Transcript from the Q3 Rust Foundation AMA with Bec Rumbul, Jane Lusby and Ryan Levick, moderated by Sage Griffin. #
September 26, 2022 #
Table of Contents
- Handling conflicts of interest
- What made you want to be project directors?
- Selection process for project directors
- How long can project directors serve?
- What would you like to see the Foundation achieve?
- How can community members support the project directors?
- Elevating non-technical folks within the project
- Achieving consensus between project and corporate directors
- The challenges of representing the diversity of project views
- The different 'types' of project director
- What does the role involve?
- What does the foundation's mission of stewarding the language mean to you?
- Favorite outcome of the foundation's work?
- What would you like to see the foundation fund in future?
- Representing different perspectives on the board?
- Raising disagreements
- Would you take the role on again?
- Closing remarks
Sage Griffin: Hello everybody. Welcome to the Rust Foundation's quarterly AMA. My name is Sage Griffin. My pronouns are they/them. And today I am joined by two of our project directors, Jane Lusby and Ryan Levick, as well as the CEO and Executive Director of the foundation, Rebecca Rumbul. Hi everyone. So first, a little bit of housekeeping. This is being recorded, and the recording will be posted on the foundation website at some point after the AMA is over. If we have any questions that we don't get to, we may follow up in a blog post sometime after the fact. So without further ado, I've got some questions prepared, feel free to hit that Q&A button and ask questions if you have them, and I will get to them as they come in. But until then... I want to start by having you clarify for folks who aren't familiar, what is a project director, how does that role differ from the other directors? Jane, would you like to go first?
Jane Lusby: Sure. So the project directors are just like the other directors. We all sit on the board of directors for the foundation. But we specifically represent the project members instead of one of the companies that is a member of the foundation. There are five of us, and there's two types of project directors. There's the area directors and the core team directors. The area directors (I am one of them), each have a focus that they try and give extra attention to. So my focus is collaboration. We also have reliability, and quality. And then Ryan and Mark are the core team directors who represent the leadership perspective within the project.
Sage Griffin: Cool. Ryan, do you want to add anything to that?
Ryan Levick: I think that was a really great explanation from Jane. I guess the only thing I would add on top of it is, this goes without saying hopefully, but we take our perspectives as project directors pretty seriously. We want to do our absolute best to represent the interests of the project as a whole and not just our own individual interests or other interests that might be aligned with us. So when we're in board meetings or when we're talking with other directors or members of the project, we really try to think not about, what does Jane think about this specific thing? Or what does Ryan think about this specific thing? But, what does the project as a whole need? What are the different constituents in the project and how can we best serve that project?
Sage Griffin: It must be a lot of pressure. You both are in leadership positions within the project itself, and so people already take everything you say with some sort of authority, but to be in a role where you actually are speaking for the entire project... So you actually raised an interesting point, Ryan, because both of you (correct me if I'm wrong) work for companies that are also foundation members and also have board seats allocated to them, to that company's interests. Do you ever have to deal with, say, conflicts between what is in the project's best interest and your employer's best interest? How do you manage that balance of which hat you're wearing?
Jane Lusby: It's come up a couple of times. It's usually just about being really explicit. We have a disclosure form, so it's all very clearly documented what these relationships are. And I make sure to never bring up anything related to my employer in board meetings, because I don't have that seat as a perk from my employer. That's not who I'm representing in board meetings. So I never bring anything up like that in board meetings. But sometimes I'll email staff members and be like, by the way, this is me as someone who works at this company who's a silver member bringing up this other issue. Just being really clear about when I'm speaking with project director authority and when I'm not.
Ryan Levick: Yeah. To add on top of that, I think we've had the pretty good fortune so far that most of the time there hasn't really been any need for any conflict. The board has tended to not always agree 100%, but be very open and honest with discussion and be able to find good ways forward. And everybody operates in good faith and is open about why they're saying things. If they're coming from a particular company, they may say well, I have this point of view and here's why this is important to my company. And so as long as everybody's transparent, it makes it a lot easier. In addition to that, I work for Microsoft, our board representative is Nell Shamrell-Harrington, and Nell and I talk quite often about any potential conflict and are open and honest about what that means. I even sometimes, in a way, role play: like, if I were the Microsoft representative on the board, would I have answered differently? And sometimes the answer is yes, I would've maybe changed my answer slightly, because I have to represent different parties. So as long as we're talking through those different scenarios and things, that's never really led to any conflict as far as I'm aware.
Sage Griffin: Cool. And so what made you want to be project directors? What did the process for becoming one look like? Jane, how about you go first?
