After Tokamak II, I flew into Frankfurt with Sebas for a two day KDE e.V. board meeting. We went over our budget, the Gran Canaria event, promotion and marketing coordination support and various legal issues that have landed on our plate in recent months. All very productive sorts of topics, really. However, there were three topics that really stood out for me:
First, the board members all signed Fiduciary Licensing Agreements (FLA) which allows KDE e.V. to play a management role in the care and licensing of the code we write for KDE. Adriaan has been spearheading that work for a while and it was completed this summer ... but then we all kind of let it sit there. The timing of the KDE 4 certainly didn't help in keeping my attention on such legal details: I was happy to see the FLA come into being (major thanks to the FSFE for their legal chops that made it possible), but executing one for myself kept getting deprioritized next to everything else. At the end of the second day of the meeting, however, it came up and we realized that the only thing stopping it from happening was us not having printed copies in front of us. One of those "so ... just do it!" things. ;) Claudia printed out a bunch of copies and we got to signing. A momentous event, indeed, as its the first time KDE e.V. has taken on this kind of role; probably the trademark registration is the other legal achievement of similar magnitude that we have.
We will be bringing a sheath of FLA documents with us to Gran Canaria for the annual general assembly of membership. This way those in attendance can sign up right there and we can counter-sign in person. For those who can't be there but would like to execute an FLA, it will be appearing soon on the e.V. forms page to be printed out, signed and witnessed. They can then be sent into the e.V. offices where they will be kept on record.
The second big thing was the design of a supporting membership program for individuals. Think of it as a way for those who appreciate the work the KDE teams put into it to both support that work with a small financial commitment and become a visible part of that same team by declaring your support. We don't all have the time and energy to contribute directly, and our community reaches far beyond those boundaries. This will be a way for everyone to grab a bit of the flag and join in. We have some very cool little surprises for those who join us as supporters of the e.V. ... but I won't spoil it quite yet in this blog. We have some more planning and a bit of implementation work ahead of us and when that's in place we can share some of the neat concepts we've cooked up then.
While discussing this issue, I found it very interesting and comforting that the idea of "keeping this in the spirit of KDE" came up more than once. That there is a discernible spirit of KDE is terrific, but that there is an appreciation for its conservation and ensuring new additions are aligned with it is priceless.
The third thing that we discussed was board dynamics: how well are we, or aren't we, working together? When Cornelius and I joined the board things were rather chaotic in KDE e.V. The existing board had become, to be frank, dysfunctional and was being barely held together by one or two brave souls. It needed fresh blood, new energy and a fair amount of work to not only bring it back together by make KDE e.V. match the growth in KDE itself.
The remaining active board members at that time did a tremendous job of transitioning their responsibilities to the two new kids, and eventually three more people (Ade, Sebas and Klaas) joined us in the fun.
Up until this past calendar year, I think it is safe to say that the board was working very hard on putting into place what was needed. It always felt like we were one a few steps behind where we needed to be. Working groups, documentation of policy, regular public reports, well maintained budgets, activity goals, legal instruments and just general improvements in all the various processes that go into making this whole thing tick were slowly put into place. Given that none of us on the board do this as our "day job" that was a fairly heroic effort at times. It wasn't always smooth sailing, to be certain, but my respect for the members of this organization has consistently grown and deepened.
Now, however, while we have new things still happening and ongoing business-as-usual to take care of (developer sprints, membership, patrons and sponsors, Akademy, etc, etc, etc) it's all a lot ... calmer. It feels less like we're running to catch up and more like we're walking with obvious purpose. This, in combination with the excitements of 2008, led to a rather lower key six months or so for the board.
So we spent some time going over our communication habits, our need to keep our working relationships sharp and strong, to keep the warm fuzzies rolling and to keep our team work as a board well tuned. There were concerns we were slipping a bit in that, but this meeting helped alleviate a lot of those concerns. There was visible progress for us to mull over and sitting in the same room we were all working together very well, just as we have for the last few years.
It does remind me how important it is to always be tending those aspects of a team, especially one that works on things that are so non-trivial and even non-fun. The team dynamic is the source of enjoyment and energy needed to get it all done. It was good, therefore, to refocus on that again.
When I think of the person(s) who will be joining the board as new members this year, I'm happy that there is this team spirit in place. It will make their journey more enjoyable, rewarding and productive. We talked about this as well during the meeting, and I hope to talk with some of the possible candidates more over the coming weeks in preparation of the nomination and eventual voting process in the next few months.
Frankfurt wasn't all business for me, though. I took a couple evenings just to myself, which isn't something I've done at past board meetings. We had our traditional first-evening-at-the-pub (the one with the clown on the wall down in Rodelheim (sp?)) and a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant that was showing Bollywood flicks .. but I took some "me time" as well. For instance, I managed to arrange one evening for a rather wonderful meal that had a delectably prepared gnocchi in a truffle oil glaze at the center of it all (kept company by a soft, buttery chardonnay). And while the food was great, it was really the company that made it shine. Few things bring out the flavour of food like conversation with a friend, and I was lucky enough to have a friend come into Frankfurt for a visit.
I'd only been home for three or four days in the last month by the end of it all, but things like Tokamak II and the most productive board meeting make it all seem easy. Which isn't to say that I'm not looking forward to a couple months at home at this point. ;)