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

Sir Gallantmon (ニール・ゴンパ) ngompa13 at
Mon May 3 01:11:21 UTC 2010

On Sun, May 2, 2010 at 7:20 PM, Kevin Kofler <kevin.kofler at> wrote:

> Hi,
> 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
>    ignored.
>  - 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
>  there.
> * 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
>      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
>    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
>    above".
>  - 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
>    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
>    about.
>  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
>  anything.
> 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
> 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
That's too bad. I hadn't realized the political situation within Fedora had
gotten so bad, though. I always liked Fedora's policy of trusting its
people.... And it seems to be going away.

Though, there are some instances where the prevailing opinion should be
ignored, when there is no solid evidence to back it up, e.g. Mono and the

Meh, sorry to see you felt so unsatisfied though.
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