OBF Public Board of Directors Meeting

The OBF has at least one public board meeting per year, in part to vote on important business issues, and in part to publicly discuss items relevant to the OBF community.  The latest public OBF Board of Director’s meeting took place October 4, 2016. It was attended by Board members Hilmar Lapp, Peter Cock, Nomi Harris, Chris Fields, and Karen Cranston, as well as guests Heather Wiencko (Board candidate), Michael Crusoe, Spencer Bliven, and Robert Gilmore.

The agenda, and tentative minutes (taken by then-secretary Peter Cock) are available from the OBF wiki.  The following is a summary:

Old Business

This mainly focused on approving minutes from the 2015 BoD meeting as well as approving the 2014 financial report and an amendment to the 2013 financial report.  Citing the continuing need to review SPI-provided records against our own, and the effort it took to compile the financial reports, Hilmar emphasized the need to again fill the Treasurer position on the OBF Board, which had been left vacant for several years due to our fiscal sponsor Software in the Public Interest (SPI) handling OBF accounting.  The Treasurer would also act as primary liaison with SPI, a role held until now by the President.


Heather Wiencko

Speaking of Treasurer… Elections for five positions on the Board occurred today, with Heather Wiencko elected to join the Board as a first-time member!

Additionally, Hilmar Lapp was re-elected President, with Peter Cock now elected as Treasurer, Chris Fields elected as Secretary, and Nomi Harris re-elected as a Director-at-Large. Congratulations all!

Proposed changes to the OBF Bylaws

OBF’s Bylaws suggest that they be reviewed every 2 years for stipulations that have become hindering to or inconsistent with OBF’s mission or the Board’s ability to conduct its business efficiently. The last (and first) changes to the Bylaws were made in 2012, and hence it was time for another review. As a result, several changes were proposed (#28 and #29), and approved at the meeting, including one previously mentioned regarding who acts as the SPI liaison:

  1. Removing the Parliamentarian position, which has largely proven obsolete
  2. Assigning the role of primary SPI liaison to the Treasurer
  3. Removal of the nominating committee
  4. Simplifying the process for future reviews of the bylaws
  5. Extension of the term for board members from 2 to 3 years

Using project-branded swag to generate revenue

Spencer Bliven, one of the Biojava project leads, raised the question of how OBF can enable its projects to generate revenue from selling swag (project-branded merchandise), and to contribute such revenue to the well-being of the OBF community. Doing so would also present opportunities to promote the project’s brand, and more generally to improve outreach. However, if individuals from the project collected the payment, it could too easily be considered a conflict of interest in their workplaces, because developers contributing to our open-source projects often do so as part of their employment. If OBF can collect the funds and deposit them into OBF’s assets, it would prevent potential conflict of interest issues. Although earmarking funds generated in this way for a particular member project would be difficult due in part to the complexity of accounting, they would benefit the OBF community as a whole, and the programmatic activities sponsored by OBF are available to every member project. This notion received general agreement, and resulted in follow-up tasks for the Board to determine how such point-of-sale payments should best be collected.

The discussion then turned to the question whether we should look into trademarking the projects and their respective marks (which allows brand protection) and how other open-source umbrella organizations (such as the Apache Software Foundation) copyright their logos and protect their brands.  Hilmar recommended open-source licensing of the logo with a trademark to allow for additional protection in case projects disagreed with its use.

Additional discussions

After the main business, there were several followup questions and conversations:

  • Michael Crusoe pointed out that having the NPOacct project provide open-source accounting software for non-profits might be useful. SPI has been among the partner organizations that committed funding support early on, and hence through the overhead rate paid to SPI we are contributing to this effort already, if only in a small way.
  • Michael also asked about additional support for imminent GSoC-related travel expenses. These may well be eligible for an OBF Travel Fellowship, and even though by the next deadline for applications the respective event will be in the past, we determined that the Fellowship program rules (at least currently) do not rule out applications for events that have already taken place.
  • Spencer suggested actively inviting members from the various OBF projects to attend the public Board meetings and join the OBF as members. Hilmar reports that membership applications have risen dramatically since we switched to a fully online application process, evidence that the application process is not a significant hurdle anymore. More active outreach to our developer communities should help drive further growth, and promote our community.
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