[OpenStack Foundation] Thinking about the mission of the user committeee

Anne Gentle anne at openstack.org
Wed Jan 2 18:55:02 UTC 2013

On Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 11:11 AM, Narayan Desai <narayan.desai at gmail.com>wrote:

> I originally sent this mail to Tim Bell, on the subject of a document
> that he (and the other members of the user committee) are preparing.
> Tim suggested widening the discussion to this mailing list, so I've
> forwarded the message here. I'm particularly interested in others'
> opinions about the mission of the user committee, and aspects of the
> openstack community culture that this mission reflects.
>  -nld
> =====================
> Hi Tim.
> Thanks for the update on the user committee.
> When Lauren (Sell) originally mentioned the user committee to me, I
> was most excited about the addition of user advocacy into the
> openstack community. From early on in the project (at least back to
> Bexar when I started paying attention), openstack has primarily been a
> developer-focused community. While this culture has been excellent for
> encouraging contribution of code,  I think that this is a tendency
> that needs to be moderated in order for openstack to grow to its full
> potential.
> I have a few comments; these aren't so much comments about the
> document that you're circulating; rather, they speak specifically to
> the mission of the user committee, which is only discussed briefly at
> the end.
I'm using a definition of users as described in the User Committee Points
for Review document at [1]. To distill it really far, it's an end-user,
operator, ecosystem partner, or distribution provider or appliance vender.
This is still a lot of roles -- maybe a more narrow definition would help?
What is your definition?

> This mission of the user committee should (IMO) flow from a few basic
> questions:
>  - How do users engage in the community?
Currently I believe they:
 - Attend the Summit.
 - Test the releases, triage incoming and log new Bugs
 - Review documentation.
 - Contribute to QA, Infrastructure, Docs through existing processes.
 - Package the projects and let the community know how to get them.

After the user committee gets going, there will be another engagement layer
through them I believe.

>  - How do we incentivize these participants to help fill the current
> gaps that exist in the community?

To me, there's a perception of gap that I'd like you to further describe.

For example, we have established mechanisms for doc contributions, QA, and
infrastructure contributions. Possibly you don't like those for certain
reasons we could address.

What additional gaps do you perceive? The User Committee is also tasked
with "consolidate user needs and present them to the technical committee
and management board to with proposed action plans" [1]

Possibly the action plans they come up with will have mechanisms you'd
prefer over the existing, not sure.

>  - How do we best integrate the perspectives of users into the design
> process of openstack code?

How are the established blueprint processes not filling this need? I
realize you're looking for improvement but I need more concrete examples if
you can share.

>  - How can the user committee facilitate a more productive engagement
> between these two parts of the openstack community?
This sounds like a great first draft for a mission - but still uses
phrasing like "two parts" -- can you write a draft mission statement that
doesn't indicate this perception?

Also, is the "mandate" different from a mission? Is a mission just shorter
wording than a bullet list or will the mandate fill the need for a mission?

> To the first point, there is often a tone of "patches welcome" in the
> community, that is somewhat unwelcoming to users that can't or won't
> develop code. This suggests that engagement solely on the development
> terms is probably not a sustainable solution for the heterogenous
> community that is developing around openstack. I think that it is
> important to give these folks (ones that build systems, not so much
> software) a role that they can identify with as a contributor to the
> project.
Funny story - I didn't even know the phrase "patches welcome" was
considered off-putting to some until about six months ago. So if I've used
that phrase, I apologize for having such a tone. Not intended to be
anti-welcoming! :)

> I think that there are a large range of gaps between the coding and
> deployments today. Openstack supports a wide enough range of functions
> (and IMO it is necessary, not incidental complexity) that it is
> difficult to boil down to simple configurations. I think this poses a
> serious difficulty for both documentation and testing. These issues
> have been discussed at length, but make me wonder if a different
> structure would address these gaps as well as the social split as
> well.
> As I've written this, I'm realizing that the one thing that doesn't
> sit well with me about the current structure you're proposing for the
> user committee seems to institutionalize the current split between
> developers and users, where I think that the committee should be
> trying to figure out ways to blur the divisions between the groups.
I think a great move recently was to call the "OpenStack Conference and
Design Summit" the "OpenStack Summit" -- we need to keep these references
simpler. To me, this is the right direction for blurring the lines. I don't
think having a structured user committee causes a split, but I want to hear
more about why you get this sense from where you sit. If we didn't have a
user committee, would there be another way?

> I'd suggest adding in an explicit mission for the group at the top of
> the document, in addition to the mandate. I think that might set the
> tone for the rest of the document in a productive way. Considering my
> lack of standing on the committee, I think that it might be
> presumptive for me to suggest its mission, but I think that the four
> questions above capture many of the things that I think are important.
I think a mission is great - and probably needs to start with "who are the
users?" as Dave Neary also asked.  The document referenced by the committee
does have definitions, and a mandate, so maybe a distillation of the
mandate is going to be helpful to you.

I'm happy to help in any way you'd like. let me know if you'd like
> additional comments, or participation in the documents in some
> fashion.

I definitely think your comments on the document they've started would be
useful. Thanks for the input - really needed as we shape these working



> Happy holidays.
>  -nld
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