The core melts down

My friend Paul Ivanov kindly pointed me to this Self-interview after leaving the NetBSD board by Julio Merino.

This lead me to an earlier NetBSD resignation email from Charles Hannum, one of the "4 originators of NetBSD".

They both complain of lack of leadership. From Merino's post:

[the "core" and "board of directors"] teams are dysfunctional because they do not provide leadership: all they do is act reactively to requests from users and/or to resolve internal disputes. In other words: there is no initiative nor vision emerging from these teams (and, for that matter, from anybody).

From Hannum:

There is no high-level direction; if you ask "what about the problems with threads" or "will there be a flash-friendly file system", the best you'll get is "we'd love to have both" -- but no work is done to recruit people to code these things, or encourage existing developers to work on them.

Merino also complains that the NetBSD leadership will not take risks:

As things are today, the project leaders will almost always settle for either the conservative solution or a solution that compromises on every detail so as to not annoy anyone. Unfortunately, this approach implicitly disappoints a group of people — a group of people that may not be vocal enough to express their preferences out of previous disappointments. All of this, of course, only happens when the leader teams are asked about something, as they will rarely provide input unless asked for (see reactive model above).

Hannum wonders aloud whether the diffuse management structure is the problem:

Much of this early structure (CVS, web site, cabal ["core" group], etc.) was copied verbatim by other open source (this term not being in wide use yet) projects -- even the form of the project name and the term "core". This later became a kind of standard template for starting up an open source project. [...] I'm sorry to say that I helped create this problem, and that most of the projects which modeled themselves after NetBSD (probably due to its high popularity in 1993 and 1994) have suffered similar problems. FreeBSD and XFree86, for example, have both forked successor projects (Dragonfly and X.org) for very similar reasons.>

Hannum wanted a change in leadership:

1) There must be a strong leadership, and it is not the current one. The leadership must honestly want NetBSD to be a premier, world class system with leading edge features. The leadership must set aggressive goals, and actively recruit people to make them happen.

and:

I must repeat a point I've made earlier. The current "management" of the project is not going to either fix the project's problems, or lead the project to solutions. They are going to maintain the status quo, and nothing else. If the project is to rise from its charred stump, this "management" must be disbanded and replaced wholesale. Anything less is a non-solution.

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