#299 Create a policy for controversial cases involving Fedora Trademark, or engage with Mindshare Committee on cancelling event sponsorships
Closed: approved a day ago by bcotton. Opened 2 months ago by jflory7.

Summary

If Fedora leadership decides that the Fedora Trademark should not be associated or involved with an event, there is an undocumented policy for the Council to override or cancel the sponsorship / participation.

Background

This is a prickly topic and I am doing my best to represent this neutrally. I am also making a best effort to keep this ticket succinct.

In 2019, Fedora was a returning sponsor to the SouthEast LinuxFest, or SELF. That year, SELF had a keynote speaker who is publicly known as a controversial figure in Free Software (1, 2. The Fedora Council made a unilateral decision (?) made in private about Fedora's participation in this event. My understanding is the financial sponsorship was continued, but Fedora did not have a booth presence at the event that year.

This ticket is NOT to dissect this specific decision. It is meant to dissect how that decision was made and how to make future decisions in a way that is respectful to the volunteer community that facilitates the organization of these events and the community processes that the Fedora Community is expected to follow. The issue I want to draw out with this discussion is the following:

  1. How and where is this issue discussed?
  2. How are decisions impacting community-organized event sponsorships made?
  3. How can the Council be as transparent and open as possible in making decisions that will inevitably be viewed as political?

Details

I am coming to this ticket with two possible kickstarter proposals:

1. Create a policy for fiscal sponsorship involving Fedora Trademark

At the time, the SELF 2019 incident was explained as a "Code of Conduct decision". In hindsight, I think this was the wrong move; really it is about the Fedora Trademark and brand being associated to a personality that is directly in opposition to the Friends Foundation of Fedora.

So, a positive outcome I see is the Fedora Council documenting a policy of how decisions are discussed, made, and communicated that involve the Fedora Trademark. The way the SELF 2019 decision was made cut directly across the policies and processes put in place by the Mindshare Committee that all volunteers are expected to follow.

Even if the original motive was genuine and sincere, It can be very frustrating and upsetting when you are obligated to follow a process that project leadership does not seem to follow.

2. Use Mindshare ticket tracker / policies for events related to Fedora Trademark

This solution makes a rapid/real-time response harder, but offers greater transparency and builds a feedback loop into decisions that impact the community.

Instead of private, unilateral actions on this, a Fedora Council member (or the Council rep on Mindshare) can open a new Pagure ticket on the Mindshare repo to submit an event cancellation type of request. This gives the Mindshare Committee an opportunity to leave feedback and vote on the ticket.

(Generally I am against Mindshare "owning" specific types of work that are better facilitated as a community or a team, but if this solution is preferred, it makes a lot of sense for Mindshare to have definitive control over this process.)

Outcome

  • The Fedora Council / leadership does not accidentally insult the time, efforts, and work of the Fedora Community
  • Better transparency and insight into how these decisions are made and justified to create historical precedent

FYI the reason this got brought up was because we were discussing reasons for Ambassadors participation declining, and I mentioned that I knew this was a factor in several of the NA ambassadors becoming inactive or completely leaving the project.

What are the Mindshare Committee policies and processes that you expected to be followed?

Instead of private, unilateral actions on this, a Fedora Council member (or the Council rep on Mindshare) can open a new Pagure ticket on the Mindshare repo to submit an event cancellation type of request. This gives the Mindshare Committee an opportunity to leave feedback and vote on the ticket.

https://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/council/ states:
"The engineering and mindshare representatives' responsibility is to represent their areas collectively, not to be just an individual voice that happens to be voted-in by some subset of Fedora. They are selected by the people active in those areas, coordinated by the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee (FESCo) and a to-be-created mindshare group respectively, and serve for terms to be determined by those committees."

Therefore, the intent is to have the mindshare representative represent mindshare. Therefore the council also includes mindshare and it is not a council vs mindshare situation. On initial thought, I would prefer to clarify the mindshare representative role (if necessary) instead of adding a new policy.

@till There is not a Mindshare policy to undo an event sponsorship or attendance after it is voted and approved by the Mindshare Committee. The Fedora Council unilaterally took this action in the past, which is something that no other Fedora committee or contributor could do.

