NixOS Foundation Board: Constitutional Assembly Appointment

Last week we opened applications for the constitutional assembly. Before nominations closed on Sunday, we received 27 applications in total. After carefully reviewing the applications, analysing community feedback, and consulting with board observers, we are hereby appointing the constitutional assembly as follows (sorted alphabetically):

This was a difficult choice, as there were a lot of strong applications. We thank everybody for their submission and want to emphasise that we value your involvement regardless of whether you’ve been selected or not.

Selection considerations

Thanks to all the valuable community discussions on Zulip, we took several aspects into account, including:

  1. Trust and merit: For the community roles we prioritised people that are trusted by fellow community members and have a known track record of accomplishments.
  2. Fitness to the values expressed in the application announcement: The selection is a group of individuals who can work together despite having different opinions, care about everyone being heard, and demonstrate the ability to listen and compromise.
  3. Gender representation: The selection has a mix of genders, ensuring that minorities in the community are also represented.
  4. Employment diversity: The selection has a mix of people that are employed/self-employed/non-employed/academic and doing Nix-related/partially Nix-related/non-Nix-related work, ensuring a variety of backgrounds.
  5. External viewpoint: Our external expert can provide an outside perspective, and comes with a range of experience from similar situations.

In addition, we thank everybody who gave feedback on the applications, especially with private messages, but also public reactions.

Next steps

Our board statements over the past two weeks give the assembly initial guidelines to adhere to:

This is the last board statement on the community governance process. All future updates will come from the assembly instead, which will be posted to the new assembly announcements Zulip stream.

To establish an initial connection between the community and the assembly, there will be a Q&A on Zulip (in a separate stream, to be announced) soon, with an open call on 2024-05-20T19:00:00Z in https://meet.google.com/zkm-jcwr-ebi. Both assembly and board members will be there to answer questions.

Going forward, the assembly will be in charge of the Zulip instance. The constitutional assembly stream will be closed, while the governance stream will be used to gather feedback and ideas from the community. Zulip moderation will be revisited and is likely to be carried out by the assembly itself in the future.

Conclusion

This has been an intense two weeks, not everything went as smoothly as we’d hoped, but we are glad to have reached this point. We are looking forward (and hope you are too) to seeing the progress of the assembly over the next months, and wish them great success as they pave the way to a better future.
And to end with what we started with, a bit of Pieter Hintjens wisdom -

Put people before code.

Deep appreciation for everyone’s contributions to our ongoing progress.

NixOS Foundation Board

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Great choices IMO! I’m so glad that such good people are willing to spend the time on this.

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What’s an “external expert”?

As defined in Nix Constitutional Assembly Applications open

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In the end I was too tired to send the board feedback on any candidates in the window we got for doing so. Looking at this list, I realize I hardly needed to anyway. :slight_smile:

Thank you, assembly members, for your commitment, insight, and readiness to work together!

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Personally, very much appreciate all the positive feedback. While I’m sure in everything we do there is room to improve and I do hope we continue to do that, for me it’s about how do we make iterative progress together (even the smallest of steps).

One of the concepts I was thinking much about in the last few weeks has been a quote (this time not Pieter Hintjens sadly) - “Almost anything we do creates scar tissue or builds muscle memory, the important thing is to know which is which.” Meaning, we either fail and learn or succeed and repeat, both are progress. The failure is when no learning occurs.

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The list seems mostly solid, but I am strongly concerned about the appointment of @Infinisil in the assembly.

He was the person who led with the plan for an assembly, helped in part be people who are on the board.

He then was involved with board discussions about the assembly; should this be understood as being informally as an observer?

Explicitly barred from the assembly are individuals who are or have recently been part of the board (board members and board observers), since it would go against the spirit of transfer of power.

I think the influence exerted from working out the assembly process with the board already creates a large conflict of interest.

While it is to a lesser degree, the involvement in moderating the assembly discussion avenue (the Zulip chat) also smells off. Though in itself, I don’t know that it should disqualify an applicant; maybe a mark against, within many measures to weigh.

What was the rationale behind picking someone with this much of a conflict of interest? There were other long-standing contributors to consider, weren’t there?

I know it can sound like I’m whining “why not me?”, but that’s not it. It’s about the legitimacy the assembly where a member of the assembly helped stand said assembly, in the context of governance issues, which includes conflict of interest.

