Hi Michael and all,
> Believe me or not.
Let me try to provide a quick counter-balance in this thread.
It seems to me extraordinary to criticize Thorsten like this for doing his job -
I have no doubt that Thorsten is very good at his job as a developer. I surely don't have an adequate level of experience to criticise his coding skills so I never put in doubt that he has been doing great things for the advancement of LibreOffice as a volunteer and as a contracted party through tendering.
In relation to his skills as a director and as a chairman for TDF I've expressed my opinions in public in a very diplomatic way and concerning only a small subset of the criticisms that IMHO he deserves which, for the moment, I'm holding off hoping that he will improve his attitude and help settling a number of issues.
We have a board director claiming in public that other directors support his proposal,
That seems to me like a false statement.
I brought the proposal to a vote as that's the process that has been agreed with Jan and the rest of the board:
We elect a board to hammer out compromises
That's what we have done with the proposal for months.
All the versions of the proposal have been available for anyone to comment on:
I pretended to have all of this done in public so that everyone could see who was involved and how the proposal was being shaped.
- ideally these arrive well formed and in a way that commands support or acquiescence of the whole board. In cases where that is impossible then some split vote and ideally a principled objection E-mail, and closing the topic seems wise.
In a normal board with a shared vision for TDF that would be quite easy to achieve.
In TDF's board it seems clear that for years there have been also other dynamics at play.
We don't elect a board to amplify division & to escalate even uncontroversial topics (such as hiring two staff members) into some apparent existential nightmare of posturing to try to 'win' at all costs. It is good to decide topics and move on.
The decision was taken in regards to a process that has been brought forward as agreed.
Jan resigned with peculiar motivations and doubled down on that with the last email:
Someone apparently told him that "Paolo claims that I have signed off the latest version of the Developers proposal" and he was so upset about it that he had to explicitly distance himself from the proposal he has worked on for months.
He continues: "That is not true. That version is not balanced, and Paolo’s unwillingness to find balance there was one of the main reasons to my resignation."
I consider also that comment quite problematic as the various versions of the proposal, the public and private comments clearly demonstrate that Jan is wilfully posting false statements.
(As he's one of your contractors I would have thought that you would have asked him to be careful with what he's posting on a public list as it could have a negative impact also for your company reputation as a contractor, very well known to all, posting false statements even with a non corporate address still doesn't look good at all.)
I've actually tried to convince him not to include statements in the proposal that would show Collabora Productivity as imposing limitations.
That would not look good for both organisations and on top of it anyone with a minimum of experience on legal matters would have known that it shouldn't have been added.
This was the sentence in question:
" TDF in-house developers will not compete with commercial contributors and will not develop alternative implementations of Open Source projects actively maintained by LibreOffice volunteer or corporate contributors – like Collabora Online, mdds, or cppunit"
He tried to get the same "gist" with other formulations that made the situation even worse and then when told we already agreed on the solution months ago he resigned.
This is the sentence that easily fixes the issue:
"Eventual limitations related to tasks, areas, projects or bugs on which the in-house developers should not work, eg. third parties are already engaged with them, shall be regulated through separate agreements and relevant communications between TDF and the third parties."
Someone surely wants to come up with "it's not just that is also something else" but no, that's all we had left to discuss.
Then another director provided his point of view:
"* I'm still missing information (Cor)"
(which turned out were already available but he simply didn't search for them.
* and I had expected a negative advice on the text on page 1
* properly created agreement on such limitations nightmare
* from legal aspects and organizational wise"
From TDF's point of view any relationship with third parties must be established and described with a contract which is sometimes very simple and other times quite complex but even when complex the effort must be put in there to be compliant with various laws and regulations. That, I believe, is obvious to everyone.
As Cor is one of your contractors you should probably explain to him that Collabora Productivity knows and agrees that relationships between 2 legal entities must be obviously formalised through contracts and agreements and that your company is clearly willing to do so.
I believe both Jan and Cor participated to the workshop on how to run a Foundation organised by Uwe so a few things should have been clear to them but maybe you should share your experience in regulations compliance with them as well so that we don't have to argue about it any more.
As Italo rightly said in his presentation at LibOCon we should all work together on the LibreOffice Technology stack as by combining our different expertise, roles and reach we can do much more than as single separate entities. That combination of roles and efforts needs to be clearly defined through agreements not because is fun but because is actually required for all legal entities and even more for Foundations.
I rightly pretend to have the relationship with your partners covered by NDAs and comprehensive limiting clauses in the contracts that they sign so you surely understand the importance clear rules for all from the start.