Jane Lusby: The core team reached out to me and asked if I would be interested. Because of my involvement with Awesome Rust Mentors and within the project, I was really excited about the idea of doing more work on collaboration within the project. So I would say the motivation was just my love of the project, and more specifically the people who work on it. Just wanting to make sure that I can do all I can to support those people and make the project an even better place to work in.
Ryan Levick: Yeah. For me, we had a different project director, Florian Gilcher, who was on the board, and when Florian stepped down we had to select a new one, and I volunteered for the role and was selected for it. The reason that I felt open about my desire to be on the board is frankly because I find a lot of this stuff that the board, I mean the foundation, is working on very interesting. The relationship between the foundation and the project is a very unique one, I think, in the open source world. It's not really a technical role at all. In this capacity as part of the foundation board we're not involved in any technical decision making. It's really more about the people side of open source, which frankly is the harder side of open source a lot of times, because people are hard and computers are easy! So I just thought it would be very interesting to work through some of those issues, talk with it. I was frankly surprised that a lot of people tend to shy away from these types of roles, probably because a lot of us come to open source for fun or to let off some steam. And a lot of this work is not the most relaxing, but I still thought it would be worth it. I'm glad that I decided to volunteer. It's been fun.
Sage Griffin: So I'm interested in hearing more about the process for selecting the project directors, because as you mentioned, this isn't really a technical role and yet most of the people who end up in leadership within the project tend to be there because of technical skills. Jane, you mentioned the core team reached out to you. Is the core team selection, the actual official process? Is there some other process, and how do you go about selecting the best people within the project for this role?
Jane Lusby: This is actually something like an evolving process. When the foundation was started it was difficult to define the membership of the project, to say who should be involved in this decision. So in order to make it so they could move forward initially, rather than trying to resolve all this organizational debt and figure out exactly what level of membership is entitled to vote on project directors and what isn't, they defined the project membership in the bylaws as the core team. And so the core team reached out to people and then together went through those reviews and selected from that pool who would be chosen, with the explicit intent that this would only be the process for the first round of project directors. Over time we would be able to do that organizational work, have our governance be more clear, have our membership be more clear, be able to have elections or whatever selection process we think is most appropriate, and have it basically be the project selects the project directors.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, do you have anything you wanted to add?
Ryan Levick: That's a good description of the official process. To add a little bit on what are some of the qualities that we look for in somebody that's in this role. Your point that technical leadership tends to be the ones that are most often available for this type of role is an interesting thing in open source in general. The people that come to the center of a project tend to be the ones that are the most technically sound, which makes a lot of intuitive sense. The challenge is that technical skills and building a great programming language, and being on a foundation board, are not always aligned. It's not always the people that are the best at making technical decisions who will be the ones who are best at being on a board. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they're not. It is, I think, a unique challenge to be able to find people who have great people skills, can talk through complex problems with people, find compromise, keep a cool head when things get heated, be able to work through controversial topics without taking a side and not trying to see the nuance. In part it's also trying to find the folks in the project who do have those skills and have the interest. And then convincing them that it's worth it is also another challenge. So that's the process that we've gone through so far.
Sage Griffin: And do y'all have any limits on how long you serve for? Are these decisions that have to get made every year, every two years?
Jane Lusby: Every two years.
Sage Griffin: Are there limits on how long you can serve? Can the project decide you are still the best person to be in this role and give you another two years?
Bec Rumbul: I can jump in on this. Yes, you are able to be re-elected. Obviously it's a bit difficult when you start an organization and the entire board is new. What we wouldn't want is for everyone's term to end exactly the same time and have a whole new cohort, because you want to keep some of that institutional knowledge. You want current project directors to be able to mentor new project directors onto the board. So there'll be a little bit of staggering, to ensure that we've got a good transition. But it's two years and re-election is obviously absolutely fine because if the project still think that these are the right people to represent them, then that's great.
Sage Griffin: Cool. Well, moving on, what are the most important accomplishments you would like to see the foundation achieve in the next two years? Ryan, let's go to you first.
