What do I do as Executive Director of GNOME?

I get asked a lot what I do, exactly, as executive director of the GNOME Foundation.

First off, I want to say I’m really glad I work for an organization where people feel comfortable asking “what do you do?” It shows they care about the organization and are not afraid to ask tough questions. Have you ever asked your boss what they did, exactly?

Secondly, I have to admit that when I first got asked, that first day on the job at GUADEC, I wanted to go “I don’t know!! What do you think I should be doing?” (I did ask the “What do you think I should be doing part” of a few people and I’m always interested in hearing anyone’s answer to that question.)

Ok, so to the point, what do I do? I’m going to answer in three parts.

  • First, the things I think I should be doing, the things I was hired to do.
  • Second, a sampling of what I worked on in the past week.
  • Third, a whole list of things I think need to be done and I’d like to work on.

My “Job Description”

Here’s a picture I drew a long time ago about how I see my job:

(Obviously I was not hired for my artistic talents, great as they are!)

I think of my job as having five parts.

  1. One is to be the eyes and ears for GNOME. Part of it is just to be the person that people can come to, not so much as a representative of the community, but as the interface for the community–a single point of contact as well as someone who attends conferences and does things like this to promote awareness of GNOME.
  2. Fundraising. This has two parts.
    First is working closely with our sponsors. The GNOME Foundation is funded by donations from volunteers as well as large donations from our corporate sponsors. Part of my job is finding new ones and working closely with existing ones to make sure that their relationship with GNOME is a good one and that the Foundation offers what they need.
    The second is finding new fundraising opportunities. Like our recently launched Friends of GNOME that enables you to sign up for small monthly donations. (That wasn’t just my idea by the way. I’m glad we have it – the FSF’s program is extremely successful. If our community can duplicate that success, you will see the GNOME Foundation grow tremendously. So sign up and spread the word!)
  3. Along with that comes marketing. We have a marketing team, but part of my job is to figure out what we want to do with GNOME marketing and help set up the infrastructure so that people can help work on marketing. Check out my lists below – there’s lots of marketing stuff on it.
  4. Business development. What opportunities should we be pushing for, what should we be watching for, where could we make a move? This is why I’m involved in GNOME Mobile. There’s a huge opportunity for GNOME in the mobile space and we have to act now. I also think we need to take a more aggressive stand. Aggressive is not the right word. Perhaps holistic. We have to stand for free and open source on the mobile platform – not just pieces of it but everything people need – like we do on the desktop.
  5. Housekeeping. (That’s the broom in the picture, by the way.) Part of my job is helping to make sure the day-to-day stuff happens. We have a lot of things going on in GNOME with lots of people working on multiple projects and lots of ideas floating around. One of my jobs is to help make sure good ideas get done and have the resources they need. That’s pretty much what I did with Friends of GNOME. The idea was there, people were willing to work on it, I just pushed a bit. (Luckily we also have Rosanna!)

A sampling of what I do (work-wise that is)

Here’s some of the things I’ve done in the past week:

  • Emailed each of our corporate sponsors with an estimate of money we’ll be requesting from them in 2009. Asked how and when they’d like to receive requests for invoices and if they had any suggestions about the plan.
  • Had the GNOME Advisory Board meeting. We did a roundtable and asked what people were working on in GNOME in 2009.
  • Helped launch Friends of GNOME. Yeah! (Have you signed up yet?) Sent out email to all the press people I know to let them know about it.
  • Talked to a company who would like to sponsor the GNOME Foundation. They invited me to meet with their architectural committee and asked for the brochure. (Added that to my marketing wish/todo list.)
  • Worked on the Desktop Summit sponsor brochure with a couple of the KDE folks. Figured out who was going to approach which companies about sponsoring the Summit/GUADEC/Akademy.
  • Set up meetings for next week with most of our corporate sponsors to touch base and get their feedback. (Still have a few meetings to set up.)
  • Gave a talk at the Denver JUG. The talk wasn’t about GNOME but I saw it as a chance to spread the word about open source, enabling open source fans to use more in their companies. Also put in a plug for Friends of GNOME and got to explain to quite a few people what GNOME was exactly. (Did I mention we need some more marketing?) I spent quite a bit of time preparing the talk – I very much believe if you are going to use an hour of 40 peoples’ time, you should use it well.
  • Had a call with the KDE and GNOME boards about how we are handling the finances for the Desktop Summit. Got our attorney to review the written draft.
  • Spent a few minutes thinking about what I would like to see in the desktop/netbook track of the OpenSource World conference. (I’m organizing the desktop/netbook track. Let me know if you have good ideas for speakers, including yourself.)
  • Joined the GNOME accessibility team meeting to talk about what our two interns in the FOSS Humanitarian program will work on this summer.
  • Exchanged an email about the MBA/marketing/business development internship program I’d like to get started.
  • Read, answered, participated in an incredible amount of email, IMs, Twits and IRC chats. (And I think these are an important part of getting my job done, so I try never to complain about having too much email because I wouldn’t really want less. I just try to be as effective as possible with my communications.)

