So, you're an ATC. Let me tell you something

You may be probably wondering what the heck is wrong with me. If you haven't, please, keep reading. If you have, though, please, keep reading.

It's that time of the cycle - ha! you saw this comming, didn't you? -, in OpenStack, when we need to elect new members for the Technical Committee. In a previous post, I talked about what being a PTL means. I talked directly to candidates and I encouraged them to understand each and every point that I've made in that post. This time, though, I'd like to talk directly to ATCs for a couple of reasons. First one is that Thierry Carrez has a great post already where he explains what being a TC member means. Second one is that I think you, my dear ATC, are one of the most valuable member of this community and of the ones with most power throughout OpenStack.

Let's start by laying down what ATC means.

Active Technical Contributor

An Active Technical Contributor (ATC) is a member of the OpenStack Foundation that has contributed to any of the official projects in the last two cycles. Any contributions to the projects will make you an ATC.

Being an ATC, like anything else in OpenStack, is a volunteers job. It's not necessary to be an ATC to be part of the community and, if you are, you're not required to cover for all the ATC responsibilities, although you'll still get all the ATC benefits.

Why do ATCs have power?

As in any other democratic model, members of the communities have the power to elect their leaders. As far as OpenStack goes, every ATC will have the power to vote for the people that will represent the community in the Technical Committee and in the Foundation Board (Individual members only).

If you're not familiar with these groups, I'd really suggest you to read more about the governance structure and I'd also recommend you to take a look at the current Technical Committee.

I'll abstain to give a short version of the current governance model because anything I'll write here won't be as detailed as what's in those links. However, I'd like to encourage you to read them before going forward with this post.

Now that you've a better understanding of OpenStack's governance model and the responsabilities of each of its parts, I hope it's also clearer why your vote, more importantly your conscious vote, is so critical.

Teach me how to vote

Glad you asked because that's what this post is about. I don't mean to tell you who to vote for and I definitely don't mean to share this as the definitive guide of how/why you should vote. However, I do think the points below should be added to your list of considerations when you're casting your vote.

Technical Committee takes time

Being part of the technical committee takes a lot of time. Just like being a PTL and being a super active ATC. It all takes time. Don't ever give for granted that people running for a TC seat have enough time in their hands. If you have doubts, I'd highly recommend you to openly ask to everyone whether they have enough time in their hands.

Look at the candidates tasks. Look at how many things they are doing and ask yourself (or themselves) whether, considering their current tasks, they'll have enough time. For example, PTLs may find it hard to dedicate a significant amount of time to being a TC. It depends on the project, it depends on the satus, etc. But, past has proven that this is normally the case.

The reason you should care about that is not just because you want the TC members to take good care of you and OpenStack. That's an amazing reason. However, you, as an ATC, should also take care of the TC. You don't want members of the TC to burnout when OpenStack is half-way through a cycle. Many times, people underestimate the cost of time and what the TC requirements are.

Did you know the TC meetings are on Tuesdays at 20:00 UTC? That's 22:00 CEST and 8:00 in New Zealand (during summer/winter ;). The only reason I'm mentioning this is because it's relevant for the next topic.

Attending Meetings

You'd think that one should not require anyone to attend meetings but, as I go through my 7th month as a TC member, I can tell you for sure that that's were things are discussed. Yes, there are emails and yes, there are reviews. However, the TC discusses things mostly on meetings. It's a model that has worked well enough so far as it's allowed the TC for reaching consensus in a decent amount of time.

All these meetings are open and logged. The TC and other community members share their opinions there. You can see live how the interactions work, how the TC behaves, what each of the member's opinions are and even if they are active or not.

The point here is that, whenever you're voting for a TC member, you must make sure that people's visions are sound to what your visions are. Think of what you would like OpenStack and the community to be like and then go and judge each of the candidates on emails, reviews, etc.

Many times, current TC members send their candidacies to stay in their current role. Reviewing meetings is a great way to get a feeling of what their work is like. But that's definitely not the only one, there are also reviews. Nonetheless, I think attendance to meetings and the contributions during these meetings are a good way to get a feeling of what the commitment of the members is.

Reviewing TC Reviews

The governance repo is the starting point of many discussions that happen in the meetings. You can get a great feeling of what the TC members opinions, agreements and disagreements by just looking at the governance reviews. There's a dashboard that many of us use for reviews but I'd also recommend you to go and look back to some of the approved ones.

As an ATC, you don't want to just judge the decision. You want to evaluate existing reviews and see how the TC is doing. Having diversity and different opinions is extremely important. The last thing OpenStack needs is tribalism and I'd highly encourage you to seek for folks that have good visions, different opinions and perspectives.

A change on perspective

As I just mentioned in the previous section, different perspectives and diversity is extremely important. The TC needs different views to avoid making decisions that benefit just part of the community. While I don't think this is currently the case, I do believe the lack of a diverse set of views increases the probabilities for that to happen.

When reviewing the candidacies, I'd like to encourage you to take a moment to see what teams that candidate interacts the most with. Is it OPs ? Is it Docs? Is it OpenStack 101? Is it small or big clouds? Is it corporate or startup? Just a couple of ideas, you don't really need to go through them all but I hope those give you an idea of what I mean here.

Think of what you'd like the community to go from here and how each of the candidates would help taking it there. Change is great but it must be done cautiously. Making huge shifts in such a big community comes with lots of risks. Many times, I've agreed with some folks perspectives but then disagreed on the timing. This is important too and you have the power in your hands to make changes like this happen (or not).

The TC is not cool

Yes, exactly. Being part of the TC is not about being cool. It's not about having lables and seriously, there wouldn't be TC without a community like OpenStack's so, I consider being an ATC way cooler than being a member of the TC.

A TC member is always under the spotlight. Anything that the TC does will be, eventually, evaluated by the community. These decisions, while they must be taken on the best interest of OpenStack, don't always make everyone happy. Candidates should be ready to make taugh calls that are on the best interest of the community and you, as a voter, have the chance to ask and/or identify these candidates by looking at their candidacies and previous works.

In other words

Many of my points above will help you evaluate existing TC members that would like to run for another cycle but don't stop there. Take those points and apply them to other candidates. Look at their work, look at their points of views and please, do take the time to think how you would like OpenStack to be and how these candidates can help it get there.

I'm asking you to use that power to help the TC to be better. The TC needs people that are active, people that volunteer for jobs, people that have diverse opinions and people that are also capable of proposing solutions rather than just pointing out things that are wrong. It's always easy to say what's wrong and then sit down waiting for someone else to fix it. We're a small group and we need to get things done.

Look at the candidates, look at whether they are active not only in their communities but also in OpenStack in general. The TC is not a bunch of people that meet every week to share random opinions. Please, base your vote on facts that will help the community because it is OpenStack that we're trying to make better, not just the TC.

Flavio Percoco is a passionate developer, with interests in languages, cloud computing and distributed architectures. He's currently working for Red Hat where he spends most of his time hacking on OpenStack. Flavio promotes open source, APIs, humility and loves the philosophy behind software and life. Flavio writes on his blog at flaper87.com and tweets on @flaper87.