ESC tendering policy changes ...

Michael Meeks michael.meeks at
Fri Apr 21 08:41:16 UTC 2023

Hi there,

> * ESC tender project proposal process (Thorsten)
>    + proposal would be: (Thorsten)
>      + share the draft in public: see 

	I spend a little time reading and thinking about them a bit; here is 
where I got to with an hour or so:

     + as I understand it this allows all of the ESC members to rank
       proposals - while only those without a (very theoretical) COI
       can vote on that as a recommendation to the board.

         + if so - that should be made more explicit in the
           Ranking text: "all members of the ESC can rank

Easy to improve:

     + the staff should have a formal role in ensuring that the
       "Ordinary Procedure" takes place in a timely way, with
       announcements clearly signaled, community informed,
       deadlines well presented etc.

         + as many 'MUST's that involve deadlines should fall
           on paid staff not volunteer ESC members.

	+ it is a typical, external misunderstanding that
	  the ESC is some top-down command & control thing,
	  better to think of it as a group of friends
	  meeting up.

     + Staff voting

         + due to the excessive exclusion rules, paid TDF staff
	  will inevitably become the overwhelmingly dominant
           voting block in the ESC on tendering.
         + as such - staff must be protected from fear of
           consequences of voting any given way in the ESC.
         + it should be made clear that they are there as
           individuals and volunteers; that they cannot be
           instructed to vote any given way, and that any
           retaliation in the management chain to the board
           will be treated severely.
         + possibly this belongs in a simple covenant from
           TDF - and not here, but - it is worth saying,
	  and it goes without saying that my understanding is
	  that all paid staff are treated like this anyway.

Easy typo:
     + s/Form Tendering/From Tendering/

'MUST' be improved:

     + the unnecessary lengths we go to exclude people: the three
       years is egregiously punitive - particularly in light of
       the forward looking Declaration of Potential Conflict; lets
       remove it. The future matters, for future tendering, not
       the past.

     + the effort we go to to exclude people - when the output of
       this is just good advice for the board to act on is staggering.

         + the balance seems very substantially wrong in terms
           of preserving our statutory meritocracy & efficiency

	+ it is not worth sacrificing these to this extent to
	  try to solve every possible concern someone could
	  raise: there is already significant ongoing risk of people
	  using such spurious concerns to unbalance our governance.

     + Effort Estimate & exclusion is silly:

         + excluding the few non-conflicted experts in the
           space - who are vital to review the code is totally

             + if someone is not going to tender, and is not
               affiliated - just assessing the estimate
               should not exclude them from further process -
	      such as eg. seeing if it was delivered properly.

	    + it is very unclear what rational can be used to
	      add a whole extra layer of CoI here.

	    + the pool of skilled people here in any specific
	      area is small.

         + There are also many deeply wrong ideas embedded in
           this idea of an accurate effort estimate.

wrong premise 1. that effort is easy to estimate - for
                extreme accuracy it takes a significant %age
	       of the time to do the job.

                 + such estimates are best done by 2x
                   skilled people, with a range of
                   best/likely/worst triple-point
                   estimates, breaking down the problem

		+ even so - fixed-priced projects bankrupt
		  skilled consultancies in all industries,
		  even non-innovative traditional ones eg.
		  building projects.

wrong premise 2. that all engineers have the same
                skill/experience level - there is no
                "person day" - this varies 10x depending
                on the person even among experienced engineers
	       cf. Fred Brooks, passim ad nauseum

wrong premise 3. that person days can be meaningfully linked
                to cost for a fixed-price project.

                 + pricing include risk of overruns

                 + pricing includes load factors & other
		  concurrent bids, capacity, probability of
		  other bids closing etc. this is a commercial
		  nightmare; think Ryan-Air, over-selling the
		  plane by a factor of two.

                 + payment risk as well as reputational risks of
                   contracting for TDF are -very- substantial.

                the only sensible determination of price is
                by seeing the result of a public, contested
	       tendering. To pretend otherwise is silly.

             4. many tendered fixed-price tasks cost the people
	       executing on them rather more than they are bid
	       for - not even the companies with the experts
	       can get this perfectly right.

         + worse - this quest for an accurate estimate seems to
	  serve no very useful purpose. It is fine to have a
	  hyper-accurate number, but if no-one will deliver it in
	  that time - you wasted your time.

         + I would suggest that we instead have a process that
           ranks tasks, tenders them by priority top-down and then
	  decides on reasonableness based on a number of ball-park

	    + the wisdom of crowds can give us several rough
	      ball-parks reasonably easily.

             + and otherwise to completely ignore this step, or
	      at least explain what extra purpose it tries to solve

     + Obvious hostages to fortune:

         "Only non-Conflicted Members can vote in the ESC."

         + this needs to be profoundly (and redundantly)
           specialized - in the text - to avoid its mis-use,
           and mis-quoting outside the context of this policy.

             + please add many more un-necessary words - Carlo
	      has made a nice neat text, but the messy political
	      reality is of constant word twisting at TDF.

             + the sign that we need a 'Note:' here to stop
               people panic-ing - is a good one that this
               will cause problems and mis-understandings
               in future.

             + wherever there is a note - make the text
               more verbose, and clearer as to scope at
               the expense of redundancy.

             + this will save much acrimony & discussion
               in future - the definition of Conflicted here
	      is excessively broad for no obvious reason, it
	      should not be widely applied.

     With those fixed, it looks fine - plenty of non-controversial & 
well drafted stuff in there. In fact - I'm rather pleased with the tone, 
approach and balance in general - it's refreshing.

     Since the ESC has (as yet) not been poisoned, and still works by 
consensus - it seems good to build a social solution on top of that here 
that can work well to avoid the (AFAICS) totally theoretical problem of 
people advising the board to invest in one thing or another.

     As I said in the call, there are ideas to have simpler ways to 
avoid all of this legalese: for example having the Trustees vote on 
things they particularly like / want - although - generally (having 
helped to run the ranking in the past) - it is like pulling teeth even 
getting enough individuals of the ESC to spend the hour(s) it takes to 
read all the proposals, give them a fair hearing and provide a sensible 
ranking for them. Possibly this could be a bonus for membership.

     Then again the ESC has traditionally focused on on-sexy, technical 
debt type things that we can be sure no-one else will be able to do for 
fun / afford.



michael.meeks at <><, GM Collabora Productivity
Hangout: mejmeeks at, Skype: mmeeks
(M) +44 7795 666 147 - timezone usually UK / Europe

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