Bjoern Michaelsen, candidate for the affiliate seat of the OSI board election 2020

Last modified by BjoernMichaelsen on 2020/03/02 19:59


I'm Bjoern Michaelsen and I am a candidate in the 2020 OSI board election for an affiliate seat. I was nominated for this by the Document Foundation.

I am running because:

  • open source has massively shaped the world of software for the better in past decades, and I want to ensure it will continue to do in the future.
  • I have more than a decade experience in open source software development and years of experience in open source leadership and want to share this experience at OSI.
  • I want to grow OSI as a platform for collaboration across the software industry for individuals and commercial players alike and ensuring we continue to enable to champion innovation and agency for the creators and contributors of software.



experience and background

Here is some relevant key data on my professional background that should help you decide if I can make qualified contributions to OSI as a board member:

  • 2008-2011 worked on the team at Sun Microsystems, later Oracle.
  • 2011-2017 worked on the Ubuntu Desktop team at Canonical.
  • 2012-2020 founded and served on the Board of The Document Foundation as Director and ultimately Deputy Chairman.
  • since 2011: served on the Engineering Steering Committee of LibreOffice since even before the Document Foundation existed.
  • since 2017: currently working at on e-commerce and cloud projects without an open source business model.

As you can see, I have:

  • experience on the challenges and opportunities for volunteer contributors in open source projects.
  • experience on the challenges and opportunities of open source for small and medium businesses.
  • experience on the challenges and opportunities of open source for corporations.
  • experience with coopetition in leading a major open source project both administratively and technically.
  • experience with technical project community building, for example I was and am involved with the majority of Hackfests (community events) to bring together both commercial and volunteer contributors to the LibreOffice project.
  • a low chance of conflict of interest as my current day job does not involve a business model using open source.


To give you an idea what to expect for my contributions to OSI board work, I take advantage of these excellent questions by Luis Villa for other candidates in this election already.

  1. If OSI could do only one thing, what would it be? (Obviously it can do more, but not much more, so I’d love to understand your #1 priority for the org.)
    The single most important role of OSI is it being the guardian of the open source definition and its interpretation. Luckily, the wording of the OSD itself is quite stable, however the interpretation is an ongoing process as open source ecosystems and markets change. OSI needs to be the place to protect the original promise of open source even in changing environments and to keep in a relevant instrument in the industry for commercial players and individuals alike.
  2. Should OSI move towards a board that advises more and does (on a day-to-day basis) less? If so, what will you do to help bring about that change? If not, why not?
    I would consider it a bug in the setup of OSI if "doing" would require a board position. OSI should be bigger than its board. As such, the boards responsibility should be to set up an environment and give the agency for others to succeed in activities that further the mission of OSI. That does not rule out OSI board members to also "do", but as a primary motivation for seeking board membership I consider that flawed: It risks letting the support for the wider community of contributors slip and also can be a troublesome source of conflict of interest when prioritizing personal projects against the work of others.
  3. If OSI has to choose between being an agent of change and a stabilizing force, which should it prefer?
    Open source is an success story that now spans decades. OSI should be careful when touching the core elements that made open source such a remarkable success. However, over the decades the environment in which open source lives and operates changes. OSI is wise to be open to adapt to these changes to stay relevant and use new opportunities, while protecting what was already won.
  4. What should OSI do about the tens of millions of people who regularly collaborate to build software online (often calling that activity, colloquially, open source) but have literally no idea what OSI is or what it does?
    Attacking this problem depends on ecosystems and structure this "open source activity" happens in: If there are institutions and governance backing these projects (like e.g. the Document Foundation, Debian, Apache Foundation) collaborating with these is the most effective way to reach these people. A challenge is the rise of smaller projects without such governance, which are not easily reached by this approach. Supporting the development of leadership skills and encouraging the formation of governance to partner and affiliate with will help creating visibility for OSI -- and it might bring expertise on governance (be it about licensing, copyright, Codes of Conducts or marketing) valuable to smaller projects. That does not mean that OSI should fill this role itself -- but it should support the strengthening of project governance to allow it to succeed in bringing forward its own goals.
  5. You have 24 hours in the day, and are talented enough to do many different things. Why do you want to give some of those hours to OSI?
    I have 8 years of experience in formal open source governance by serving pro-bono on the board of the Document Foundation -- and more if you add my time on the LibreOffice Engineering Steering Committee before the formation of the Document Foundation. I think I can bring this experience to use at OSI. Now that might sound way too altruistic to be true and of course it is: Beyond the above it will simply help me keeping these well-trained skills sharp and continue to improve them in a new environment. Oh, and for some strange reason: I still care deeply about open source as a concept.
  6. If an Ethical Software Initiative sprung up tomorrow, what should OSI’s relationship to it be? (If you’re uncomfortable answering this about ethical software, consider instead answering with regards to the FSF or LF, or another hypothetical institution that to some extent competes with OSI for resources and influence.)
    The same as with e.g. Conservancy. There should be clarity on differences and shared goals. In practical terms the latter will likely prevail and interests should be aligned, e.g. when the spirit of open source is being attacked in principle. On the differences, OSI should "agree to disagree" and hopefully neither an ESI nor OSI will need to spend rare resources on fighting each other. Having good communication channels between a potential ESI and OSI should go a long way in preventing unhelpful escalation.

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