place) directions. The trend is steady towards
  bureaucracy and centralization:
  - Maintainers are continuously being distrusted. It all started with the
    provenpackager policy, where every single provenpackager has to be voted in
    by a FESCo majority vote, as opposed to letting any sponsor approve people
    as provenpackagers as originally planned, or just opening all our packages
    to everyone as was the case in the old Extras. From there, things pretty
    much degenerated and we're now at a point where FESCo no longer trusts
    maintainers to know when an update to the packages they maintain is stable,
    instead insisting on automatically-enforced bureaucracy which will never be
    as reliable and effective as a human. The fact that we trust our maintainers
    used to be one of the core values of the Fedora community. It has been
    replaced by control-freakiness and paranoia.
  - All the power in Fedora is being centralized into 2 major committees: the
    Board and FESCo. FESCo is responsible for a lot of things all taking up
    meeting time, leading to lengthy meetings and little time for discussion.
    Many of those things could be handled better in a more decentralized way.
    Power should be delegated to SIGs and technical committees wherever
    possible, FESCo should only handle issues where no reponsible subcommittee
    can be found or where there is disagreement among affected committees. In
    particular, I suggest that:
    . FPC guidelines should be passed directly by FPC, only concrete objections
      should get escalated to FESCo.
    . membership in packager-sponsors and provenpackager should be handled by
      the sponsors, with a process to be defined by them (my suggestion:
      provenpackager should take 1 sponsor to approve and no possibility to
      object or veto, sponsor should take 3 sponsors to approve and objections
      can be escalated to FESCo).
    . features should get approved by the responsible SIG or committee (e.g.
      FPC for RPM features, KDE SIG for KDE features etc.). The feature wrangler
      should decide on a SIG to hand the feature to for approval, or even accept
      features filed directly into "approved" by the responsible SIG, and FESCo
      would be responsible only where there is no clearly responsible SIG, or
      to arbitrate when a SIG is trying to make a change which affects other
      SIGs without their consent.
    Unfortunately, these suggestions are falling on deaf ears, in fact I filed
    the first suggestion as an official proposal (as it looked very obvious to
    me, the ratification process is pure bureaucracy) and it was shot down (also
    due to the FPC chair claiming FPC doesn't want this, despite at least 2 FPC
    members having spoken out rather favorably). I think a more decentralized
    approach (in general, not just for FPC guidelines) would be more efficient,
    more democratic, less bureaucratic and less corporate and would increase
    overall maintainer happiness by reducing the impression of the "diktat from
  - The prevailing opinion of the electorate of Fedora contributors keeps
    getting ignored. Feedback on the Fedora devel mailing list is never seen as
    in any way binding, it's often dismissed as noise or "trolling". The
    predominant opinion in FESCo is "you voted for us, now we get to do whatever
    we want", which is flawed in many ways:
    . It assumes there were true alternatives to vote for instead. This
      assumption does not look true to me.
    . It assumes the voters were aware of the positions of all the candidates.
      I'm fairly sure this was not the case. While I appreciate what has been
      done in an attempt to solve this issue (questionnaire, townhalls), this
      has proven by far insufficient to build an opinion on the candidates. I
      think there's a reason representative democracies normally work with
      parties/factions and I think something like that might help a lot,
      depending on what kind of factions would show up.
    . It assumes representative democracy is a well-working model in the first
      place, especially in its most hardcore form ("now we get to do whatever we
      want"). I believe elected representatives should really REPRESENT the
      people who voted them. I realize politicians aren't doing that, but are
      they really a good model to follow?
    I believe listening more to the feedback on the devel ML and taking it into
    account during decision-making would reduce frustration with FESCo a lot.
  - The prevailing opinion of Fedora users keeps getting ignored. See e.g. Adam
    Williamson's poll about the kind of updates users expect from Fedora, its
    clearcut majoritarian result, and FESCo and the Board both planning to do
    the exact opposite.
  - Common sense is just generally lacking, see e.g. the decision that the GNOME
    spin should continue being called "Desktop Spin", despite evidence that this
    is confusing many users, both the ones actively looking for GNOME and the
    ones who want some other desktop. And that's just one such nonsensical
    decision, the one I remember best because this is an issue I care much
  I do not wish to stand for such a committee anymore (in fact I probably should
  have resigned much earlier, as I've just been frustrated and burned out for
  more than half of the term, but I didn't because my feeling of responsibility
  was too strong) and, as pointed out before, I feel powerless to change

Therefore, I will stay in office until the end of my term, but I will not be
available for reelection. I would like to thank the people who voted for me last
year for their support and apologize to those who would have liked to vote for
me this time for not giving them this opportunity. If you would like a KDE SIG
person in FESCo, vote for Steven M. Parrish (and vote for Rex Dieter for the
Board). But if you want to see the kind of change to FESCo I'd like to see,
it'll take a faction of at least 5 people to make it happen.

        Kevin Kofler

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