In the DebConf organising working group sessions at DebConf14, the DebConf Chairs agreed to take on the administrative task of formalizing the subteams that work on DebConf.
The working group agreed that each subteam should have a clear and documented membership. The main goal was to compose groups that continue working together from year to year, to better keep organizational knowledge. Ideally, people would remain part of a subteam for at least a couple of DebConf editions.
To avoid the initial appointments simply being chosen by the Chairs, or people being only self-appointed, we followed a process of canvassing for roles among the team members. To summarize, people who agreed to be part of a team was asked to answer the following questions:
- From your previous experience, who do you think would make a good lead for the team?
- If you see yourself as a team leader, who would be good alongside you, including as a potential "shadow" or "advisor"?
Why do we need a formalization of subteam membership?
This need was identified in the working group sessions. Many people reported as a major problem in the past that it was not clear who was part of the overall team or of subteams, or who should have a stronger voice in a certain decision. Without documented subteam membership, everything is more complicated, even knowing who is most needed to attend a meeting on a particular topic. Many people said that they thought having more clearly defined subteams will help the decision making process.
(Even credits will be given more easily, we won't be afraid of forgetting someone's name in public announcements.)
Are the existing teams being dissolved?
No. Everyone who is currently part of a subteam remains part of that subteam, unless they wish to retire. Everyone can continue working on their current tasks. What we want is to formalize the teams, since we don't have current lists of members; and also to welcome back past contributors that might be willing to help again.
Are the Chairs going to decide who is a member of each subteam?
No, the Chairs will only facilitate the process of membership formalization. They will reach out to people who are active - or were active in the past - in each area. Whoever wants to participate will be included in the initial definition of the particular subteam. The decision on appointing team leaders, shadows and wizards, based on the nominations received, will be up to the people who have been identified as part of the team. The local liason will be agreed between the subteam in question and the local team.
Why did I get a message when I obviously want to continue in the subteam?
A core part of the messages that have been sent out is the request for nominations, which needed to go to everyone. Due to the large number of recipients and the urgency of starting the process, we used an automated approach to send out the same message to everyone. We apologise to anyone offended by receiving a formulaic message -- yes, the Chairs know about your work and appreciate it, even if the script doesn't.
'Why are the messages sent in private?
Dealing with people who have left the team for reasons other than just being busy might mean bringing up some issues that are not appropriate to be dealt with in public. In the woking group sessions, the Chairs agreed to take on this administrative task as an impartial body that will be open to hearing people's critiques and complaints. With this process we want to create a safe space for sincere and well-deserved nominations and honest feedback.
In addition, not everyone is comfortable making team lead nominations (and talking about their reasons) in public, especially if they might be seen as disagreeing with nominations already.
If I'm not a member, I'm not able to contribute in that area?
Anyone who wants to help with any subteam's work is welcome to; by no means should people be kept from contributing. However, if a casual contributor wants to become part of a subteam, there will be an expectation that the new member will follow meetings and continue doing some work within the subteam.
What is the process to become part of a subteam?
If you are interested in a subteam, show up in the next meeting and start assuming tasks.
The Chairs won't interfere in each team membership, they just want to assure that the door is kept open to anyone who wants to participate. Initially, anyone who replies to the call for members will be listed. Later, it is expected that teams will keep their own membership information updated in the wiki, listing only active members.
Can a local team member assume the role of lead, shadow or wizard?
Anyone can take on these positions, whether or not they are part of the local team at the time. However, since people in the working group wanted to see more stable subteams, it is better if people taking on these roles are interested in longer-term participation in the team, not only interested in a particular DebConf year.
Will this process happen every year?
No. Ideally people will work within a team for a couple of years. Between different editions of the conference, there will be some rotation, but not a complete reboot of the team. We hope that team membership is organically self-maintained over time.