However I do not want to focus this ticket on what happened in the past. We can't change the past. I want to focus on the future. How we can stay ahead of this for a next time? Normally I try to come with ideas and proposals, but I am really looking to the Fedora Council or Mindshare Committee to offer leadership on this issue. That is why I opened this ticket.

The second proposal is a non-starter, as the Council is responsible for trademarks. Ultimately, the Council is responsible for the overall budget, so I don't think it's unreasonable for the Council to have an implicit ability to override decisions on an exceptional basis. If you want to make it more explicit, we can do that.

The problem here isn't the policy, IMO, it's the lack of public communication around it. The people involved in the event were told privately, but we should have published the result of the decision in some manner.

I propose a simple policy addition:

The Fedora Council may choose to withdraw Fedora's support from events or other activities that involve fiscal sponsorship or use of Fedora trademarks when it determines that participation is not in the interests of the Fedora Project. Decisions to withdraw support will be published in venues normally used for Council decisions. Deliberation and reasoning for the decision should be public to the extent possible.

Some notes:

  • This makes what is already implicit more explicit
  • It intentionally does not create a set of rules because pre-writing rules for exceptional cases is incredibly difficult and generally ineffective
  • I used a generic "venues normally used" instead of specifying a venue to prevent drift if those venues change later. This isn't legislation so we don't need to be strictly prescriptive
  • The proposal preserves the right for the Council to have private discussions, but encourages open discussion when possible. This is normally how Council discussions work anyway, but I think it's worth reiterating here. There are cases where a public discussion is inappropriate, but we should share as much as we can.

@till There is not a Mindshare policy to undo an event sponsorship or attendance after it is voted and approved by the Mindshare Committee.

(from the description:)

The way the SELF 2019 decision was made cut directly across the policies and processes put in place by the Mindshare Committee that all volunteers are expected to follow.

Can you please clarify what you mean here? I understand that "cut directly across the policies and processes" means that the Fedora Council did not follow the policies but at the same time you write there are a no policies. So I guess I misunderstood this.

The Fedora Council unilaterally took this action in the past, which is something that no other Fedora committee or contributor could do.

From the Council describtion: "The Fedora Council is our top-level community leadership and governance body. " Therefore by definition, I expect the Fedora Council to have a veto possibility to everything. In case this is not clear, maybe this should be clarified instead.

However I do not want to focus this ticket on what happened in the past. We can't change the past. I want to focus on the future. How we can stay ahead of this for a next time?

To me it would be important to know what you believe went wrong so we can fix this but it is not clear to me, yet.

Normally I try to come with ideas and proposals, but I am really looking to the Fedora Council or Mindshare Committee to offer leadership on this issue. That is why I opened this ticket.

It is strange to me that you open this ticket with the backing of Mindshare (as it seems to me right now). If Mindshare is not happy with the relationship between the Council, they should drive the discussion or clarify their position. Having a third party to speak for someone without their consent can cause big problems in my opinion. Can you please clarify if there is a request from Mindshare about this/what their opinion is?

I am +1 to Ben's revisions.

This came up during a Mindshare Committee meeting in a conversation surrounding ambassadors. I asked the Committee if we wanted to open a Council ticket and no one responded. @jflory7 attended the meeting, but is not on the committee. Mindshare as a whole has not made this request, though I can bring it back to them at our next meeting to gain feedback.

https://meetbot.fedoraproject.org/fedora-mindshare/2020-05-27/mindshare.2020-05-27-17.30.log.html

I do agree that communication seems to be an issue surrounding this, and also at the same time it seems that people who may be aware of the "confidential" reasons are still resentful over this situation. To me that seems to be more of the issue. I am not sure how that could be resolved. Incidents like this need some post mortem/private chats/channels for feedback so that people aren't holding onto this stuff.

@till:
Having a third party to speak for someone without their consent can cause big problems in my opinion.

I opened this a concerned member of the Fedora Community, not as a representative of Mindshare.