Ryan Levick: Oh, that's a big one. Let's see. Well, I think the original core goal of the foundation is to be able to support the project, as well as the wider community, to be the best that it can be, and make sure that people inside of the project feel like they can contribute in a way that's not putting undue stress on their lives or anything like that. Being in open source is tough sometimes. At the end of the day, one of the central roles of the foundation is to make sure that people don't feel the blunt of the bad side of open source too much. I would love to see the foundation continue down the path of making that a true reality. There's been a lot of great stuff that has started, with the grants program that we've created, so it's definitely started going down that road, and I just want to see more. I want to see the Rust project achieve the same... not notoriety! that the Rust language and wider community has gained for being a welcoming language and a welcoming community. I think the project does have a reputation for being relatively open and welcoming thankfully, but we could do so much better. It should be an absolute joy to contribute to this language and to this community. And, sometimes due to the complexity (it's very big, there's a lot of people, the processes aren't always clear) there's a little bit of favoritism towards people that are already there, just through the sheer fact that it's hard to orient yourself within the project. I would really, really love to see that chisel away and get to the point where people can show up and just have a good time and contribute to the best of their ability.
Sage Griffin: Jane, how about you?
Jane Lusby: I think it's developing the relationship between the project and the foundation, which I think is the tool to get what Ryan was talking about. Having the grant program, and having more people go through this program, and having these fellows develop over time within the project. Having the various support mechanisms for things like making it more accessible globally as a project, expanding the project's reach, and things like that. And having it so we can be able to go to the foundation consistently and be like, Here's a problem, let's solve it. And being able to have those additional resources I think is not really like any specific big thing. It's just kind of like, keep going, keep developing, keep growing.
Sage Griffin: Cool. So what would you say that the people who are listening in can do to support you? What can other members of the project who aren't in this director role do to support the project directors? Jane, let's go to you first.
Jane Lusby: I'm having trouble thinking of good ideas... so let Ryan go first!
Ryan Levick: Let me flip that around real quick before I actually answer your question, and just say that at the end of the day, we're here to serve you on the project. So it's not really about how you can help us, but rather how can we help you. With that in mind, I think my answer to the question is please reach out, talk to us, tell us how things are going. If you're having issues, even if you feel like they're not even necessarily related to the foundation, we'd love to hear about your experience in the project, because maybe there's something that can be done through foundation means in order to address that at some point. Jane and I talk to a lot of people in the project, but naturally of course we have people that we've worked with before and people that we've met in real life: we don't know everybody in the project as well as we could potentially. So we'd love to hear from more voices about what we can be doing to better serve.
Jane Lusby: Yeah, so that primed me for what answer I want to give, which is more or less the same thing. We talked earlier about how it's important to represent the views of the project and not our own personal views when we're in board meetings, and I would say that's one of the harder things. There's hundreds of people in the project and we try and talk to as many people as we can. We can't talk to everyone. So helping us stay informed is probably the most important thing, because that's what we need in order to do our job, we need that information so that we can represent your needs.
Sage Griffin: Unless it's related to the error trait in which case you've got that covered. Right?
Jane Lusby: Yeah! I'm already searching Twitter all the time looking for error stuff!
Sage Griffin: So we've gotten a couple of different questions on a similar theme that I'm going to bunch all into one. We've talked a little bit about the challenges in finding the non-technical folks within the project. Do you think the project is doing enough to elevate folks who maybe are there for non-technical reasons into appropriate roles? And what do you think people can do to get involved in the project in that way? Ryan, let's go to you first.
Ryan Levick: My answer might come on too strong, so forgive me, but I would say absolutely not, we're not doing nearly enough to support people who want to contribute in quote-unquote 'non-technical' ways. Just as an aside, I'm still searching for a good term here when we talk about 'non-technical' things because at the end of the day we're creating a programming language, right? Everybody involved here probably has relatively deep technical expertise, and so we don't want to discount that. Just because you want to contribute in 'non-technical' ways doesn't mean that you can't also contribute in technical ways. But I digress. I think we definitely could be doing more to support folks who want to contribute, whether that's through project management, taking notes - that's super useful, but we sure as heck don't make it easy for people to just jump in and do that. Technical writing documentation is a great example. Shout out to Doc Jones who I know is doing a lot of work in that area. There's little bubbles of it out there. I'm not exactly sure on concrete steps yet of exactly what we need to do to make it better, but I think we absolutely should do that. And frankly, that's one of the things that I'm most excited about from the foundation side. I think the foundation is a really, really great tool that we could be using to facilitate some of this, through many different means that we can get into if we want to. Hopefully in a couple of years from now, we'll look at the project and see that, if people want to contribute partially or wholly in these 'non-technical' ways, then they know exactly where to go and they have a really great time doing it.
Sage Griffin: Jane, did you want to add anything to that?
