Open Source Accountability Goals: Defining A Transparency Goal

Great work @DuaneOBrien & @farbodsaraf!

Your WG now has a “Learn More” button.

That goes to

Please feel free to open a PR for any additions. If you have ideas on how to make the pages better please let us know. =)


Thanks all for the session yesterday.

Duane O’Brien
Farbod Saraf
Adrian McPhee

Following up on the previous session, we decided to spend some times on different pillars that might help us to scorecard organizations on their transparency.

Here are the few of those pillars


How transparent are corporation about what they are taking?
From the scale 1 to 5, on the far left we have organizations with no public reporting about how much value is derived from FOSS. On the far right we have organizations who have public reporting about value derived from FOSS, including public data and methodology.

Giving back

How transparent are they about the contribution back to open source?
From 1 to 5. Far left organization with no giving of any kind to far right organizations with public accounting of giving that covers money, code, and in-kind.

Policy Transparency

How transparent are their policies?

  • Clear and openly shared contribution policies
  • Named Accountability Officer
  • Employee contributions are associated the employer

Provides a true explanation of the reasoning behind proposed contributions

Project Governance

On a scale from 1 to 5, far left are the ones governed internally, and on the far right, the organizations open source projects that are fully governed externally.

The danger of scorecarding all organizations on the same grading system

Given many organisations have an immature FOSS posture, and there is a journey of learning and development that most organisations must undertake, it is important that the score card system isn’t irrelevant through setting an unachievable bar for the masses. Therefore, a graded system - similar to belts in karate - may be beneficial to allow staged improvements and a graduating understanding and development in relation to FOSS. In other words, moving a company from ‘white belt’ to ‘yellow belt’ is solid progress - if such a company is expected to graduate from white to black belt immediately, nobody wins.


Meeting notes:

Transparency Score Card:

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Can I get access to these documents?

Why is “value” so important to transparency? The topic is mentioned in multiple meeting notes, but I just don’t get it. I’m coming from the perspective of how the CHAOSS Value working group is trying to define things.

Is any group dealing with Accountability Goals as a whole? It seems to me that a lot of these goals are overlapping.

Are you getting input from for the value topic? I know they are still trying to define from what perspective they should focus – is it the value of the contribution to the community, or is it the ROI for the contributor?

The well-defined reporting process that is publicly available seems to be a good thing to focus on for this group. Also, looking at the authentic participation principles, I am skeptical about having transparent motivations. It is aspirational to get companies/people to talk about this upfront. However, over time, people and goals change.

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Hi folks! It was just me and @DuaneOBrien today but we had a productive conversation. Duane is going to share his meeting summary and notes later.

In the call, a resources and links came up, and I wanted to leave them here for consideration.

On building a score card:

On the proposed revision of this Working Group’s primary goal, “Publish documentation of open source policies, processes, and project governance:

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Hi @farbodsaraf!

could I get access to these documents? Thank in advance!


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@jlcanovas I can approve access requests to those docs, if you request access at those links directly it should give me an email for approval.


@LawrenceHecht apologies for missing your questions last week.

There is not currently a working group taking on Accountability Goals as a whole, but I can provide some background and so look-ahead on what comes next.

At the FOSDEM Sustain Summit, we had a long working session in the morning to discuss what it looked like to be a Good Corporate Community Member. The Corporate Accountability Goals were distilled from that conversation, and we left that conversation with two large undefined pieces of the goals - a Transparency Goal, and the Principles of Authentic Participation. @jwf carried the banner forward on the Principles, which are meant to be more broadly applicable (could apply to individuals or organizations), and I carried forward the conversation on the Transparency Goal. The intention is to drive both of these conversations to a “Done enough” state that we would have a first draft of the full Accountability Goals. Once we reach that point, we can work on getting broader feedback on them. My intention is to wind up the Transparency WG after the next meeting, and start up a Accountability Goals WG.


Notes from our last call:

Apologies for the delay in posting these.

Our last call was on April 22nd, and was attended by @jwf and myself.

We discussed the definition of transparency in this context, in particular as it relates to the transparency scorecard, project usage, transparency of giving, the ‘transparent motivations’ authentic participation principle, and the topics that came up at Sustain. As a result of that conversation, I’ve proposed separating the Transparency Scorecard work from this specific goal, as transparency around FOSS consumption and FOSS-related giving is more in support of the accountability goal to “Set and publish a goal for open source contribution relative to value capture.” This would allow us to focus the Transparency goal on processes, policies, and governance, which simplifies this conversation and will get us to a standing first draft more quickly.

We left the current iteration of the Transparency goal written as:

Publish documentation of open source policies, processes, and project governance

We will convene again on May 6th at 10:30 AM PST to discuss further.


Thanks for your facilitation work and note-taking @DuaneOBrien! :pray: Hoping to be there next week.

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Hi Javier - I just provided you with an access to both documents.


Thanks for the feedback. I am going to try to listen in on next week’s meeting.


Our final call was on 5/6. No significant changes were made to the existing iteration of the Transparency goal:

Publish documentation of open source policies, processes, and project governance

Remembering that this goal fits into a larger initiative to define Open Source Accountability Goals, this working group will now shut down. We will announce a new working group focused on the Open Source Accountability Goals and start a new process.