Things I’d like to see get done (by me or others)

I’m not going to elaborate on them since each one could be a post (or set of posts) all in themselves.

  • GNOME Marketing 2009 goals – a list of all the marketing stuff we’d like to do but more importantly clear goals and priorities.
  • A marketing/business development internship program. We have interns that write code, why not interns that help with marketing tasks?
  • GNOME Foundation sponsorship brochure for corporate sponsors.
  • A GNOME merchandise store.
  • Storyboards and slides. Lots of different slides that lots of different people could use to talk about GNOME in different ways and different venues.
  • Fundraising contacts. I’m trying to reach out to more of the mobile and netbook vendors.
  • Fundraising “marketing”. How do we spread the word, use social networks, get ads, etc?
  • Usability study. I mention it a lot, other people mention it a lot. I did exchange email this week with a usability company that might be willing to help us out at a greatly reduced cost if we share results and publicity.
  • System administrator. We’d love to hire a part time system administrator. We need a few more regular corporate sponsors to feel comfortable with this. (Or more committed income from the sponsors we have.)
  • Setting up a SugarCRM-like system to track Foundation stuff. (Dave Neary got SugarCRM to agree to give us a free account which is why I mention them.)
  • Making sure we are on the right track with GNOME Mobile.
  • ….

So, that is what I do as executive director of the GNOME Foundation. What would you like to see me do?

12 Replies to “What do I do as Executive Director of GNOME?”

  1. it would be great if the friend of Gnome site actually had a picture and a short presentation about what each person does, which programs they handle etc. A link to their blog would also be good.

  2. I’m wondering if the upcoming joint KDE/GNOME conference would be willing to hold a session on combining the two projects’ HIG documents into one. I’m sure there will be some “agree to disagree” parts but why not save the work, and have the differences available to help people think about how to surprise users less?

  3. Wow i wish i could ask my boss what he does.. :p lol that would seriously make him wanna kick me out some whow 😉
    Any ways, stormy, your one of the inspiration person for the female world to enter FOSS.
    And as a Gnome head, your doing good. I really liked your dramatic representation of what u do.
    Thanks and keep rocking.

  4. >What would you like to see me do?
    Get rid of poverty and famine.
    Or at the very least disease like Mono.

  5. One very challenging task is building the bridge between kde and gnome teams. There is a lot of duplication of effort between kde – gnome teams and very less co-operation.
    Almost every tool has a gnome version and kde version…
    GNU/Linux desktop is like traveling on a boat with two people rowing it in their own way…its just going nowhere !

  6. If you want to get rid of mono, just use KDE.
    I wish Gnome would just ‘die’, gnome 3 is not doing very well with it’s design compared to KDE4. This is coming from an usability expert / graphic designer / open source fanatic and advocate.
    I know it sounds harsh, but KDE4 is way ahead and has a solid design, but most of the applications are ‘krappy’.
    We don’t need 10 file managers for an OS that has 2% estimated market share for the desktop. The freedom of choice (at least for now) should be getting away from commercial/closer source stuff to foss.
    But regarding freedom of choice within the desktop environment, KDE4 allows you to build your desktop as you wish, it’s sort of like an easy to use/customize toolkit, while on the other hand, Gnome 3 is designed very stiff and lacks freedom and customization.
    A single DE means more and better advertising, less bugs, more features, faster and more safer applications AND less code duplication and flame wars. Atm linux really looks like a child having all sorts of personality issues, sort of like in that movie “Identity”.
    Anyway, my guess is that ‘gnomes’ won’t give up and ‘try to come up with something better and better’, so the only thing to do for KDE4 is to become better and attract more developers and users as well…. Hopefully by the time i’ll die most people will take linux more seriously for the desktop and devices…
    What can i say, keep up the good work, but as i see gnome 3 going for right now, it just might be the end of Gnome series. I’m aware my post might hurt feelings, i like Gnome and I use it, but regarding the future… not very sure I’ll keep doing that.

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