Jane Lusby: Mirroring what Ryan said, I agree, we absolutely can do a lot better than we're currently doing. I think this ties a little bit back into some of the governance work that we've been working on. There's a blog post coming out soon, hopefully. We've been looking a lot at the structure of the governance. One of the things that was brought up in the requirements talk was having an explicit structure. A lot of the work we're doing for the governance within the project will go a long way towards making it easier to get in, because it makes it more clear what the goals are, responsibilities, what work needs to be done, and where you can go in order to get into that work. And so hopefully by making the project structure a lot more visible and obvious, it'll be a lot easier for people to navigate it, and get involved and find the technical work. I would call the 'non-tech' work maybe operational work or policy work, and there's probably other types of work that don't fit into those. But I think just being more explicit is the key to helping people find and do that work.
Sage Griffin: And hopefully folks understand that we're not trying to make the term be disparaging, it's just hard to find the right terminology for it.
Jane Lusby: It's also not as fun to refer to things based on negations of other things.
Sage Griffin: That's a good point, yeah. So, project directors sit as a separate role from the corporate directors, right? Have y'all ever found yourselves at odds with the corporate directors? And if so, what did coming to consensus look like? You both appear to be thinking for an answer, so I'll let either of you jump in as soon as you come up with one.
Jane Lusby: I can't recall any particularly dramatic conflicts that we've had. I don't know if we ever had something go to a vote and then fail. I think that generally it's a pretty congenial board. I wouldn't be surprised if there have been ideas that have been brought up at various times that got shot down very quickly and never progressed beyond that. But those don't stick around in my memory, so I'm not able to come up with any good examples off the top of my head.
Ryan Levick: Yeah. I'm also struggling to think of any really spicy details, unfortunately, because there really hasn't been too much of that. I guess every once in a while discussions get started, like Jane was saying, where it elicits an immediate reaction. This is way earlier than any vote (even an informal vote, which we sometimes have before having official votes, like, straw polls or whatever). Something comes up and there's two immediate reactions. Maybe one side is the corporate side and one side is the project side. It's not always down those party lines, but sometimes it does happen. I think people when they're in a certain frame of mind might be quick to go to, Oh, the obvious answer to this question is this. The reason that we have two types of directors and multiple perspectives on the board is for people on the other side of something to say, Whoa, whoa, whoa, have you thought about it this way? That might lead to an initial, not clash, that's way too strong of a word, but an initial like, okay, whoa, okay, I thought it was obvious, but apparently it's not obvious. And then everybody has to rethink and go through what they thought they knew and reorient themselves within the question. Sometimes that happens inside of board meetings and sometimes that happens one on one. I've had a couple of times during board meetings somebody write me one on one and say, the last thing I said I think maybe came off wrong, I just want to clarify a few points. It's like, oh yeah, okay, we're actually on the same page, we're just using different language to express the same idea. It does get interesting. It's not like we're always sitting there going, yep, we all agree 100%, but it's never gotten to the point where we're at each other's throats or anything like that. So I guess you won't be seeing a TV show made about us anytime soon, unfortunately.
Sage Griffin: Jane, did you have anything else you wanted to add to that?
Jane Lusby: No, I think that's good.
Sage Griffin: Both of you represent the project as a whole, in the project's interests. But as anybody who followed any of the RFCs, say, around 2018 or so, might remember, the project doesn't necessarily always have consensus within itself about things. Of course that's hopefully only directly focused on technical stuff, but there are certainly governance issues and things that the foundation might have a role in as well, where there might not be consensus within the project. So how do you go about balancing that and making sure that all of the different branches within the project have a chance to make their voice heard? How do you represent this entity that is so nebulous and might not even have consensus among itself about what's best? Jane, let's go to you first.
Jane Lusby: I would say this is probably the hardest part of the job, especially when there's conflict, which definitely does happen there. There are certain times when some project members will come with opinions that I don't necessarily 100% agree with. And usually my response to that is to talk to them about that perspective and be like, okay, I see where you're coming from, let's talk about it, let's figure it out. Like, this is why I feel maybe this approach that you're suggesting isn't the right approach and here's what I think we should do instead. How do you feel about that? And go back and forth with that project participant. Sometimes it'll also be going back and talking with the rest of the project directors, because that's a group that will all respond pretty quickly and so I can quickly gather feedback. It's a lot harder to get feedback from the project as a whole, or all of the project leadership. It's not always clear to us when there's a concern that's brought to us, if this is a concern that's widely supported, or if it's something that one person has, not widely supported. I would say that's actually currently an open problem of making that situation better for the project directors. Making it easier for us to take a concern, bring it before project leadership and make sure that we are correctly representing the project as a whole and not subsets thereof. For now we just play it by ear, do our best, try and make sure that everyone gets what they need and is happy at the end of the day.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, did you have anything you wanted to add?