I am +1 to Ben's revisions.
This came up during a Mindshare Committee meeting in a conversation surrounding ambassadors. I asked the Committee if we wanted to open a Council ticket and no one responded. @jflory7 attended the meeting, but is not on the committee. Mindshare as a whole has not made this request, though I can bring it back to them at our next meeting to gain feedback.

Thanks, did not realize that we have actually two Mindshare members present in the Council.

https://meetbot.fedoraproject.org/fedora-mindshare/2020-05-27/mindshare.2020-05-27-17.30.log.html
I do agree that communication seems to be an issue surrounding this, and also at the same time it seems that people who may be aware of the "confidential" reasons are still resentful over this situation. To me that seems to be more of the issue. I am not sure how that could be resolved. Incidents like this need some post mortem/private chats/channels for feedback so that people aren't holding onto this stuff.

Stating that there has been a decision seems fine to me and then people can inquiry for more details and we can see if they can be answered.

@till:
Having a third party to speak for someone without their consent can cause big problems in my opinion.

I opened this a concerned member of the Fedora Community, not as a representative of Mindshare.

Please clarify what your concern is. Is it that Mindshare was not involved enough in the decission-making? And that it was not clear to you that the Fedora Council as the top-level community leadership and governance body can veto activities of the Fedora project?

@till:
Please clarify what your concern is. Is it that Mindshare was not involved enough in the decission-making?

My concern is, if we do not explicitly address scenarios like this for the future, parts of the volunteer community that organizes events and advocates on behalf of Fedora will continue to get hung up on this one incident. People will continue to feel upset and jaded. It will make it difficult to move on.

If the next event after COVID-19 has the same situation happen again with an event that was already approved by Mindshare, I don't want the outcome to shock, disappoint, or slight others who led the organizing work and work to build/maintain community relationships.

@till:
And that it was not clear to you that the Fedora Council as the top-level community leadership and governance body can veto activities of the Fedora project?

No. It was not.

We took a look at this at the Mindshare Committee meeting, and we agree @bcotton addition to policy is a good way to work on addressing these situations properly moving forward. We did have one additional line we would like to add. This sentence is meant to incorporate the individuals who may be involved in the events and to ensure they are being considered, and there is a basis of communication around the situation in case of fallout. We had 5 +1's (everyone who was in attendance this week).

The Fedora Council may choose to withdraw Fedora's support from events or other activities that involve fiscal sponsorship or use of Fedora trademarks when it determines that participation is not in the interests of the Fedora Project. Decisions to withdraw support will be published in venues normally used for Council decisions. Deliberation and reasoning for the decision should be public to the extent possible. The Council will engage with the committee/group/team that is involved with the event in question to ensure their input is considered.

Thoughts?

I like the addition. I'll wait ~24 hours in case there are any strenuous objections, and then I'll start progressing this down the policy change path.

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue assigned to bcotton

a month ago

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue priority set to: Coming Up (was: Needs Review)

a month ago

I like the addition too.

The Fedora Council may choose to withdraw Fedora's support from events or other activities that involve fiscal sponsorship or use of Fedora trademarks when it determines that participation is not in the interests of the Fedora Project.

I would not limit this to "fiscal sponsorship" or "Fedora trademarks". There might also be non-fiscal sponsorship and the Council should still have veto power. I am not sure but this might for example affect content on pagure.io, if there would be something inappropriate but it would not involve the Fedora trademark. New proposal:

The Fedora Council may choose to withdraw Fedora's support from anything when it determines that participation is not in the interests of the Fedora Project. For example, this might result in revoking fiscal sponsorship or using Fedora trademarks from events or other activities.

Decisions to withdraw support will be published in venues normally used for Council decisions. Deliberation and reasoning for the decision should be public to the extent possible.

The Council will engage with the committee/group/team that is involved with the event in question to ensure their input is considered.

Regarding the specific incident, Mindshare (as the affected committee) was involved since AFAIU there are two members from Mindshare in Council. Also, there was additional from someone that seems to be involved with the event. Therefore, it seems that this describes what happened but it still made @jflory7 concerned.

@till:
Please clarify what your concern is. Is it that Mindshare was not involved enough in the decission-making?

