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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

OSI Announces New Board

Line-up includes new directors from Europe.

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The Open Source Initiative has announced the results of a ballot by its members to select new directors for its board. The outcome sees more diversity and strong community skills introduced, signalling new horizons for the 15 year old organisation.

Created in 1998-9, OSI has been a crucial steward of the idea of open source and the license benchmark that framed it, complementing the more ideological approach of the older Free Software Foundation. With the maturity of the open source concept and its pervasiveness in the software industry, OSI's leadership realised as long ago as 2006 that a new vision was needed. A process of renewal began in 2008 and OSI has consequently been restructuring for the last few years, most recently with the appointment of Patrick Masson as General Manager. It's not just been a leadership change; OSI has been building bridges with the Free Software Foundation, most recently jointly submitting a brief to the Supreme Court concerning software patents.

This change has taken a measured pace converting to a member-selected Board of Directors, turning the choice of individual directors over to members as vacancies naturally arose. The membership comprises individuals and non-profit open source-related organisations, 'Affiliates'. Individual members get to re-select directors for each of the seats allocated to them every year, while Affiliates select directors to serve for three years. This ensures both regular fresh blood as well as stable corporate memory.

Leaving the Board at the end of March were Karl Fogel, author of the seminal O'Reilly book "Producing Open Source Software", and former Debian GNU/Linux Project Lead Martin Michlmayr. Both have been active in multiple roles within the changing organisation notably serving as Treasurer and Secretary respectively. They continue to be involved with OSI's infrastructure.

Additional seats were available with the first Individual Member seat expiring and the term-limited retirement of Indian academic Harshad Gune. The Affiliate seat was held by Richard Fontana, now at Red Hat but formerly a key draftsman of the GNU General Public License version 3. Fontana retained the seat in the 2014 poll.

New to the Board in two new Individual Member seats are well-known female leaders in the open source community. Top of the poll was Allison Randal, well known in the Perl community for her work on Parrot and a former chair of O'Reilly's Open Source Convention (OSCON). Now at HP, she previous held a CTO role at Ubuntu sponsors Canonical Ltd. Also selected from the field of 14 candidates was Leslie Hawthorn, once manager of Google's Summer of Code and now living in Europe, working at ElasticSearch and serving on several boards including the Sahana Foundation.

The new vacancy allocated to Affiliate Members was filled by Stefano "Zack" Zachirolli, a professor in Paris, France who recently completed a well-regarded term as Debian Project Lead. Zachirolli, an Italian living in France, further extends the geographic spread of OSI's leadership.

The results of the polls illustrate a new lease of life for OSI, which is steadily developing new programs to spread the understanding of open source. The transfer to a fully member-selected Board will complete in 2016, but the election of experienced open source professionals from Europe as well as the US bodes well.

[Disclosure: I am currently President of OSI]


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