Expanding the NixOS Foundation

What are we doing?

We, the current board of the NixOS Foundation, are expanding the board to include more members.

The new board will be composed of the following members:

  • Eelco Dolstra (Determinate Systems), President
  • Armijn Hemel (Tjaldur), Secretary
  • Théophane Hufschmitt (Tweag)
  • Ron Efroni (Flox)
  • Domen Kožar (Cachix)

We also intend to appoint the following board observers:

  • Graham Christensen (Determinate Systems)

Rob Vermaas, who is largely responsible for creating the foundation and has served as its Treasurer since the beginning, will resign from the board in the near future. Many thanks to him for all his work!

Why are we doing this?

The NixOS Foundation has existed since 2015 but it has had a fairly hands-off approach to the Nix project. Primarily, the foundation runs some of the technical infrastructure (e.g. the website and the binary cache) and participates in NGI Zero.

But there is much more it could do to foster Nix and the Nix community, such as setting an organizational structure for the project, providing technical leadership, or organizing events like NixCon.

The new, larger board will have more resources and time to devote to supporting the community. There are many informal teams within the Nix project, and we want the foundation to empower them.

We’ve had conversations with leaders from the Rust, Haskell, and Plone Foundations to learn from their experiences in running large and successful open source projects. One lesson from this was to set up the foundation to support the technical teams that do the critical work: empowering, unblocking, and supporting them financially, and giving them clear mandates and responsibilities. (See for instance the Rust governance structure.)

Why the new board?

We feel that the new members represent a good mix of people who have been active in the Nix community, bring together relevant experience (engineering, leadership, strategy, product development, etc.), and have access to the time and resources to act on their strong interest in seeing Nix succeed and grow.

As a board, we will operate in a more structured and transparent fashion from the start, similarly to what we’ve seen at other successful and healthy communities. We are committed to make sure no stakeholder is over- or under-represented, to avoid unwanted bias, and intend to regularly re-evaluate the board’s membership accordingly.

A reasonable question is whether the board shouldn’t be selected via some kind of public process, such as an election. However, currently we don’t have the governance structures to do so – e.g. unlike Debian, we don’t have a clearly defined membership. Addressing such governance questions is exactly the sort of thing that an expanded board will be more capable of.

We’ve also introduced a “board observer” role. Board observers cannot vote and, therefore, are not full board members. However, they can participate in every board activity and, as a consequence, exert influence by contributing their thoughts, questions, expertise, and support.

Next steps

Once the new board is in place, we hope to be able to move forward with a number of items, such as:

  • Improve the governance of the project. In particular, give existing teams such as the RFC steering committee stronger mandates, and create new teams where needed.
  • Facilitate the organization of NixCons. Also make it easier for people to get support from the foundation for setting up other Nix events.
  • Improve the technical resilience of the project. We currently depend on the gracious support of various sponsors for critical infrastructure like the binary cache. We will take steps to further ensure the reliability and availability of these resources.
  • Obtain charitable status in the US/Canada to enable tax-deductible donations. This should help us set up a better platform for donations and sponsorships.
  • Create a process for formulating a project-wide roadmap, similar to the Rust roadmap process.

We will have an open Zoom call on 2022-07-01 17:00 CET where we will be happy to answer any questions you have!

Sincerely,

Eelco Dolstra,
Rob Vermaas,
Armijn Hemel.

81 Likes

This is phenomenally great news and I am personally thrilled beyond words that this is finally happening!

Everything that has worked to make this thing, thank you so very much!!

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This is great, really glad to see that things are progressing from an organization standpoint.

I remember when I was working at Microsoft, and they had a volunteer pay program, if NixOS had charitable status, then any time spent on nixpkgs may have been applicable to an additional $25/hr that I volunteered my time (not sure if it would have been applicable, but not being charitable initially made it a non-starter).

12 Likes

That is awesome news.

We need better coordination and a roadmap, to systemically improve the project!

I notice that any board member works for a company. It would be great if other community parts are also present, like science and personal users, to make sure their interests are considered. I have no reason not to trust the current members, so that can be improved in the future. Also that the board observer works for the same company as the president. That looks like a conflict of interests when the observer should be critical of the boards actions.

I would like to be part of a QA team, but don’t have experience with leadership. I already do QA for some years, especially in the pantheon maintainers team and before releases, but would like to see a more coordinated effort.

12 Likes

I don’t think “observers” are generally expected to be neutral, let alone to act as auditors or “watchdogs”. They’re just persons who are invited to meetings but don’t get to vote. I would think it would be more a problem if one company had two voting members when other companies only have one each (compare RFC 43).

5 Likes

There seems to be no legal need for observers, unless the foundation imposes that on itself. I am not a lawyer though.

As a board, we will operate in a more structured and transparent fashion from the start,

In this regard, I would expect observers not to be appointed but admitted based on transparent rules, and kept in the loop via some publicly accessible means.

I just noticed from this announcement that Eelco is not at Tweag anymore.

Is the community going to be notified going forward when one of the members changes employers? I think this is relevant to the goal of transparency.

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Yes. That’s why the names of the companies are attached in the post, in a transparent manner.

Thanks for calling that out - establishing transparency is one of the goals and especially in the begining it’s important to point out where you’d like to see more.

10 Likes

Not sure about Haskell and Plone, but I’m not sure successful the Rust Foundation has been… It definitely could’ve been worse, though (the fact that the Foundation is mostly separate from the project definitely helped).

1 Like

Sharing the invite and link to our open Zoom call for this Friday, July 1st at 17:00 CET.
Looking forward to seeing folks!
Topic: NixOS Board - Open Zoom
Time: Jul 1, 2022 17:00 CET

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Meeting ID: 995 7243 5001
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3 Likes

Starting in a few minutes.

Will there be a recording for those of us that can’t attend?

Did this happen in CEST (as opposed to CET) time zone? :upside_down_face:

Most central European countries and the Netherlands are now +2 so seems like that.

We didn’t record this one as we hadn’t communicated ahead of time with participants that it will be recorded. I would want to record the next one for those that can’t join but just wondering if folks would be comfortable with that.

image
Discourse has a cool feature where you can insert a date/time and then it gets localized for everyone who is logged in. I suspect it would have avoided issues like this.

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Awh :frowning: Are there any minutes/notes/transcripts?

I can summarize the answers to the questions I asked:

  • The role of the board observer is there mainly to allow @grahamc, who is a trusted member of the community, to be part of the board, while at the same time ensuring that no more than one full member belongs to the same company. For all intents and purposes though, he will be a functioning member of the board, because it is not expected for voting to be contentious.

  • The board members will at some point put up their bios on a foundation webpage

  • The positions are unpaid. Expenses are reimbursed

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Posted a recap of the meeting here → NixOS Board Meeting Minutes - July 1, 2022 - Governance - NixOS Discourse

3 Likes
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