Ryan Levick: I think what Jane said was spot on. Just to emphasize that building consensus, or even trying to understand where consensus might be found, is really, really hard work and also extremely emotionally draining as well. I'm not trying to elicit pity here or anything like that, but I would say if there was one aspect of the job that is sometimes not so fun, it's trying to have the patience to hear what can sometimes be the same argument over and over and over again, and trying to have the same conversations over and over and over again, and working through and doing the grind of trying to get people to think about things the same way. If you've ever been in a conversation where you feel like your argument is pretty sound and you're telling the person, "Well what do you think about this argument?" and then it feels like they just ignore you - it's probably because they're not in the right frame of mind to accept what you're saying or even understand where you're coming from. Imagine trying to do that for potentially hundreds of people. That's a lot of work. So going back to the previous question of what you can do to help us, I guess that's another thing. When engaging with us, try your very best to work with us on figuring out what the different sides are. Because as soon as everybody knows, these are the different perspectives and now we just gotta make trade-offs between them, the quicker you can get to consensus. It's very hard to come to consensus when you don't even understand what other people are saying.
Sage Griffin: So I'm actually curious because you're all project directors, but you do have specific titles, right? Ryan, you represent the core team, Jane, you represent collaboration, we've also got quality, and reliability. Do you feel that the project directors are generally more or less aligned on things, or does the subtle difference in what aspect of the project you're supposed to be representing ever really come into play?
Jane Lusby: I don't think we've ever had the different areas have conflict. We've definitely had the different areas guide people's involvement in initiatives. I have gravitated a lot towards the grant program and the governance, and the reason I'm doing the governance work within the project right now is in my role as the project director for collaboration, at least in my mind. But beyond that I would say no, they don't really conflict as far as I've ever seen.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, did you have anything to add?
Ryan Levick: Not really. Oh, go ahead Jane.
Jane Lusby: One thing I did want to add. You'll have to double check with Josh and Tyler, but I think I have heard them say in the past that they don't feel as confident with the areas and what that does for guiding them. So it might be useful as a project someday to revisit the three areas that we split out and see, like, are these helping? And talk to the project directors who have been in those positions, get their experience and see if it's something we should refine over time as well.
Sage Griffin: Cool. So let's talk a little bit more about what your role actually is. We've talked a lot about attending board meetings and being the voice of the project and voting in the board meetings. Is that the entirety of your role? What else is involved?
Jane Lusby: I would say the other really big piece is facilitating discussion, both ways. Helping staff members find project members to reach out to who are relevant for whatever initiatives they're working on. And project members who have issues, sometimes if they don't feel comfortable reaching out to people directly, I can be like, I can take this over to them for you, or I can just give them the relevant person to talk to. Like if it's the cloud compute initiative, tell them to go talk to Joel.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, do you have anything to add?
Ryan Levick: Along with that, it's not strictly necessary that we do this in our role of project directors, but there are oftentimes initiatives that the foundation will take on. One that comes to mind is the trademark policy that we've been working on. There's a little working group that's looking into that, there was a survey where we asked the project and the wider community for their feelings on certain aspects, and we're trying to synthesize that. I'm involved in my capacity as project director. There are people involved in it that have otherwise nothing really to do with the foundation, that are just project members. So I could have participated in my role as just a project member, but I feel like I'm coming from a place where I am representing the project, but I know that that ultimately has to translate to a board discussion, and I know the personalities on the board and where conversations might go and things like that. I think that makes my participation different than it would've otherwise been if I was participating purely as a project member. So at the end of the day, a lot of this stuff ultimately does come back to the board meetings where we end up exercising any of the invested authority that we have. In the three or four weeks during the month when there isn't that happening, we're preparing for that through our engagements in these different sub-projects, by talking with the staff in the fortnightly meetings that we have, and talking with other project members and things like that to get their perspectives. So yeah, it does end up being a bit more work than just the once a month engagement.
Sage Griffin: I didn't realize y'all were having your board meetings in the metaverse!
