Board Candidate Simple Simon

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(2009) David Jones, or Simple Simon

Personal statement

Simple Simon: David Jones

Simon Says--"Who I Am"

First, I am a bibliophile--I literally inhale the printed word. I love everything about them, the look, the feel, the contents, the history, the typography, the illos--even the dust. When I learned about project Gutenberg in 2004, I became an avid user of the service. Then came the realization that this was made possible by volunteers!

I've been a volunteer all my life--Manager of the Intercollegiate hockey team in university, teacher of English as a second language, Chair of the members' council at the International Institute, member, then Chair of the Human Resources Committee at the Family Services Association, then member of that organization's Board of Directors, then Vice-President of the Board.

So, I joined DP in 2006, learned the ropes, then co-founded DP Canada in 2007, and now operate the work-flow daily as Site Admin. In just over a year, we've recruited 600+ volunteers, produced 150 e-books, and continue to grow organically--with a happy bunch of members who enjoy the "small-town" feel of the place.

Oh, yes, RL...

Well, I've been a management consultant most of my career, both with large firms like McKinsey and Company, and as an independent for the past 20 years. I've also held senior executive positions in HR and Corporate Planning and Development with major corporations, and started 2 companies in the 1990s (which I sold off as they grew)--in software development and high-tech printing.

I'm married, with 2 grown children, and 3 grandchildren rapidly growing up, enjoy ballroom dancing, gardening, games, and--did I mention books?

Views

(All of these excerpts are cited from the Discussion of DP Foundation Board Restructuring forum thread. They are posted in roughly chronological order. Any questions asked by other community members are in italics. The excerpts were chosen to show the candidate's viewpoints and philosophy, while clarifications and asides were avoided.)


April-4-2009

As I understand it, one of the Board's duties will be to direct DP towards better means of achieving its mission. What do each of you think that DP is doing poorly right now, and how do you think those areas can be improved?

I don't think DP is doing anything poorly.

It is simply amazing that a volunteer-run organization has created an effective cooperative workflow, and come to be known to anyone who enjoys books and uses computers. Wherever I attend a meeting, and let people know that I am proud to be part of DP, at least one person knows all about DP--though sometimes what they know is not fully accurate.

That doesn't mean we won't face challenges in the near future:

1. technology (and the ways people use it) moves inexorably forward--scanning and OCR will get better and more ubiquitous--so more books will be available on TIA and other book archives. We need to clarify why we believe that fully digitized books are so much better than a collection of scans, and communicate that belief more widely.

2. Google, Microsoft and others are moving aggressively in an attempt to dominate the e-book field, both in the Public Domain and with books that are still copyright. We need to distinguish our mission from their commercially-motivated intent, and find a way to reach more people, both as potential volunteers, and as e-book readers.

3. we will continually need to grow ourselves and re-invent ourselves--volunteers contribute, burn out, yield to RL, and move on. Perhaps higher member "retention" rates would be possible--more than 3000 active members out of 80,000 total? are we over-burdening key resources, risking their "burn-out"?

4. the world is constantly changing--are we changing with it, or only appealing to the segment that matches our own interests and aspirations?

5. great ideas regularly "bubble up" amongst our talented, diverse, distributed membership--are we successfully offering pathways for this creativity to become real? do we need an institutionalized method to capture, evaluate, screen, and exploit these ideas--more concrete than the Forums and more directed than the "suggestion box" approach now used for technological changes that are surfaced or requested.

6. what about a form of strategic assessment of DP on a regular (not constant) basis--could we take advantage of "webinar" technology to provide members with a way of interacting along channels other than text?

7. what questions have I failed to ask?--five Board members cannot possibly know, or even be aware, of all the issues that could face DP in the future. How can we ensure that every member has an opportunity to participate to some degree in the ongoing governance process, even if they are reticent to voice their concerns. For example, while the Board will undoubtedly discuss matters that must remain confidential occasionally, the vast majority of Board discussion should be available to the members after the fact.

