Agree on laser-focus drivers for periods of time?

It seems that there’s only very few active people currently. However, there’s lots of things going on in parallel.

As a result, while there is stuff happening here and there, everything is moving very slowly. This produces the impression of no progress – even if actual progress is made when you sum it across all areas of work.

I think needs to focus more on very very very few things at a time. The current focus needs to both a) be very clear and b) have a tangible impact for the success of, so I think it should be a driver statement.

The consequences would be a) (for the core team and potential volunteers) confidence that the time you spend for is very productive, b) (for spectators) more visible progress and thus trust in as a potential funding platform, c) (for sooner “launch” into the next phase (i.e. funding the first non-snowdrift project I guess).

It would probably make sense to do a proposal-forming + consent-decision on this (I think important drivers can be brainstormed about and decided on in the same way as “real” decisions) in a meeting where as many core team people as possible are present.

To be clear about the term “laser-focus”: I really think you should (at the time of the consent-decision) commit to not spending any time for except for the driver you agree to focus on.

Example ideas for laser-focus drivers (the drivers should be complete driver statements of course):

  • Clear commitments etc as a foundation for progress and plannability
  • More volunteer engagement (i.e. do everything within our reach to cause more volunteer engagement (as a long-term investment done early), then quickly move on to sth else while keeping that intact)
  • First crowdmatch for first non-snowdrift project
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Btw this might include giving no or very little time to agenda items that aren’t related to the current focus, which might hopefully make the meeting more interesting, because every single second of the meeting time is focused on something that is currently very important and productive.

If suddenly you have lots of time left because you removed lots of agenda items, then you can a) do more proposal forming together for important drivers, b) cut the meeting short and do something productive right away.

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It is important to focus on a small number of things. Ironically, in my (our) experience, a project needs full-time activity to actually support such a focus.

When there isn’t enough energy to go around—the standard situation for many FLO projects—the project must rely on individual, intrinsic motivations. Those motivations are usually many and only vaguely related to each other.

I welcome anyone whose interest is in thinking strategically and highlighting important work areas. They may inspire more efficient volunteer contributions by giving some guidance. But there’s no way to force a rag-tag group of volunteers to only focus on certain areas. Attempting to do so will probably just cause burn-out.

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Thanks for the objection, this is really good info. WDYT about the proposal if “laser-focus” is not defined as “committing not to spend time for except for stuff relating to this driver”, but instead “giving priority to things relating to this driver whenever things (one relating to the driver, one not) compete for attention”?

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Thanks for prompting this important discussion.

I think clarity of focus and getting people on the same page, being able to see how what we’re doing fits in clearing the path… that stuff is essential to motivation and immediate progress.

More specifically, I agree that these sorts of meta concerns are themselves priority. Getting this stuff improved (and good-enough, not perfected) will unblock a lot of other work. So, these issues have been my own focus lately.

I wrote some more about my personal priorities at Wolftune's personal check-ins


We do need priorities clear, and that’s distinct from limiting work on other things. If someone is feeling tired and wants to just do some wiki cleanup or whatever instead of some other harder work, that’s not harmful as long as they understand whether something is or isn’t really the priority item.

There is, however, some cost to the noise and distraction of low-priority work. Wiki edits might just show activity and inspire others around general progress. But if reviewing those edits distracts someone from priority work they’d be doing otherwise, that’s a problem.

Community activity tension

It was a fascinating contrast when you @photm posted about hesitating to be on IRC because of seeing really-interesting but non-priority discussions that distracted you — while @smichel17 separately posted that he missed some past contributors who really engaged socially on IRC and kept him feeling connected to the project! What a conundrum.

I mentioned this offhand in a meeting on my part-time IEEE work, and the response was “welcome to community management!” and a link to this article I plan to read soon:

Priorities for the site itself

Incidentally, our immediate milestone for the live site (before outside projects) is making sure that we can successfully run a crowdmatch charge (for us as first test project) and that the site functions adequately as a starting point for potential volunteers and potential outside project interest. There are some semi-blocking issues around finishing our move of the whole site to OSUOSL (which will bring us back to being able to easily iterate and update the site).

Concluding thoughts

I think once we improve project management and have the infrastructure all solid, then we’ll finally be able to just focus on getting the work done and moving directly forward.

I think this topic here is really about how to organize priorities reliably and stick to them as best we can. I’d like to see us have consensus on a driver statement for that, and then we can figure out how to do this best.

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Clearer driver (the first 4 paragraphs in my original post were a driver statement too) in case you want to do a consent decision on this:

  • Situation: There’s only a handful of people working for things, all of which are volunteers in their spare time. Lots of different topics are fighting for their attention – some with an immediate impact, some only with long-term impact, some even mostly irrelevant. There’s no clear agreed-upon focus.

  • Effect: Volunteer efforts for often don’t produce visible, productive outcomes, both because a) individually they’re not sufficiently aligned with the actual needs of the project, and because b) collectively they’re not coordinated to result in a tangible step forward for the project.

  • Need: We need to agree upon the immediate priorities for We need to agree to honor these priorities whenever possible within the range of our motivation and time allocated to volunteering for

  • Impact: This will result in more visible successes for the project overall, more motivation individually for team members/volunteers, and a higher effectiveness of the weekly meetings.

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