Thanks to everyone who participated!


Let me sum this up as I feel that there is no positive outcome from the activity that has been done here (which is an outcome anyway). I want to do this to make sure the next iteration will be different. Maybe more successful, maybe less. It just bothers me that nothing is going on, even though the problems with sustaining OSS are as actual as before, if not more serious.

A group of people gathered to define how companies could be more friendly to open source scene. All companies, regardless of if they are benefiting from open source model, or threatened by it. And the people told that companies should be more transparent to community. And that requirement of transparency was probably very specific at the initial point, but got generalized in the process. Generalization is rarely a good way of resolving things. It usually happens when the human brain is unable to process all the little details, and easily agrees to submit to close the gestalt with this pattern. But to solve the problems we need to battle the devils in each and every of these details. Thankfully, those AI systems, which is just a crazy mesh of magical connections, show us an example that it is not all that complex in human world, where it is enough to define a few user stories where a transparency was missing. Maybe it was the transparency, but there was no brain surgeon to politely eject the specific need that appeared in that context. The need in the specific transparency which constantly reoccurs when certain people, actions and reactions come in certain order. The transparency here needs to be defined in this specific story, where people, feelings and action are well defined. Something that one can read and understand. Understand through feelings. Feeling that are not triggered by codenames like “Accountability Goals” or “authentic participation” born as a result of consensus process that occurred among limited group of people exposed to each other in a meeting.

Reading the thread on how the Transparency was again generalized into Accountability, I thought it worth mentioning the pattern. Maybe the next time it will have a storyline that will pop in a head when one find oneself in a situation where this transparency is missing.

Hi @abitrolly.

Your reply came off as aggressive to me. I’m not sure if it was your intention. While I understand your disappointment and frustration, there may be more value to the collaboration than what immediate comes to mind.

Sometimes the point is not a concrete deliverable or messaging plan. Sometimes it is about the things we learn through the process. I believe we should avoid criticism about conversations that don’t necessarily lead to direct action. Sometimes you have to start small by talking about issues in the open and public, which is not easy to do.

I am having a hard time following your proposal. Do you mean to say that creating and publishing user stories about the Accountability Goals is a helpful outcome to conclude this discussion?

I hear you that these “codenames” are all improvised. They are ad-hoc. They have not gone through a rigid inspection, review, and evaluation process. You are right. But speaking for myself, that was not the purpose of the work we did.

The world is a big place. Sometimes we live in different pockets, where feelings behind the same words we use, change. You would be surprised by how many different definitions and explanations of “open source” I have heard over the years. :slightly_smiling_face: So, I think the value in these Working Groups is/was figuring out what language we use to start these conversations with.

Someone is welcome to come along later and propose that we did it all wrong. They can say everything we did was a wasted effort. I hope they could also combine their criticism with a proposal or idea of what they think a better way forward is. In the case of the Principles of Authentic Participation, I’m always open to hearing your specific feedback.

Not sure if text can convey the tone. The disappointment and frustration multiplied by financial difficulties - maybe it looks aggressive, or aggressive passive from outside, but the way I feel is just ignorant to feelings of other people. In this state of mind they don’t matter.

After replying I reread the revised post. Regardless of what is said, the documented experience and process bears a significant value into how people work. Irrelevant to how do they feel about that, or how one interprets what happened to them. Knowing who we are, and what are our limitations opens a new horizons into how we can tackle the problem that otherwise can’t be easily solved, such as sustainability of open source projects, which for me is equal to sustainability of open source maintainers, which in truth is about getting myself financial security.

Another conclusion that came later this morning about those gatherings is that open source is a highly social activity. People like to meet. Even though it may not be easy for everyone. I still remember how hard it was to go out in public. Especially for people sensitive to critics and people who care what others say. All those code of conducts and behavior guidelines appeared because of the conflict between the desire to meet, and inability to solve communication problems. The inability that came with the internet, where it is easier to escape than to deal with these problems. And when something becomes so valuable to a person that the person need to go out and communicate, the psychics is not ready to withstand another opinion or communication style, a critics, a harsh tone.

Still, an ability to meet and greet each other is critical for humans. 10 years ago we’ve started doing meetups with only one purpose - getting joy from communication. It is interesting that in English there is no separate word that means human communication - in Russian we have the word “общение”, and unlike “talk”, this goes in both directions. So I don’t know how to translate the idea that people like the face-to-face process of exchanging information. Right now the word “meetup” is widespread in Russia as well as in other Russian speaking countries. But I think if we analyze the Twitter, the journey of the Russian word “митап” started here.