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you’ve met @Infinisil, right? seen his work? the hours he puts in? the effort? the care?

i can’t imagine a single person who has even seen a fraction of the work he has done question his commitment to the project and community. and that’s what this is about, right? having people who truly care about the project … and a good spread of opinions among them

are you specifically worried about @Infinisil or are you worried someone else might be worried about him? if it’s the latter then let’s cross that incredibly hypothetical bridge when we get there - and if it’s the former please help me understand how anyone could feel that way :man_shrugging:

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wat? I have zero worries about @Infinisil

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I bought this up in the Matrix NixOS Foundation chat as well, see here:

I fully agree that it can look fishy, so I want to clarify some points:

  • The reason for barring board members and observers is (as I understand it) because they’ve been the ones effectively in power with the crisis emerging. I had no real interaction with the board before like ~3 weeks ago when this crisis was already there
  • I did indeed give ideas to the board on what the next steps could be, but I never pushed for anything they didn’t agree with. Other than that I just helped the board stay on track, improve wording, take notes, etc.
  • From when the applications were open until the assembly was selected, I barely interacted with the board, they made the decision entirely on their own without my involvement (I had the pleasure of doing some coding during that time!)
  • I honestly didn’t care about being selected or not and I would’ve also liked to see some others on the assembly too (in particular you, @samueldr!). I could’ve really used a break from all this, but I know a lot of people trust me, so I’ll try my best, even with the continued risk of burnout.
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To me, the biggest missed opportunity in terms of establishing the legitimacy of the assembly as an act that wants to “give the power to the community” was the decision to appoint the assembly instead to having an election.

Even if imperfect the ‘constituency’ could be the Zulip members as they require a contribution to nixpkgs or a nix related project to join.

I think there’s some confusion around that. The assembly doesn’t have any power over anything other than the Zulip instance (which is only to discuss governance issues). Their primary mission is just to create some governance structure that can make decisions representative of the community, to which the board can then transfer the power they have. So the assembly are the ones that can make the decision to even have election and how it should work. The resulting governance body can and should be entirely independent of the assembly itself.

Btw, if anybody isn’t comfortable speaking publicly on Zulip, I’m very open to PMs for any further questions or feedback on the assembly work.

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I still think it’s very concerning that 2 board members were listed as ‘vouched’ for Silvan and then at the time when the assembly gets picked Silvan gets chosen as one of the assembly members.

I appreciate all active engagement and the concerns raised regarding the assembly process. As I want to keep upholding the values we’ve taken on which also includes transparency, I wanted to provide a few thoughts.

Firstly, I’d like to clarify that Silvan is not a board member and has never been one. His involvement over the past weeks has been as a dedicated volunteer, much like many others who have contributed their time and expertise to help the community. His efforts, which I see as genuine commitment to the community (much like many others!), I’d hope are seen as a positive contribution rather than a conflict of interest. To be clear, the foundation board weighed all input on the entirety of the process equally from folks who engaged on any channel with us (Zulip, Matrix, calls, discourse, private dms, emails, etc…).

Regarding his specific application - One of the factors in the process included the fact that Silvan received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the community, both discretely and openly. This reflected to us the trust and respect he has earned from many in the community.

I find it important to also acknowledge that the assembly is just starting its work. We’ve appointed this group to help create a structure that guides us towards a stronger and more sustainable NixOS, and it’s crucial to give them the opportunity and breathing room to prove themselves through their actions and decisions.

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I might have missed it, but where in the appointment process was it described that it was a popularity contest? I would have thought the other criterias would matter more, in this situation for setting up a good governance. We had people who observed and involved themselves a similar situation in another community, we had people who organized with a large amount of support behind themselves, and more importantly: we had people who are directly affected by the situation.

And now that I’ve searched for it, I definitely would have missed it, since I don’t see where the selection process was described. Huh…

Note that I don’t want to imply that the choice was malicious, at most, and not even implied, somewhat biased. Only that it seems short-sighted, given the pool of applicants here.

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This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

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I notably here am not referencing tweets, or engaging with the conversation about whether tweets should be in scope (they aren’t in the Contributor Convenant that nix uses as a whole).

I’m also not suggesting a perma-ban. I’m stating unequivocally that what was posted on GitHub is unacceptable. Not all moderation actions are bans. Not all bans are permanent.

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