tl;dr: If you are a committed KDE contributor and not a KDE e.V. member, you are doing it wrong. If you are a KDE user, consider helping the KDE User Working Group. Read KDE e.V.’s quarterly reports.
Akademy 2013 is still on its way, and as usual the KDE e.V. General Assembly was held as a part of it. KDE e.V. is the representation and governance body of the KDE community. Membership in this not-for-profit association registered in Berlin, Germany is open to all KDE contributors . Members usually assemble once a year to coordinate, to vote on issues important to the community and to elect representatives and board members as needed. The highlights this year where the discussion of the role of the Community Working Group, the report on the first activities of the newly established Financial Working Group, and the election of one new board member. I was the chairperson of the assembly, and this is my inofficial report.
The role of KDE e.V. is somewhat described by “standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is made up by community members interested in governance matters, and represents the wider KDE community that encompasses all non-technical and technical contributors. On one hand KDE e.V. takes a passive stance, in that it does not directly influence the direction the development of KDE is taking. On the other hand it plays an important role and invariably influences the community by receicing donations, managing funding of development sprints and meetings, covering operational costs like hardware and infrastructure, and of course by running the Akademy conference year after year. This setup is reflected in the working groups that act as focal points for various fields of interest within the community. Working groups as established for marketing, system administration, community, user relations and finance. Notably absent is a development working group, it is commonly accepted that this is not KDE e.V.’s concern. The membership elects a five person board that coordinates the work of the KDE e.V. members and the working groups. KDE e.V. currently has 169 active members, which is an impressive number considering it’s non-technical focus in a development community.
The abbreviation “e.V.” stands for “eingetragener Verein”, German for “registered association”. It functions much like a shareholders company in which every member holds exactly one share. This means the membership as a whole is the proprietor of all assets owned by the KDE community, including the KDE trademark and the operational infrastructure. A new member joins the group of joint owners of KDE – quite a responsibility. Dictated by the principle of congruence of power and responsibility the membership in turn assumes the right to allocate funds, elect representatives to related communities et cetera. Because of that, it is necessary that the KDE e.V. membership represents the community of KDE contributors as broadly as possible. Every committed KDE contributor is encouraged to seek membership. Send an email to the KDE community mailing list to express your interest to become a member (details). Only individuals can be members, organizations are invited to become supporting members. As a bonus, supporting members are invited to attend the general assembly.
This year’s assembly started routinely with the report of the board and the different working groups. Official meeting minutes will be published later, but it is fair to say that KDE’s house is generally in good order. The board is focused on the transition of the KDE community to an umbrella for various Free Software efforts as described in the KDE Manifesto. As projects join the KDE community, the existing structure of internal representation needs to be updated to reflect the interests of these sub-communities. As everything in KDE this is a work in progress, the first step look rather promising. The marketing working group is preparing a campaign to advertise the use of the upcoming KDE frameworks on top of Qt. The treasurer and the auditors of the accounting reported a small surplus in the fiscal year of 2012 that will be used to fund additional KDE activities in 2013. Spending is well aligned with KDE e.V.’s goal and tightly supervised. A new system of accounts and cost codes will provide better insight in the income and expenses incurred by the various activities and events.
The mission of the User Working Group established in 2012 is the give KDE users a representation within the community and involve them more in KDE development. This effort still needs more pickup. Growing the role of the User Working Group is very important, since the strength of Free Software is only realised by users and developers forming the communities together. It will need a charter, user representatives to KDE e.V., and routine activities of involving KDE users in development and quality improvement efforts.
The Community Working Group moderates how contributors work together. The principle of KDE e.V. assuming a passive, supporting role is routinely challenged whenever the community asks the Community Working Group to resolve conflicts. The KDE Manifesto makes it very clear that KDE is an inclusive community with a strong sense for intrinsically motivated, voluntary contribution. Exercising authority in such a setup is tricky – it should be reduced to a minimum, however that minimum needs to be determined in some way. Even occasional abuse, rudeness or bad manners set the tone of the community and can cause substantial damage. So far KDE in general lacks instruments to control that damage effectively. Sadly, few individual cases were not resolved for extended periods of time, causing contributors to leave the community. The discussion of how to empower the Community Working Group and find a generic way to manage such situations took ginormous time, but was definitely worth it. However, it is not over. A conflict resolution BoF session was held on Monday, and a policy will be proposed to the membership in the weeks after Akademy. The Community Working Group has earned a lot of respect by me and many others with the prudent and calm way it handles these issues, especialy considering the amount of frustration dealing with such issues can cause. It needs the support of all of us to define how the standards set by the KDE Manifesto and the Code of Conduct can be achieved.
Albert Astals Cid was elected for the vacant board seat in an incredibly tight race (a tie in the first round of voting, and a one vote win in the second). Competitive votes like that show that there is choice, and that the future of KDE is defined by the contributors. Congratulations, Albert! Many thanks to both Albert and Marta Rybczynska for their candidacy, and to everybody who grilled the candidates during the questions and answers session. Sebastian Kügler stepped down after being a board member since 2006 - many thanks to him as well for all the great work he has done. Subscribe to the KDE Community mailing list to get involved in KDE governance matters. Consider joining one of the working groups to support them in their important work. At last, the quarterly reports help in staying up to date with KDE e.V.s work.