(Some of the limiting clauses I've seen in the contract that I preferred not to sign many years ago could be even seen as problematic... but maybe I digress and you want to answer the email I sent the 24/11/2022 at 14:42 CET instead of here.)
So at the end if Jan understood that the "gist" of the sentence he was pushing was not necessary, as well defined contracts and agreements are important also for Collabora Productivity, then he would have not resigned and there was nothing else stopping us to finally vote on the proposal.
I'd like also to try to remove some of the poison here with a personal take on Thorsten, with whom I've worked on & off for ~twenty years.
I'm sure you and Thorsten go well together. Both of you have demonstrated that you can develop great things but being great developers isn't the only skill required to be a good chairman.
A good chairman should lead by example and admit he made a mistake when facts clearly show he misjudged the situation.
Doubling down in the hope that people give up will just support the feeling that he wanted to make the proposal fail from the start:
I don't like unqualified "I trust", or "I don't trust" people - partly because I don't trust myself in some situations; it seems to me a polarizing loss of nuance. Also - I trust even my political opponents to be generally decent citizens. However my sphere of trust for Thorsten is abnormally large.
I had a certain amount trust in Thorsten before joining the board. Shortly I'll be getting to the third year of being in the board and I still think I would trust him with writing very good code. I did naturally talk to him, as I did with you, about the size of my trust and we mutually agreed that yours is larger.
I did think anyway that you had an abnormally large amount of trust for him as it seemed like you were competitors but since you forked LOOL you became business partners:
Is that abnormally large trust being supported by well defined contractual clauses and an NDA (see tdf-internal email) or you chose a KISS approach as suggested by Cor?
Thorsten is someone that TDF is extremely blessed to have in our community; he has contributed in an overwhelmingly positive way to LibreOffice and at significant scale.
I fully agree with you, there are quite a few things Thorsten is very good at including coding.
I don't always agree with him - and I compete with him in the marketplace (as well as partnering)
That's good. We need some healthy competition and more players that together with TDF and by sharing common, equitable and clear rules for all can create more innovation, support more users, help improving LibreOffice and grow the community which will create also new contributors. It's a virtuous circle that bring benefits for all.
- but his integrity is something I can rely on. His patience when dealing with controversy, his balance and desire to find a workable solution is legendary.
Well... comments from current and ex fellow members of the board seems to feel left out from enjoying a few of Thorsten's qualities then.
I personally failed to enjoy his objectivity since the beginning of 2020 when he was accusing me of "vandalising a document" and didn't want to understand why those changes were necessary. One of the too many to count "I told you so" moments followed.
I've also missed much of his impartiality at every single opportunity he had. Only once he admitted he might be perceived as not being impartial, that's when Caolan took on the CoC case against me and I believe it happened only because Caolan was there and Thorsten refrained to express his feelings to openly. Once Caolan (unfortunately) left the board then Cor took the case over and they went wild on it, like the CoI and... well just check the mailing lists.
More than that - we are a statutory meritocracy - and Thorsten has contributed an incredible amount of do-ing to the project not just coding (and apparently cloning himself =) - but innumerable small acts of kindness and nurturing behind the scenes. He repeatedly encourages me to think that: "everyone is really just trying to do what they think is best" when I loose faith in that.
He's great in many things and I'm honestly saddened that several current and ex fellow members of the board haven't managed to see his more positive sides. It is also sad that I didn't managed to get him to approach issues from a different point of view and "I told you so" will be the only thing left to be said at the end.
Oh - and did I mention his positive input on the ESC, serving from our founding on the Board, doing the jobs that no-one wanted to eg. as an example all the donation book-keeping for many years - which was done with great probity.
I would have loved to meet that Thorsten as well. Maybe the issue is that he feels the weight of his position as a chairman and that makes him all grumpy?
Did I mention his personal investment in allotropia - which contributes lots of LibreOffice code - this could go on and on but this E-mail is already an example of the over-long E-mails we have on the list and I just got started.
I don't think anybody denies how good Thorsten is good in coding and how good is company is in fulfilling customers requirements that turn in good code for all.
Let me summarize it this way: Thorsten rocks.
I guess nobody denies that either. I'm sure he's also a fun guy in non board related situations.
If anyone plans to attack and/or exclude him from TDF - they better bring a large-ish team of people to try to replace the immense good he does here.
AFAIK nobody wants to attack or exclude Thorsten.
That doesn't mean he should not be criticised if some think that among the many good things he does there are others that are actually quite negative.
Then naturally you can't expect people to be quiet when he has secret meeting with some members of the board with the purpose of killing 9 months of work done in public.