Prospective board members: travel sponsoring.

Kenneth Graunke kenneth at
Thu Mar 21 04:44:12 UTC 2019

On Wednesday, March 20, 2019 6:41:50 PM PDT Bryce Harrington wrote:
> I'm not sure what you are wondering in regards to the identity of the
> travelers, but can give some generalities:  All the XDC travelers were
> either speakers or, in Jake's case, press.  None were board members.
> The amounts paid varied quite a bit due to distance traveled, but all
> did flight searches to find lowest fares, so the itenaries seemed quite
> reasonable.  
> The only reason for not making the traveler names public is for their
> privacy.  Personal privacy is just as important as organizational
> transparency.  Finding the balance there has been a focus of mine - on
> the one hand building a shadow ledger on our side for tracking and
> reporting as needed, and on the other hand keeping the data stored
> securely to protect people's account, contact, and other personal
> information.

Thanks for bringing this up.  I for one am happy to receive aggregate
data from the board, such as "We sponsored 12 people to attend XDC",
but I am glad that specific names remain private.  Privacy is important
as well as transparency.  Requesting financial assistance is not easy
for some people, and "Joe was too poor to pay their way to FOSDEM this
year" could easily add shame and discourage people from seeking it out.

Giving names to the membership also would make every person in the
community a judge of sorts, second guessing the board.  Was it really
worth sending Joe to the conference?  His talk was kind of lame, I can't
believe we spent money on that, etc.  I'd much rather trust the board
members we elect to make that determination - especially since we
nominate and elect people from among us that we know and work alongside.

I for one am glad to see the new travel policy.  There are now regularly
over 100 people at XDC, and only so many 1 hour slots for speakers.  But
there's certainly value in people attending the conference simply to
meet others in the community, and have hallway discussions.  Plus, often
several people seem to miss flights and late slots open up.  Or speakers
who didn't make the cut can give lightning talks.  But both assume that
they actually made it there.  I've known people who bailed because they
didn't think they could get travel funding.  I know a number of people
who paid their own way.  I've been at an XDC where a bunch of the
post-talk questions were all "so-and-so would totally have the answer
to that, it's too bad they're not here...why didn't they come again?"

So to me, changing the policy to make travel sponsorships more broadly
available seems very needed and like a great idea.

Of course, the conference organizers or board should make a first pass
and ask "does this look like a remotely reasonable talk?" to weed out
garbage or half-baked proposals.  I think the quality of talks at XDC
has generally improved over the years, and people have been doing a
good job selecting them - and when some inevitably weren't the best,
people seem to be trying hard to avoid repeating mistakes next time.

I've been a member for probably 8 years or so now, and I've been happy
with the transparency of the board during that time.  Questions are
always answered and I see people working hard.  I can't speak to earlier
times because I wasn't here.

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