Affiliation: Hideas Sas, a marketing agency co-owned and managed by myself and my wife Tiziana Vola (50% of shares each), which has an ongoing consulting agreement with The Document Foundation for PR, marketing and communication services (which represents a potential Conflict of Interest)
Profile: founder of The Document Foundation, member of the project Steering Committee (before the birth of The Document Foundation) and of the first Board of Directors of The Document Foundation, founder and honorary chairman of Associazione LibreItalia, former member of the Board of Directors of OSI (Open Source Initiative), Software Heritage Ambassador, visiting professor at UNIUPO (Università del Piemonte Orientale)
Living in Torre d’Arese, a small village (less than 1,000 inhabitants) 25 km south of Milan, in Northern Italy, in the middle of one of the best cheese and wine areas in Europe
I will provide information on all future changes on the above as soon as possible.
75 Word Statement: I want to work transparently with members of the community, from individuals to corporations, to bring the authentic spirit of LibreOffice and the Document Foundation back into the project. I want to solve problems by consensus within the board and the community, not by creating new ones with an unnecessarily inflexible attitude. I want to get back to having fun, because FOSS is about sharing knowledge, learning and having a good time with like-minded people.
Separating the two roles of the individual with personal opinions and the spokesperson representing a company or project is indeed a challenge, but it is what I have been doing since 1984 when I was promoted to the position of VP Marketing at Honeywell Information Systems (for the younger ones, the company was then second only to IBM in the computer market), while being involved in the day-to-day operations, with personal opinions that were often quite different from those of the company. When I moved into consulting in 1987, I faced the same problem, often disagreeing with the official company statements I was presenting to the media. The best example is probably the Dell account, when I was simultaneously coordinating a global media tour focused on the “direct from Dell” message and trying to convince Michael Dell that “direct from Dell” was a terrible idea (at least in some European countries).
If you look at the last 12 years since I started being a LibreOffice spokesperson, I have always tried to avoid expressing my personal opinions or concerns in public, and have instead used private emails or conference speeches (when private emails were not enough) where I clearly expressed a personal opinion. When it became difficult to separate personal opinion from the situation at TDF, I carefully avoided the subject. Although my personal views on the current situation at TDF are quite clear, I don’t think you can find a message on public channels expressing them in detail (but I could be wrong, an old man’s memory is weak).
Of course, if elected, I will try to avoid getting into endless email discussions in public, also because I find them useless and negative for the project. I am a firm believer in consensus building, which needs to be done in private to avoid further speculation.
I hope this answers your question, although I understand that the subject can quickly become a minefield. In that case, I will try to use my wisdom as much as possible. Fortunately, I have experienced many different situations in my professional life.
I apologize for not being active and providing my opinions on the different topics, but I have bronchitis since early this week, and with fever over 38 Celsius it’s really impossible to follow all discussions. I am currently taking antibiotics, paracetamol and aerosol, and I hope to be back by the end of the year. Thanks for understanding.
First - I wish you get well soon. After you’re better, I will unfortunately burden you some more, with a few additional questions.
Question 2: You’re hoping to restore the spirit of fun and sharing in LO. However, it sometimes happens that relations within the board are fraught, e.g. a majority holds a set of views, a minority disagrees, and this may repeat itself over a period, resulting in the congealing of a “coalition” faction (and perhaps an “opposition” faction, or just people not consistently with the coalition). While this may not be as severe with the new board as it has been with the last one, I’d still ask what you believe board members could do better to keep the board functional, fair and cordial even in the case of continuing disagreements within it.
Question 3: You write you having tried to keep your personal opinions aside when the situation of the TDF is at hand, or just avoided the subject. Now, however, you are in the opposite situation: Your personal opinions about the TDF are what will matter on the board, and these opinions, along with other aspects of your experience, are part of your candidacy. You also write that when you have expressed personal opinions, you’ve used private communications. This is perfectly ok for a trustee or someone active in promotion/“marketing” of LO; but the more central your office is, the more you are obliged to refrain from sorting things out privately, and required to do it in public. How will you square the need for accountability and transparency with the desire to avoid exacerbating conflict by airing (what are sometimes) disagreements, grievances and concerns in public?
Question 4: Some trustees and some board candidates have a long experience with the foundation and the project, while others - not so much, or not at all. What are your views on the question of training, history-teaching, self-documentation, and history-keeping within the TDF? With the audience being both new trustees and those aspiring to improve their understanding of the project and the foundation?
I am still in bed with fever, but the situation is improving and I can at least breathe without having pain. So, I hope to be able to answer by tomorrow. Given the complexity of each question, though, I will answer each one in a separate message.
By restoring the spirit of the original BoD (and before the BoD, of the Steering Committee, which was instrumental in moving the project forward between 2010 and 2012, and in the birth of The Document Foundation), I mean a civilised climate of discussion, where the goal is to reach consensus, not to win over the other “party” or “coalition”. The TDF Board should never have found itself in the situation that we have all acknowledged over the past two terms, and to a lesser extent since 2016.