Bec Rumbul: Can I jump in there, Sage? Jane and Ryan are almost making it sound like less work than it is. It's a lot! They do a lot of work. They have an awful lot of boring documents to read and comment on, and then it disappears and the document circles back around again for more comments and more reviewing. This happens a lot. Running an organization like the foundation, there's documentation all over the place. These aren't people that just turn up to the board meeting, sit there, nod, have a quick conversation, and then leave again. There's a lot of documents to review beforehand. I don't know whether it was Jane or Ryan that said it earlier, but a lot of it's not really exciting stuff. It's looking at budgets and financial projections. These are things that are absolutely necessary for them to get their heads around as directors of the foundation, and they aren't just things you can glance at quickly and get it. If you've never seen a budget or a financial projection before, you actually have to sit down and learn how to do that, because their job is to hold me and my staff to account. This is a lot more work than they're making out, and I want to emphasize that. I absolutely rely on Jane and Ryan and the other project directors to try and help steer us and advise us. And when we make mistakes, they help us figure out what went wrong and try and do better. It's a lot and there are messages going back and forth all of the time. I think it's a great role. I don't want them to undersell how much they do!
Jane Lusby: Thank you!
Sage Griffin: Everything else aside, all the other work that you do, just having somebody whose job it is to represent, using the trademark as an example, once the working group comes to its decisions, having somebody who's already attending the board meetings and familiar with the process and all the other folks, somebody who is the known go-to point for bringing that to the rest of the board, I would imagine is incredibly helpful. So, the foundation's stated mission is that it is a steward to the language and the ecosystem. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you? Ryan, let's go to you first.
Ryan Levick: Yeah, that's a good question. Stewarding is in my mind a position of service, right? You're not leading, you're not necessarily making the decisions or steering the ship. You're rather clearing the path for others. And I think that that is core to what the foundation does. We already talked a little bit about how the foundation is not involved in any technical decision making. That's squarely in the house of the project. What the foundation does do is try to look out at the project and ask the question, what do you need? When the project then responds and says, "We need this," the foundation can synthesize those voices, because sometimes, you know, what the project thinks it needs is not actually what it needs: it needs something slightly different that can address multiple different needs. The foundation looks out, synthesizes the responses, and then tries its best to come up with solutions that will ultimately help the project. I think everybody here would agree that we're still young as the foundation, and we've not always gotten it right and frankly, it's a little unfair to expect the foundation to get it right every time on the first time. There needs to be a place for learning and growth. At the end of the day, when the foundation is doing its job the project will feel like it has everything it needs, and the foundation will be sitting there on the sidelines cheering it along the way and yelling rah rah rah, as the project does really wonderful things.
Sage Griffin: Jane, how about you? What does being a steward of the language mean to you?
Jane Lusby: I think Ryan said it very well. I would further emphasize the importance of listening and how the foundation really does a lot of work of finding out what the needs are and figuring out how to meet those needs. Beyond that, I don't think I have much more to add beyond what Ryan said.
Sage Griffin: Okay. Well, so Ryan, you mentioned that the foundation is still relatively young, but even in the short time it's been around, there's been a lot that has been accomplished by the foundation. Can y'all share your favorite outcome that has come out of the foundation? What has that been, and why is it that we're no longer asking unpaid volunteers to be on call for crates.io? Jane, let's go to you first.
Jane Lusby: That's a good one. It's definitely that one, because that is inhumane to have an on-call rotation which is two volunteers rotating for 12 hours each and every single day. So I'm really glad we don't have that anymore.
Sage Griffin: Jane knows firsthand what I went through when I was on call for multiple years.
Jane Lusby: Yes, and it does not sound good for one's mental health. Let's not do that to people ever again. I'm glad you mentioned that because I don't always remember everything we've done at all times. I think the grant program is particularly near and dear to my heart, and I'm really excited to see where all the grant recipients go over the next couple years and how these grants impact their involvement in the project and the work. I think it's going to be really disproportionate to the size of the monetary contributions. I think it's going to be really good. Very excited about it.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, how about you?
Ryan Levick: Jane's answer was really great, so definitely plus one to that. If I have to pick a different one: my answer is kind of lame, but I think it's really great that we can just do things like talk about trademark policy now. We can have a lawyer there, and trademark specialists to talk us through things. We're not relying on volunteers to have volunteer time for that, or trademark specialists that are just sitting around waiting to help for out for free in some random open source project - we get to actually pay experts for their expertise. We get to tackle the problems that are maybe not the most glamorous or the things that, if you're coming to contribute to Rust for the first time, you probably don't think about, but they're very, very necessary to do. If you don't do them, most of the time nothing happens and no one notices. But then that one time that something does happen, everybody notices and then the whole internet is ablaze with controversy. So we actually, for the first time in the history of the Rust Project, get to try and be ahead of the curve, and anticipate issues and try and work down some of our organizational and project debt that, because we've been a largely volunteer oriented organization for so long, we've just not been able to do. Like when we tried putting people on call, we had to do it in inhumane ways, which yes, we absolutely do not want to do that anymore.
