Thoughts on the .NET Foundation’s Revised Election Process
Updated: This post has some updates to include responses from Claire, which were helpful and clarifying in several instances below.
Claire Novotny, Director of the .NET Foundation, recently sent out an e-mail about the revised election strategy and policy for this year’s elections.
I was the last one eliminated in the previous election, so I figured I would take a few minutes to at least jot down what I like and what I’m unsure about with the overall election process, which I hadn’t heard about until Claire’s e-mail.
Before we get started
Lest someone misinterpret the point of this post, I the .NET Foundation and its board and I think they want the best for the .NET community in general and work hard to achieve those things.
Also, my thoughts below are based on the current policy overall, not the diffs between the old policy and the changed policy.
What I Like About the Process
- Diversity of candidates as an explicitly stated goal. We recognized this need during the last election, and a nominating committee has the ability to ensure that a slate of candidates is diverse.
- Term Limits. I like the idea that someone can only serve on a board for a certain amount of time. We need a rotation and I hope we can find a way to honor past board members, perhaps on the Foundation site.
- Staggered terms, and how it’s being implemented. I like the idea that the some of the board will phase out at different times. I think having the continuity is important. I also like that after this election, the plan is to choose half the board at random for a shorter term. That seems like the fairest way to achieve this goal.
- Nominating committees as an encouraging/enabling body. Empowering a nominating committee to seek out and encourage potential candidates is a great way to achieve a diverse slate. I like this as a purpose of the nominating committee.
- Voting system. Same one as last time, that seems to make sense. Of course, I wonder if technically we’ll be voting in x number of separate elections rather than one election.
- Requirement of time commitment. It seems reasonable that a board member should have to pledge x amount of their time to the purpose and mission of the Foundation.
What I’m Unsure About
The things I feel a little uneasy about are below.
- Nominating Committees as a filter for 3 candidates per seat. I know there were a lot of candidates last year, but I quite liked that because I enjoyed the many varied ideas and experiences. I became aware of new people and their contributions, etc. Why are many candidates a problem? If an election is the expression of the membership, why filter down so quickly? I think a “primary” would be fine to select down to a certain number, if paring down is necessary. I think the nominating committee won’t necessarily be looking for people like me, and I’m not sure that I will make it past a nominating committee in the future. Lastly, I think that the nomination committee has to accept the premise of how you’ll help the Foundation with its goals. But what if you believe the Foundation should have different goals? A nominating committee, selected by the current board, now needs to agree with you before others could see your stances. What if the majority of the members want change?
- Board-chosen nominating committee. Even though the board is not on the nominating committee itself, they still choose who is from what I can tell. While I would trust the current board members to ensure there are no conflicts here, what about future board members?
- Requirements to be nominated (excepting that of the time commitment). Rules/guidelines mean that the elections will select for a certain kind of person. How will change be introduced if participants are required to come from inside the system? Will we be looking at a slate of the same well-known people from inside the .NET Foundation’s members? I get that this incentivizes others to participate, but I’m not sure it’s the best approach. Furthermore, if diversity is a stated goal (and I agree it should be), does it constrain the candidate pool too much? My hope is that it does not, but I am unsure.
- The current board chose these requirements. I worry that the requirements therefore can’t help but reflect the current make-up of the board.
- Voting per seat vs the top candidates winning the seats. If there are three open seats, I feel that those seats should go to the people who get the three top votes. Anything else feels like it could ignore the will of the people who vote on it.
Update: Claire has corrected that the open seats were a way of determining the overall amount of candidates, rather than nominating x people per seat. So while I think this could have been communicated better, I’m happy that they’re not actually approaching things this way. I thought I’d read the policy pretty clearly.
>Voting per seat vs the top candidates winning the seats.— Claire Novotny (@clairernovotny) June 15, 2020
The top 3 (6 this time) win, full stop. There are not 3 or 6 individual contests.
That was intended to scope a total number.— Claire Novotny (@clairernovotny) June 15, 2020
- The Foundation’s members didn’t vote on it. The first ever elected board changed the rules without membership vote on it. I’m not sure that’s the precedent we want to be setting.
Update: Claire responded on this one too, though the response was not as satisfying to me as her others.
> The Foundation’s members didn’t vote on it.— Claire Novotny (@clairernovotny) June 15, 2020
The Foundation doesn't run by referendum of all members. The members elect the board and the board sets the policies, rules, etc. That's why the elections matter.
In this exchange, she cites the need to get the election moving quickly after changing the process and not wanting to delay further. I think had the board been transparent about the process changes it was looking to make, and involved the community earlier, they could have accomplished both an increased understanding of delayed elections and a process that helped people feel better about the election process overall. But honestly, that doesn’t matter so much at this point – time to move forward.
So, Will I Run?
Long story short: I’m not sure, but I’m leaning toward probably not. The investment of time plus the opportunity to be filtered out at so many stages is forcing me to consider whether it’s worth it. Plus, I hung back from .NET Foundation activities to allow the board to do its thing and solidify, which now seems like it could put me at a disadvantage. And I’m not famous enough that I’ll be waiting for a nomination committee’s phone call.
But what I hope for more than anything is a fantastic slate of candidates and an election of passionate people. I think we have a wealth of that in the .NET world and I’m always excited to see it on display in elections.
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