Questions about the OSRA announcement

We’ve recently made a big announcement about changes in how the OSRF is structured and its projects governed.

We know that you have questions about it. Please ask those questions here and the OSRF team will work to answer them as soon as we’re able, in the form of updates on the main announcement thread so that everyone has a consistent place to look.

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Firstly, what should we short hand be referring to this as? ‘The Alliance’, OSRA, etc. how should we think about it in addressing OSRF vs the Alliance? The lingo caused some confusion with Open Robotics, OSRC, and OSRF, so starting off with some lexicon you’d like us to use could reduce frictions later :grin:

Secondly, I’m curious about the Alliance’s intentions with non-flagship projects like Rviz, TF, URDF, launch, and the like. They’re largely stable (though I’m sure some have not-to-be-ignored-forever needs for the following 10 years) but if the original developers and formerly-Open Robotics maintainers are moving on long-term, is there a long-term strategy to keep these chugging forward under the Alliance structure?

Thirdly, does the Alliance have any initial ‘stake my flag here’ goals for the future that you can share for us all to get excited about (and possibly get community contributor interest to make happen!)?

Love this work that you and Vanessa have been up to over the last year! Long Live The ~Galactic~ Alliance! For all other not-yet-member organizations, please consider joining! It’s in your own best interest long-term and allows the Foundation to proactively address concerns!

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I congratulate the ROS community for this much-needed step in achieving better governance for ROS to address long-standing issues. I hope this leads to desired outcomes for the whole community, individuals and companies alike. I have expressed my view that this is a healthy separation that worked for other organizations. Institutionalization is the next big step for the community, and I would be happy to move away from persona-dependent processes.

Besides I see Vicky Brasseur as an open governance advisor to the Foundation. I loved this move. Ensuring a professional and independent look at those matters is very much appreciated. I hope her experience moves the ROS community forward.

Two questions I have:

  1. Could you explain the role and responsibilities of community managers more? And their ideal profile?
  2. Would you consider introducing membership discounts for certain individuals? For example, the ACM membership distinguishes professionals, professionals from developing countries, and students for their membership. Other organizations have similar policies. I think this is useful to foster the diversity of supporting individuals.
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This looks like a great move! My questions after reading most of the provided documents:

  • Am I right to understand that the Projects have no “mission” or “goal”? In the OSRA charter, there is a list of requirements from each project, and it is just name + organizational stuff. No mention of anything close to a “mission” or “goal”. How can the Project be sure it is still on track, or that its moves lead toward something meaningful? I guess quarterly meetings in TGC are not enough for this. And the inidividual Project charters are not helpful in this.

  • Related to the previous question, are the projects expected to define some “typical use-cases” which they’d like to provide full support for? E.g. in ROS 1 the typical use-case was running a Turtlebot or PR2 in real over wifi or in Gazebo locally. Everything from ros_control up to rviz was tested quite a lot for these scenarios. With the move towards ROS 2, this use-case got lost and replaced by more professional use-cases which is IMO one of the reasons why the hobby community considered ROS 2 a bit more hostile than ROS 1 (fortunately, this seems to be getting addressed with ROS 2 J-turtle).

  • I don’t see any explicit means for cross-project collaboration or coordination. Yes, there can be SIGs or WGs for this, but wouldn’t it be beneficial to create more formal requirements for the cooperation? What I have on mind is mostly ROS + Gazebo, because these projects tend to get closer and then further apart and then closer again and so on. It would really help to have a strong statement saying something like ROS + Gazebo should be a seamless combination.

  • This could be used to e.g. finally decide that the IgnitionGazebo libraries will become a core part of ROS. At least some of them really make a lot of sense inside of ROS, like Math or Rendering. Without coordination between the two projects, this seems impossible to happen.

  • How to approach academic institutions in convincing them to become OSRA members or at least supporting orgs? You probably know their budgets are limited and compartmentalized a lot. What should I say to my head of department/dean to convince him/her to support OSRA?

