Forum .LRN Q&A: Response to Request for Comment: dotLRN Technology Governance

One important practical difference between the OF and MIT proposals concerns this question: Who decides platform direction?

In the OF proposal, all power emanates from and is concentrated in an uber-technical-gatekeeper. In Ben's words: "The OF proposal seeks to provide direction with an empowered, technically-oriented gatekeeper." The MIT proposal tries to establish a checks and balances among multiple and possibly competing stakeholders. Above all, it recognizes that users as well as those who fund dotLRN development need a seat at the table. In my opinion, dotLRN will never get off the ground unless this is explicitly recognized from the start in the governance model.

Now, what happens if the uber-technical gatekeeper also happens to work for a vendor? It's no secret that Ben is the obvious choice for dotLRN kernel gatekeeper. I would be the first to support that choice. But Ben is also the CEO and CTO of OpenForce. What are the checks and balances to ensure that the uber-gatekeeper will not skew platform direction in the interests of his/her company? What is to ensure that the uber-gatekeeper will be responsive to the needs of the users and funders? What recourse do the users and funders have?

Whether I trust a particular gatekeeper or not is irrelevant. You cannot establish sound governance or bylaws around particular personalities. Ben would mitigate the risk ("abuse of power") by limiting the term. Well, that's marvelous. If it's a one year term as is being proposed, that's more than enough time to sink the project into oblivion based on a few mistakes, unresponsiveness, or poor strategy.

We decided to go the opensource route for business not ideological reasons. We didn't want to be locked into one vendor. The OF model is worse. We could end up banking our entire strategic technology on one individual working for one company. No organization with any business sense will buy into that model. In short, the fundamental flaw in the OF model is that it lacks systematic provisions for allowing users and funders, two critical stakeholders, to influence platform direction.