Sage Griffin: Yeah, I mean, people underestimate the value, especially when we have parts of the project like crates.io, which host user submitted content that is subject to copyright, of having easy access to a lawyer and knowing where to go when you need a lawyer to get involved. It's really easy to underestimate how valuable that is. You really don't want to wait until you need a lawyer to know who to talk to to get a lawyer. So we've talked about the stuff that has happened. Are there any funding-related things that the foundation hasn't been able to fund yet that you'd like to see happen in the future?
Ryan Levick: We're on the path for this, so this is not quite true in that we've already done a couple of hirings, but I'd like to see more people hired to work on Rust full time. I think it's wonderful and great that people, myself included, can be hired by companies to work on Rust. That's awesome. My company, and I know a lot of other companies, will pay me to explicitly work on Rust, and not to work on Rust for things that my company needs, but rather just make Rust better. That's all well and good and great, but there's a lot of stuff where making the argument that a company should fund somebody full time to work on it is really hard. Sometimes we don't even want that. We want to make a clean separation between industry and what the project needs, so we can just avoid all of those funny questions from even having to be asked. So I would love to see even more hiring of specific things. We have people working in infrastructure now for the project full-time. That's really wonderful. I'd love to see people involved in tooling, project management - the roles that will make a contribution for those who are not working on it full time, maybe they're working on the weekends or in their free time, or even they're working for a company on a specific thing, just making their lives easier. There's so much we could be doing to make the project healthier by being strategic about placing people in the right place and giving them the capacity to double speed or give the project a power-up by doing the things that volunteers are frankly just not going to do, because why would you want to?
Jane Lusby: I have two things that come to mind. I'm not sure if any of them are specifically because of a lack of funding, it's just projects that we haven't had the time to work on or possibly haven't really talked about. Disclaimer, this is potentially even just my ideas and not necessarily stuff the foundation is committed to or anything like that! I know we've had discussions about accessibility, transcriptions, translations and helping English-as-a-second-language speakers, making the project more accessible to them as well as people with auditory processing disorders - anyone who benefits from having transcripts and things like that. I personally benefit from that. So there's a bit of bias, I would say, in that one! Another one that I'm interested in is I would like to see us do a lot more active inclusion work, because I think that the demographics in computer science in general and software open source are not great. I know it's a hard problem to solve. It's not something you can just snap your fingers and all of a sudden everything is exactly the same as average human populations globally. But I think that we can do better, and I would be excited to put in a lot more coordinated effort to find ways to make it possible for people who are systemically prevented from participating in the project due to lack of resources or time, to help them. I think the grant program is a really good step in that direction, but I think we'll probably need to go further. If we were to set goals, I think that we wouldn't get to those goals with just the grant program.
Sage Griffin: Yeah, I did really like to see that the grant program included paths for folks who aren't already super involved with the project, to still apply for a grant because some people don't have the ability to get involved in open source if they're not being paid.
Jane Lusby: Yes. I also really like how the grant program is just globally consistent pay, so it has a disproportionately positive impact in areas where there's less resources to be able to even get involved in the project in the first place.
Sage Griffin: So there are five project directors in total, and I think about a dozen corporate directors. Do you feel like the project has sufficient representation on the board, and are there any other perspectives either within the project or outside of the project that you don't think get the representation they should have? Jane, let's go to you first.
Jane Lusby: Percentage wise, it doesn't really matter what the relative count is because that's not how the voting on the board works. Any vote is a supermajority of both groups. And so if the project directors were all against something, the corporate directors, no matter how many of them there are, they can't force it. There has to be consent from both groups. Um, what was the second part of the question? I lost track.
Sage Griffin: Are there any other perspectives that you think aren't represented on the board?
Jane Lusby: Yes. So I think we do a good job of representing the project members and we do a good job representing the member companies. And the member companies are in a large part, like a lot of the community I would say, like, not just the companies themselves, but also a lot of the employees of those companies that they're not necessarily being directly represented at that level. The community itself is something that it would be cool to get more representation of, but it's hard because it's just such a nebulous thing. I think the project directors, and I think everyone's, representing those views as well, so maybe it's fine, but that's the one thing that isn't directly represented. Especially as the foundation grows, stewarding the language is also supporting the ecosystem. There's a feedback loop there. One does not exist without the other. I think that as that side of the foundation grows, there's going to be more need to make sure that we are listening to people who are affected by those decisions.