The reason why I am running as a fully independent candidate is precisely because I reject the concept of “parties” or “coalitions” - which are not part of the FOSS idea - and I want to have the freedom to decide each time what is the best option for TDF, regardless of who has made the proposal.
I do not want to see a divided BoD, I do not want to see lawyers used as weapons (and not as advisors, which is what they are in reality), I do not want to see accusations going left and right for no specific reason (apart from going around in circles over previous messages, which is just a huge waste of time for the project).
Of course, real consensus in a group of ten people does not come for free. Each member of the group needs to accept the opinions of others without prejudice and be open to discussion. Consensus does not mean being 100% right, or imposing one’s personal opinion - even if it is backed up by lawyers - on others.
Consensus means finding a workable solution that is acceptable to all members of the project at large, from volunteers to paid professionals (often employed by ecosystem companies). Of course, there will be decisions that are easier to reach and decisions that are harder to reach. With the right attitude, consensus is never impossible.
To answer this question, I need to clarify a couple of concepts about communication that do not seem to be shared by all members of the project.
PUBLIC is the world around us, outside TDF, with communication channels that are accessible to individuals regardless of their knowledge of open source software. I represent TDF in this environment, and weigh every word carefully when talking to journalists and other stakeholders.
PRIVATE is TDF, with specific communication channels, some public - but restricted to people with a specific interest in the project - and some private. To express my opinions, I have often chosen private communication channels within TDF because my messages only expressed my disappointment and criticism and were not constructive. If the same messages were sent to public communication channels within TDF, I would have used a different style of communication. To convey my positive message, I mainly used presentations at conferences.
If elected, my opinions will be clearly expressed during Board meetings and in the Board Discuss area, using an appropriate communication style (which will not limit my ability to communicate as one of TDF’s spokespersons, especially with the media). If not elected, I will not change my previous approach.
Some additional comments about communication skills.
People communicate using [a] non-verbal (body language, gestures and posture), [b] para-verbal (tone of voice, speed and rhythm) and [c] verbal messages (content and information). The non-verbal accounts for 55% of what we communicate, the paraverbal for 38% and the verbal for the remaining 7%. Many people are unaware of this fact and focus on verbal communication, ignoring the non-verbal and para-verbal, which makes them much less effective.
In addition, many people lack one or all of these key communication skills: (1) listening carefully, (2) choosing the right way to communicate, (3) maintaining a friendly and empathetic attitude, (4) demonstrating confidence, (5) accepting, respecting and managing feedback, (6) choosing the right volume and tone of messages, (7) managing non-verbal messages, and (8) being responsive. If you add this to the focus on verbal communication, you end up communicating in a totally ineffective way.
If you look at the current TDF Board, none of the members are really good at communicating, some are average, some are bad and some are terrible. In general, they completely misuse messages and lack several of the most important communication skills. Unfortunately, this is also true of some of the current candidates.
Of course, a negative judgement on communication skills is not a negative judgement on the person, who may have excellent skills in other fields. Unfortunately, communication skills are an essential element for the board of a non-profit foundation whose sole objective must be to lead on the basis of a broad consensus among its members.
Well, now of course you also know a part of our (current boards) internal communication…
Jokes aside: I think that every board (member) -me too- can benefit from some focus on improving communication. Just as I think for team members there must be possibilities to train skills (maybe not directly focused on job task, but in broader sense personal development) also for directors it is useful to offer possibilities. Good opportunities will also exist in reflecting on how certain topics were handled.
The more pressing it is of course to try to have all things organized well and running smoothly, which on its turn is easier with better communication. So I hope it will be seen as a useful, enriching investment.
If there is a real interest by community members, I would be happy to manage a specific session on the topic of LibreOffice history, using the format most suited to the audience: a presentation, a Q&A session, a discussion, a talk, etc. This could become a regular session for new community members.
IMHO, the main interest is a TDF office candidate training program. Not mandatory, but something for people who want to help, but don’t feel they know enough, and may not have the skills they need to be an effective MC or BoD member. Or even to hold a senior/central/executive in one of the larger single-country bodies.
So far, independently from the level of knowledge and understanding of TDF history, no one amongst the candidates to TDF BoD has asked to get more information about this specific topic. They probably know everything, and have listened to available videos.
Well, to be fair, I think over half of them have already served on the BoD at least once… but your point is well taken. I am also a bit worried by candidates who have been asked questions here on the forum, several days ago already, and have chosen not to answer them at all (not even laconically or with a refusal to answer).
I am also a bit worried by candidates who have been asked questions here on the forum, several days ago already, and have chosen not to answer them at all (not even laconically or with a refusal to answer).
@mariosv : As people, they are free. But as potential members of the board, who will govern the TDF and determine its course for the next few years, I would say they are obligated to answer, and in detail (which is a criterion which less of the candidates have met.) If some of the candidates ignore the voting public, and still get elected - don’t our elections become somewhat of a farce?