Friday, May 31, 2013

Insides about the new openSUSE Team at SUSE blog

Yesterday we created a new blog [1]to communicate to our community and readers what do we do as a team within the openSUSE project. It is a collective effort and it will be part of our duties to create and publish contents for it.

Its main goal is to talk about what we do so in the long run, it becomes a reference channel to follow up the activity of the group of people that SUSE employs to work full time in openSUSE.

Once of the discussion topics we faced was how to make compatible this blog, that has a corporate nature, with our personal blogs, our work in the community and the motivations of our team members. It is a very interesting topic since it is not trivial in practice to separate the information you handle as employee and your work within a community, in a case like our ours, employees that work for a community.

The easy approach is to say that, by default,  all what we do is public and treated as "community" work, or the opposite, but there are many corner cases, some of them relevant, that are not cover by these general approaches. Usually this topic has no relevance until something happens, usually bad. We need to understand that, as employees, we hold a responsibility that, if non properly managed, can potentially harm our company. It also can hurt us as professionals or affect our community. Often you are not a perceived as a regular community member only, but as a company advocate/representative too.

As a manager, I have to make compatible the community interest, the personal interest of the people under my responsibility and the company interest. In a company like SUSE, specially when talking about openSUSE, conflicts are small in this regard. We are a very open company in general and in my area in particular. I am glad of being part of a company that understand Free Software.

But under certain situations, nobody is out of risk. I even face this limitations being the KDE Treasurer. Being open is one thing and publishing all the information is another one. Obvious in theory but....where are the limits in practice? Who should take care of ensuring those limits are respected? What measures should be taken to satisfy all parties interest? When managing information, how to be fair with your community, yourself and your company at the same time? 

It is impossible to clearly define how to react in every case, what things should be kept private and what things don't, how to deal with the information you get as an employee but should be publish as part of your everyday activity within the community....

But what is possible is to create a clear field in which the people involved can move as freely as possible, making sure that some processes are put in place to avoid harmful mistakes. But above all, you have to rely on people, train them and be close to them so they understand the risks and the possible conflicts. Experience usually helps a lot in this field.

Behind this team blog, there are some processes that try to answer some of the previous questions and concerns, reducing the risk for the company and the authors but, at the same time, keeping the spirit of our work and goals: being open. I will talk about the concrete measures in a couple of months, when we get some conclusions about their efficiency.

I hope you will find the blog interesting.

[1] Link to the blog: https://lizards.opensuse.org/author/calumma/
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