Ryan Levick: Yeah, as far as underrepresentation on the board, I definitely think there's a myriad of different ways that we're lacking representation, a lot of which is, not to make excuses immediately before I even tell you what it is, a lot of it's really hard to figure out. But with that in mind, I'm pretty sure obviously the corporate directors are full-time employees of their companies, and every project director is also employed by a company to work on Rust and has permission from their company I believe to serve in their role.
Jane Lusby: Everyone except for me, I think, has a slice of 'work' and 'project'. I'm the only one who's a hundred percent project time.
Ryan Levick: Yeah, there's nobody on the project directors who is a volunteer. But you know, at the same time it's also maybe not even really a good thing, because this is a lot of work and do we want to require somebody to volunteer their time to do all this? I don't know. So this is tough to do. The board is also predominantly American. I say that as an American, I do live in Europe so I have a slightly different perspective, but there are a lot of US Americans on the board and that comes from the fact that big tech is predominantly US American. It's not exclusive, but even the project directors, I think, all of us are US citizens and all have English as our native languages. That's true for almost all of the corporate members as well, so that definitely biases things. I would love to see a little bit more geographic representation there, but it is what it is. That's also maybe an issue we have in the project as well, because we have to communicate in English for lots of fun historical reasons we will not talk about here! English has a place in the world of tech and so here we are. We can go on and on about different perspectives that we're not maybe fully representing or representing the way that we should be, so it's going to be a work in progress. We can do better and I'd love to hear more perspectives on how we should accomplish that, because there's probably plenty of really bad ideas that make it look better on paper but end up with a worse experience inside of the foundation board.
Sage Griffin: Ideally as project directors you are getting all of the perspectives of the project, but if you ever did miss somehow, or somebody felt like their voice wasn't being included in what you're representing, how does a member of the project... what should they do, if they disagree?
Jane Lusby: Let us know different immediately! A lot of decisions are not instantaneous or permanent. So if there's some additional concern that comes up, the sooner we know about it, the sooner we can try and get that need integrated in anything that the foundation is working on.
Sage Griffin: And since you are the only project director who is 100% of your time on the project, all complaints should of course be directed to you, Jane. ;)
Jane Lusby: Yeah, I guess so!
Sage Griffin: Ryan, did you have anything you wanted to add?
Ryan Levick: I would add that I'm also happy to always hear from anybody. You can find me on Zulip, on Discord, email, whatever. I'm sure we can figure out a way to get my contact information out there to people. Please, please reach out, let me know. It can be anything all the way from, we just gotta figure out better ways of communication because sometimes people are upset about things that are not even true and we're just doing a poor job of communicating, which is in and of itself a very bad problem, but a different problem than needing to actually change a specific thing that's happening. So just reach out. We'll talk through it, we'll get your perspective and then I can guarantee you that it's going to be discussed a lot, because if there's one thing that we do it's try our very, very best to talk through all the different perspectives we've heard and figure out how we can best represent everybody.
Sage Griffin: We've got time for one more quick question. We've talked a lot about how hard a lot of what you do is and how much work it is. If you had to do it again, would you have still volunteered for this role? Jane, let's go to you first.
Jane Lusby: Yeah, I would have. I think the same motivation that existed when I took this role, the feeling still exists. And so, when I was asked to do it, it was in my mind like a vote of confidence and trust, and I really value that and respect that. And if the project tells me that they need me to do this and they want me to do this, then I will of course continue to help out as best I can, because this is where I work, it's practically where I live, so I want it to be a good place too.
Sage Griffin: Ryan, how about you?
Ryan Levick: Yeah, I feel very humbled by the fact that at least there are some people in this project that seem to trust me enough with this role. And I feel very honored by that. This has been one of the most difficult but yet very, very rewarding jobs that I've had, so I would absolutely, absolutely do it again. It's not always fun but a lot of times it is, and we get to work with great people. So absolutely I'd do it again.
Sage Griffin: Cool. Well, with that, we are out of time. Bec, did you have anything you wanted to add in closing?
Bec Rumbul: Just a thank you to Jane and to Ryan for sharing their experiences. It's a very strange, huge role and I think it's great that people have gotten to hear exactly how much they do and how fascinating a role it is.
Jane Lusby: Thank you for setting this up. It's a great idea.
Ryan Levick: Yeah. Thank you.
Sage Griffin: All right, well, that is all the time that we have. As I mentioned earlier, this session was recorded. Keep an eye out on the blog and the foundation's Twitter to get the recording when it's available. If we didn't have time to get to your question, we may follow up with it on a blog post at some point in the future, but no promises. With that, thank you very much to all of our panelists and thank you for attending!
Jane Lusby: My pleasure.
Ryan Levick: Thank you.