Why I am saying this? Because meeting each other is a big deal in bring together open source into a community. And even when I said that there is outcome with regard to the Transparency Goal in the topic, the whole thing that the meeting occurred and people gathered is a significant move of energy. If people enjoyed it, then why to spread it to let other experience the same? There is nothing wrong in enjoying the meetings and discussing things. Sometimes they are distracting, sometimes they are offtopic, sometimes there is a feeling of guilt that a meeting was just a slacking from doing a job, and that may bear the necessity to give the meeting a value. But it is not necessary. Meetings don’t bring results. The results appear when things are lying on the table on some sunny and calm morning, ready to be rearranged, as a pieces of a puzzle. Results are something that needs time to ripe, in a calm and steady environment. In a flow that is not interrupted. It is possible to solve puzzle together by silently looking at the pieces. But then, the pieces need to be visual. And when they are text, we have to deal with this serial lines of text. It is not easy looking at he pieces this way. Not easy to communicate what the pieces are there, what you see, and how are these located. That’s why people like to meet. To use voice and emotions that help with communication. There is nothing wrong to it. The difference to this process comes from science. Where there is a process to layout pieces into papers written specifically with the purpose of defining the pieces and showing how to rearrange them to solve problems.

Do you mean to say that creating and publishing user stories about the Accountability Goals is a helpful outcome to conclude this discussion?

Not creating stories. Taking the stories from people. Listening to them and recording. Not trying to invent the labels that cut out the important details. The details that are probably called “insights” in a creative process. The true motivation behind what people say. What we say is not what we feel, because words have limited bandwidth to express them. Especially for non-native speakers. And the feelings is not the cause, it is the whole intersection of thoughts, triggers and reactions. So then somebody says “the companies need to be accountable” and somebody expresses agreement, it may mean a whole lot of different things between these two people. It may happen that the first person believes that information wants to be free and another one just don’t want to argue - which, again, may be because another person is tired. Or maybe because the whole thing feels awesome - if you ever experienced joy from spiritual lectures, you know the feeling. And that’s how people work. There is nothing wrong or right about it.

Yes, my expectation or high hopes for the whole SustainOSS movement was the result. The solution to my specific problem, or at least an explanation, or a model that shows why it is no so good with me - I am doing the right thing, or to say it more specifically - I am feeling that what I do by contributing to open source and promoting the open source culture is right. But why economically it is not feasible to continue to support open source? Is it more friendly to the environment, because you can reuse the things. It helps to solve climate problems, because you can share and validate the findings. Why it is so hard to survive then doing these things? Where is the cause for that? If it is in the gameplay that is called “economics” that was invented 90 years ago, then how to patch it? The transparency has a value to me in understanding how the world works, how thinks work, how financial models work, how the modifications of those financial model will affect the gameplay - is it possible to sustain the system of economic activities with this patched rules? Where the the sources of natural support for the rules that give energy to people to change and modify the rules? Is it something that can be balanced? Or is it just a wish that can never be satisfied, like the wish for interstellar travel, but unlike the interstellar, we can not see that this is impossible. Because somethings that is not transparent, is not evident.

The world is a big place. Sometimes we live in different pockets, where feelings behind the same words we use, change. You would be surprised by how many different definitions and explanations of “open source” I have heard over the years. :slightly_smiling_face:

I couldn’t agree more with this. I wish I could be more concise to express the same.

So, I think the value in these Working Groups is/was figuring out what language we use to start these conversations with.

Well, you’ve got the first feedback about the language. I didn’t get it. ) For complicated things that normally should sound bureaucratic in some place like EU parliament, I would prefer an human friendly alternative.

Someone is welcome to come along later and propose that we did it all wrong. They can say everything we did was a wasted effort. I hope they could also combine their criticism with a proposal or idea of what they think a better way forward is.

Thanks for welcoming all kind of critics. It kind of easy to take this for granted. That’s why I just want to explicitly express that I appreciate this. There are not many places where critics is welcome nowadays.

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This is the crux of the transparency goal as written. If we accept that companies who use open source should also give back to open source, and help sustain their dependencies, then understanding the rules that govern their contribution policies is key. If a company is transparent about these policies, we can better understand their role in sustaining the projects on which they depend.

I expect the goal will evolve over time, as we apply it in practice and learn more.

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The owners of software companies are often frightened by the open source, and by the requirements of their customers to put their things in open source. Why they should? I guess there not many business owners who like to hear from others what they should or should not do. That’s we army and police to enforce these “should do”. It is not the way the internet was born, and not the way open source appeared.

Even if the owners are comfortable with supporting others, not many people who are hired workers may accept that. Even being the open source supporter, I may be against the policy of my company to support some Java foundation, because I like Python, or I may need more money for medication or family and I start to think that it is my money that are wasted.

And the worst part, of course, is that business in competitive economics is still a losers and winners game. Rare people can accept failures, and even less can go public about it. If the company doesn’t know how to sustain itself in two or three years, what kind of “should give back to open source” is acceptable for that? And we want these companies to go out in open and say - guys, we are in bad shape, you know, we can not support you. And the difference of being in bad shape with $3k a month and donation of $50 a month is huge. I don’t see how to explain that to people. It is just two completely different realities. I don’t see how contribution policy fixes that.

The only thing that could work is when people who employed by these companies are funneling their own income, or some stream towards the project they know the value of. And that stream needs to be saturated to support people. So the transparency should come from open source contributors, and once we are “naked”, I am not sure everyone would be willing to look at us.