Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

FOSS governance: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Deb Nicholson (Software Freedom Conservancy)
2:35pm3:15pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Open Source
Location: E145/146
Secondary topics:  Open Source
Average rating: ****.
(4.60, 10 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Project leaders, community managers, and managers of multistakeholder groups




There are lots of ideas out there about how to run a free and open source software project, but not all strategies were created equal. Sometimes governance “just happens,” but more often than not, projects end up with some things that work and some that don’t. Transparency, clear expectations, and compassion go a long way toward helping you find people who support your vision but can still bring new ideas to the table when it comes time to talk implementation. Your project’s governance should reflect your values and empower individuals to succeed within its structure.

Deb Nicholson takes you on a whirlwind tour, including how to bring in people who share your vision, why transparency matters, sharing expectations early and often, and which legal decisions to sort out early. Maintaining and scaling your project is easier when you’ve laid a good foundation. The wider community is mature enough that we can learn from what’s already been done and set up new projects for success. Deb examines some of the big red flags you’ll want to avoid as well as some of the structural details that will help you avoid issues later on.

What you'll learn

  • Learn how and when to set up good governance practices
  • Gain strategies for ameliorating the effects of bad project habits and a framework for choosing practices that increase transparency and collaboration going forward
Photo of Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson

Software Freedom Conservancy

Deb Nicholson is the director of community operations at Software Freedom Conservancy, where she supports the work of its member organizations and facilitates collaboration with the wider free software community. A free software policy expert and a passionate community advocate, Deb previously served as the community outreach director for the Open Invention Network, a shared defensive patent pool on a mission to protect free and open source software, and the membership coordinator for the Free Software Foundation. She won the O‚ÄôReilly Open Source Award for her work with GNU MediaGoblin, a federated media-hosting service, and OpenHatch, Free Software’s welcoming committee. She’s also a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. She lives with her husband and her lucky black cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.