  • I don’t see a clear direct way for orgs to provide FTEs. Imagine company ACME becomes a platinum member and they want to support the development by dedicating a developer. Do I get it correctly that ACME has to pay their fee and then separately pay the developer (ACME’s employee) for trying to become a Project Commiter? Is there no more direct way for companies to “provide” a developer? (I assume there isn’t and it was a goal after the non-functional TSC FTE dedications were evaluated)

    • Is it allowed that ACME contacts a Project or OSRF and agrees with them that they would hire ACME’s developer for a concrete task? Because Project and OSRF have budget for hiring devs, it would seem logical, but it kind of seems to circumvent the other arrangements (but I guess this is what Intrinsic will do?).
  • Where’s the place of academia in the governance structure? It doesn’t seem very probable that any academia would pay the high membership fees. However, academia has long been a core part of ROS, sometimes even giving back important functionalities of ROS. But without a representation, who will make sure academia’s interests are being incorporated?

    • With the fluctuation of people in academia, it also seems to me it would be difficult to “sneak in” somebody through the Project PMC.
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I’m sure I’ll have more questions later but I’ll start with one:

The current ‘Community Working Groups’ will have a name change to just ‘Community Groups’. Is there anything that will change in terms of how the OSRF/A will see and acknowledge them?

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Hmm, one non-voting rep. That doesn’t look like a very impactful representation.

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Let’s say someone wants to be part of a working group. Where to start ? Is there some onboarding process for developers wanting to contribute ? Should they contact the Project Leader of the working group directly ?

What’s the plan with the budget ? Now, that there is one, what are concrete examples, of things that might benefit from it. Can PMCs now request funds for special jobs / developers ?

Very special question, is a membership to the OSRA considered a donation to a non profit organization, that is tax refundable by german law ?

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Usually U.S. NGOs are not eligible for tax deduction in the EU. I asked about donating to Mozilla and Wikipedia and the answer was these can’t be deducted. It was in CZ, not DE, but I guess it is similar.

Was yesterdays meeting recorded, if it was will it be available for viewing ?

I don’t see it explicitly in the charter, but I’m guessing the non-voting representatives may be allowed to speak at the meetings (seat and voice, but not vote)?

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For a not-for-profit organization such as ArduPilot, no matter how many engineering hours we contribute to ROS, even if it were 1000 FTE equivalent or donate tons of money, it seems that in the current proposal, there is no way that we could influence the direction of ROS 2 to support the aerial platforms such as ArduPilot because we are not eligible for any seats on the TSC.

Under the current model, is there any way for the ArduPilot organization to influence the technical direction of ROS to better support aerial applications of ROS?

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I understood it so that a non-profit org can decide to go its way through the high-pay tiers with voting rights if they decide it is better for them than the cheaper level for nonprofits. The difference is that for-profit orgs do not have this cheaper option.

The importance of forums is immense in democratic communities. It allows everyone to share ideas and voice concerns towards executives and authorities. Forums can be an effective way to affect policies as we do currently here. It is a crucial part of community governance. But we must ensure the health and independence of forums.

This is the part I find missing in the announcement. Forums are not mentioned as a way to share ideas not in the documents or the replies:

Unfortunately, the suggested ways are not sustainable and effective to share ideas and voice concerns. First, those individuals are already very busy and cannot respond to all community members. 99% of cases will be dismissed. It is easy to see that bottleneck and I would take this reply as we do not want to hear community ideas.

Also, I know from my personal experience that this is a dead end. Two years ago, I received an official warning from the moderation here for saying REPs are useless. Now, we read plans to overhaul the ineffective REP process, which kinda proves my point. At that time, I tried to reach moderators but got no further explanation. It was an arbitrary decision trying to suppress my forum discussion. My forum rights are still at the basic level today.

On another occasion, I asked this question on forums:

This was a question asked to an OSRF board member on governance. This got no response either. Now, let me ask the same questions again.

Who owns forums under the new governance? Who pays for the forum staff? What policies would you take to ensure voicing concerns are not suppressed even if they are against the OSRF practices or platinum members’ business?

  1. It seems that membership (i.e. financial contribution) is still very much on a voluntary basis. Have mandatory membership formulas been considered?
    E.g. consider commercial use of CAD software: generally no-one expects this to be free (cheapest commercial CAD I know of is about 500$ per seat per year). So why not similarly instate a mandatory per-developer-seat ROS license?
    This might be difficult to enforce, but still, for companies that do not have a clear ROI from the membership benefits, a mandatory fee could be more imperative?

  2. Will there be an open fincancial reporting? I.e. how many membership fees were received, what projects received what amount, etc.