My concern is, if we do not explicitly address scenarios like this for the future, parts of the volunteer community that organizes events and advocates on behalf of Fedora will continue to get hung up on this one incident. People will continue to feel upset and jaded. It will make it difficult to move on.
If the next event after COVID-19 has the same situation happen again with an event that was already approved by Mindshare, I don't want the outcome to shock, disappoint, or slight others who led the organizing work and work to build/maintain community relationships.

Would you be willing to mediate and ask affected volunteers to reach out to the Council or me so we can have a direct conversation? Since my belief is that the Council considered additional input and it seems that they seem that they were ignored I hope we can resolve this disconnect.

@riecatnor:
The Council will engage with the committee/group/team that is involved with the event in question to ensure their input is considered.

@till:
Regarding the specific incident, Mindshare (as the affected committee) was involved since AFAIU there are two members from Mindshare in Council. Also, there was additional from someone that seems to be involved with the event. Therefore, it seems that this describes what happened but it still made @jflory7 concerned.

Mindshare approves events, but we still have individual contributors, not on Mindshare, who organize, plan, and facilitate Fedora sponsorships. To my knowledge, those people were not consulted for their opinion; they were told.

@till:
Would you be willing to mediate and ask affected volunteers to reach out to the Council or me so we can have a direct conversation? Since my belief is that the Council considered additional input and it seems that they seem that they were ignored I hope we can resolve this disconnect.

Some of them have already commented on this ticket. Based on the Mindshare meeting, I think the policy revision suggested by @riecatnor / @siddharthvipul1 was widely accepted as a solution to avoid this problem in the future.

I am happy to do what I can, but mediation is non-trivial emotional labor and I am not equipped to do this as an unpaid volunteer right now. There is a lot on my plate with COVID-19 right now.

Community Blog post and council-discuss thread posted. The Council will begin voting on the proposal on July 3.

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue priority set to: Waiting on External (was: Coming Up)
- Issue tagged with: policies

a month ago

@riecatnor:
The Council will engage with the committee/group/team that is involved with the event in question to ensure their input is considered.

@till:
Regarding the specific incident, Mindshare (as the affected committee) was involved since AFAIU there are two members from Mindshare in Council. Also, there was additional from someone that seems to be involved with the event. Therefore, it seems that this describes what happened but it still made @jflory7 concerned.

Mindshare approves events, but we still have individual contributors, not on Mindshare, who organize, plan, and facilitate Fedora sponsorships. To my knowledge, those people were not consulted for their opinion; they were told.

This should be discussed with the persons that were involved in my opinion.

@till:
Would you be willing to mediate and ask affected volunteers to reach out to the Council or me so we can have a direct conversation? Since my belief is that the Council considered additional input and it seems that they seem that they were ignored I hope we can resolve this disconnect.

Some of them have already commented on this ticket. Based on the Mindshare meeting, I think the policy revision suggested by @riecatnor / @siddharthvipul1 was widely accepted as a solution to avoid this problem in the future.
I am happy to do what I can, but mediation is non-trivial emotional labor and I am not equipped to do this as an unpaid volunteer right now. There is a lot on my plate with COVID-19 right now.

Maybe I chose the wrong words. My idea is that there would be a dialog between the affected individuals and Council directly, so it should be less work for you except to actually tell them to have the dialog.

The two-week community comment period has passed. Council members are requested to vote on the proposal, repeated below for clarity:

The Fedora Council may choose to withdraw Fedora's support from events or other activities that involve fiscal sponsorship or use of Fedora trademarks when it determines that participation is not in the interests of the Fedora Project. Decisions to withdraw support will be published in venues normally used for Council decisions. Deliberation and reasoning for the decision should be public to the extent possible. The Council will engage with the committee/group/team that is involved with the event in question to ensure their input is considered.

0 from me

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue priority set to: Next Meeting (was: Waiting on External)
- Issue tagged with: ticket-vote

8 days ago

After a week, the vote is (+4,0,-0) so this policy is approved. I have pushed a commit to the council-docs repo to reflect this.

Metadata Update from @bcotton:
- Issue close_status updated to: approved
- Issue status updated to: Closed (was: Open)

a day ago

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