Principles of Open Source Institutional Design

fill yer boots:

hoboy here we go again. well thanks!

I’m interested in this topic/would join a working group on this! In this space/recent:

Thanks! just messaged you.

It seems like there might be some events coming together soon, perhaps in DC in September. Would be glad to keep talking with folks who are interested…

Hi folks - I’m following up here from the SustainOSS event in January. We reviewed our statement of principles for governing OSS commons, as articulated during previous SustainOSS convenings, and iterated upon them.

Here are the notes from our session. This document is the main output.

I’d like to see the process through by evolving this into a shareable artifact. I have a couple of next steps as suggested by various folks:

1) Clean up the document, write a preamble, and publish it.

Karen Sandler at the Software Freedom Conservancy requested that we reproduce this document using a non-proprietary tool (i.e. not Google Docs) which seems reasonable to me – I’m open to suggestions!

2) Revise and elaborate on the ‘Questions to Ask Frequently’ that can help community leaders apply these principles in their practice.

Specifically, I’d like to iterate on the table that Georg Link drafted during our session (see page 7) delineating various ‘layers’ of resources, and questions that can apply the principles to each. Possibly add the principles themselves into a new version of this table, to have it all in one table.

3) Identify other relevant initiatives and see how this might be useful to them.

For instance, Vincent Bachelet pointed me to this project, and the principles seem complementary.

Open to other ideas!

Would you like to discuss any of the above? Please respond to let me know if you’re still interested (and able, given all of the turmoil from the pandemic). If there’s interest from more than a couple of people, I’ll set up a poll to find time.

Thanks, I hope you and your people are safe and sound during this difficult time.

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Thanks @greggish!

I love to see this move forward.

I’m still interested. I’d join if we set up a 1h working session.

@greggish Did you get responses from anyone else? Now that we’re all used to social distancing, it might be a good time to send out another reminder email with this information to the people who signed up. :slight_smile:

Hi there – thanks for checking in! I’ve spoken with @GeorgLink, and also am in touch with the point people on the other workgroup on governance and the principles of authentic participation. I think I see how all of these groups could weave together, as there seems to be strong complementarity.

I’m going to go ahead and do another round of cleaning up the document, and will revise the commentary that I had there into a draft of a blog post to accompany the principles document. Then I’ll put a call out to review and discuss next steps! Aiming for the end of next week.

Would welcome questions or suggestions in the meantime :slight_smile:


Hi folks – thanks for the feedback I’ve received about all this. I went ahead and set up a site for publication that’s on open source software with some more appropriate functionality vs Google Docs.

See here:

I’d like to add some images from our process there, and also start working on the matrix of ‘Questions to Ask Frequently.’ but first, eager to hear any feedback you might have.

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Thanks for putting together this publication @greggish I share this with my class today. I found it helpful in explaining governance in open source communities. Let’s see if my students have additional feedback and I’ll make sure to let you know.

Hi folks - finally got back around to this! thx for your patience.

I’ve taken some steps to align the Principles from our group with the output from the Governance Readiness workgroup, which I think are different aspects of the same idea.

The Governance Readiness group articulated a bunch of questions that could be compiled in a checklist to help open source community deliberation. I finally found time to go through those questions and see how they align with the principles from this group – and the matrix of principles vis a vis layers of resources that we began drafting in January.

See the result here, and in a table in our original source document as well.

Moving forward, I’m eager to hear feedback – does this alignment seem to make sense? Both in the aims/outputs of the two workgroups, and also on a topical basis? How can this be made more useful, and how should we iterate on it?

Thanks! greg


Thanks @greggish, this is a great step forward!

Where does the cell references in the matrix and spreadsheet point to?

I’d be open to having a monthly meeting or so to advance this more.

re the cell references, i tried to match these questions to the Governance Readiness questions (weirdly, rn i can’t seem to find the spreadsheet i think i referenced, but the same refs are here: )

This spreadsheet is amazing! Who did this research? And has it been published so that we can officially reference it?

@GeorgLink it’s from the Governance Readiness workgroup.

@jlcanovas let’s talk about it!

Hi @GeorgLink!

The spreadsheet including the questions about governance was developed in the context of the Governance Readiness WG. Look at the WG description (Resoures section) to see the main deliverables.

For now, the “most official” publication is the website we developed, where you will find those questions and some context. But any suggestion to move forward these ideas is more than welcome.


Thanks @jlcanovas, the additional background is helpful to understand where the data came from.

I think the work you all have done in the working group has the quality for an academic conference paper – adding this work to the collective body of knowledge we collect through research. That’s something I could help with if you or others are interested in it.

Exactly! A conference paper has also been in the route plan of the WG. I was planning to reactivate this idea in the coming weeks, but let’s continue discussing in the Governance Readiness WG thread. I’ll make the call there, expect updates :smile:, and thanks for your help!

hi folks - following up with notes from this cross-group call with @jlcanovas (as he reported in the Governance Readiness thread):


  1. Javier Cánovas
  2. Greg Bloom
  3. Richard Littauer (enabler)


  • Governance readiness questions help complement/enrich the questions proposed by the Principles of Governing OSS Working Group. Also, dimensions from Ostrom’s framework are helpful in organizing governance readiness questions.
  • Proposal to align both working groups into a single effort. Existing working groups will conclude, and a new one concentrated on governance-related issues will start.
  • The new working group could be called “Governance Guide” or just “Governance.” In Discourse, there is already one tag for governance-related threads (i.e., “Governance Readiness”). Maybe we could reuse this title or just changed it to “Governance.”
  • The new working group would include initiatives such as elaboration on principles, a matrix of questions to ask frequently (joining ideas from previous WGs), etc. Any new ideas are welcome.

Open Questions

  • What should we do to make existing resources more useful/accessible? Some ideas include revisions to questions, academic paper, the evolution of the matrix, etc.
  • What other resources should we align these materials with? FOSSGovernance?

Please, do not hesitate to comment on any of the previous points :partying_face:

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FYI – next week the Ostrom Workshop on the Commons is hosting Seth Frey to talk about his work on institutional design and online communities. Seth has advised me a few times over the years and his paper (among other work) is very relevant to our conversations. See below, and here:

Join remotely on Monday, April 5 , from 12-1 p.m. (ET) for a Colloquium featuring Seth Frey (UC Davis). His paper “Emergence of Integrated Institutions in a Large Population of Self-Governing Communities” should be read in advance and please come prepared for discussion. The format includes a 15-minute presentation followed by 45 minutes for questions and comments. Colloquiums are recorded and will be archived. Papers, flyers, Zoom link, and archived recordings can be found on the Colloquium Series web page. Open to everyone; please share the attached flyer.

Connect to the Colloquium Zoom meeting at this link: Launch Meeting - Zoom

NOTE: The Zoom connection will remain open until 1:30 to allow for informal post-talk conversation immediately following the colloquium. Additionally, you may request a one-on-one or small group Zoom meeting with the speaker by emailing Meeting times are offered on the day of the colloquium up to 11:30 and after 1:30 or on another day by special request.