I think it’s seriously time for us to really have a discussion about Mastodon’s governance. We didn’t make any progress at all in the past year and I think, at this pace, we are going to face a real governance problem sooner or later.
First and foremost, I want to make it clear that this post isn’t intended to be a personal critic against you @Gargron: you always seemed like a really nice person to me. Besides, this isn’t about the quality of your work nor your dedication to Mastodon either. We all saw how hard your work on it and how passionate you are about it. If it wasn’t for you, none of us will be here.
During the past few months, I saw a lot of people who contribute to the project being unhappy with how things are going. Based on what I saw, the most common complaints seem to be:
- A lot of pull requests are just laying around, sometimes since more than a year, waiting for someone to review them or for Gargron to merge them.
- More generally, the GitHub project seems under-maintained. Most issues aren’t properly tagged anymore and almost all pull requests aren’t.
- There’s doesn’t seem to be any mid-term or long-term goals for the project. There used to be project boards for some of the earlier versions, but it’s been months since a release had one. Besides, even when they were a thing, releases were usually shipped before the project goals were all reached.
- Some developers seem to find it difficult to discuss with Gargron.
- mastodon.social’s moderation team seems understaffed. Aside from Gargron, who already has a lot on his plate when it’s come to Mastodon, there is only three moderators. As of today, with almost 160,000 users on mastodon.social, that’s a ratio of 1 moderator for 40,000 users.
- The project management is really unintelligible, even for invested users like me. For example, after Maloki first departure, some months ago, a Community Manager was named. After the first weeks, I never heard of her anymore. Since there is no team page and since the announcement of her nomination wasn’t even published on the official Mastodon account, I never managed to find what she was up to. I recently learned that her contract only lasted a month or something and that there was no replacement.
Maloki’s recent departure
Aside from the above points, something really puzzles me: the circumstances of Maloki’s recent departure.
Some context: last year, following some events of which nature I don’t remember exactly, it was decided to create a new role inside the Mastodon project: Project Manager. Maloki was then hired by Gargron to fill that role. Sadly, some months later, she had to resign for personal reasons. The Project Manager position then stayed vacant for quite some times. But last month, she announced being rehired as Mastodon’s Project Manager.
However, she announced yesterday, that her contract won’t be renewed after the end of the month. It seems this sudden announcement is, at least partially, the result of a misunderstanding between her and Gargron. Nonetheless, I still have a few questions about this:
- What was the point to rehire a Project Manager for only a month? Was it planned to renew her contract but that was finally not possible? And if it wasn’t planned, why rehire someone on the first place?
- I can get there was a misunderstanding on the contract duration, but why is this misunderstanding only cleared now, almost at the end of the contract? I’m puzzled at how this wasn’t brought before between Gargron and Maloki during the time they were working together. I would also like to point out that this leaves a worker without a job on a very short term.
- Is it planned to hire a new Project Manager? And if not, why? Are the problems the introduction of this position was meant to solve not actual problems anymore?
What to do from now?
I suggest we put a proper governance in place. Whatever is the governance model we choose, it needs to account that there is different aspects to the project (development, community management, mastodon.social…) and different populations (developers, instance’s admins, end users…) that may have different needs.
I suggest everyone to take a look at Debian’s constitution, not because I think it’s the model we need to follow, but because I think it has the kind of formal writing we should expect to such a document.
I’m sorry, I had a lot of other things to say, but since my English is getting worse and worse as I write this, I think I’ll stop here for now.