April-5-2009

We already have amazing resources within our community--one of our candidates, rfrank, has created a semi-automatic tool for PPing, called ppgen, and continues to refine it. But it can already take a "cleaned up concatenated" file (one that has had all [**] notes dealt with, relocation of illos and footnotes) and create in one pass a text file, an HTML file and a .pdf file. Though many details in the book still need "tweaking", for simple books this is a complete tool, and it saves many hours of the non-creative part of PPing.

As to the rare book concept, my belief is that we need to do a larger and stronger job of building bridges to the other sectors of the book world. Convince the libraries, archives and museums that we treasure and wish to preserve ancient texts, and that we are not "competitors" of theirs. By making a selection of their rare books available, under tightly controlled circumstances, for full digitization, they can open their collections to the world--surely a part of their mandate. This will require us to develop new skills in building cooperation with the public sector--not an easy task, but one we need to tackle to broaden our mandate, modernize our role, and leverage the skills we already have.

Lots of good ideas, but what do the nominees think should be done to stop more coming in at the front, than is getting posted at the end.

Obviously, this issue of restoring balance between rounds, and expediting projects so that members can see the results of their work, is becoming ever more important.

Cannot claim to have any ready solutions, but I'll give it some thought. Could someone familiar with the issue point me to any discussion that has occurred to this point. Seems to me that a project with an already committed PPer should get priority in round queues--though I suppose that some could see that as a mechanism to jump the queue, then dump the project back into the PP Pool.


Most of my "hands-on" experience is at DP Canada, though I'm checked out for P1, P2, P3, F1, PM and PP here.

I have PMed approximately 50 projects at DPC, and PPed about 60 (most posted to PG Canada or PG-INT already). Spend most of my time managing the work-flow, mentoring new DPC members, CPing, doing the copyright checking and WWing for PG Canada--and, of course, coordinating Beavers, Project Facilitators, Forum Coordinators, and programmers, and dealing with outside folk like hosting companies, TIA, Google, Archives Canada and the like.


April-8-2009

This Forum thread has already surfaced both some of members' concerns and several very useful ideas to "prime the pump" for future Board discussions.

I think it likely that the very existence of another organization mechanism within DP (namely the Board) will change the dynamics of DP's "idea-cloud". At the very least, it marks the beginning of a new phase of maturation in the organization, from a tremendously active volunteer-driven community (with a relatively small central core of very dedicated coordinators)...in the direction of a little more formal structure, with some of the aspects of a corporation.

The challenge will be to maintain the drive and enthusiasm of the community, and continue to encourage and respect the flow of member inputs, while providing the possibility of a strong central guiding force that can come to grips with longer-range strategic issues.

Many of the points raised here, while important, have been essentially to do with operational issues (and thus the purview of the GM)--what do members believe should be the shape of DP's mission and purpose in 5 years' time?

Simple Simon

Will the GM do what the board tells him/her to do? What happens if the GM says "Look, this is the way I've always done it and if you don't like it I'll take my toys and go home"?

In addition to the current task of searching for/appointing a new GM, one of the key responsibilities of any Board is to motivate/communicate with/cooperate with the Chief Operating Officer (the GM, in this case).

By the way, in a volunteer operation like DP, that responsibility is shared with all stake-holders, including notably in our case, the members--we all must ensure that the GM has our support, good will and feedback.

That said, if the GM, for genuine reasons that are heart-felt and cannot be resolved, feels it is impossible to continue to function in that role...we are all volunteers.


April-10-2009

It sounds like the Board, after appointing the GM, will spend most of their time researching and advising the GM. The question I have for the nominees is: after researching and deciding on a new direction (like moving to a roundless system, changing to UTF-8, the implementation of distributed post-processing tools, etc) how will the Board engage the community to make that happen both with social buy-in and implementation-wise.

I've been a volunteer in some not-for-profit organization or another almost all my adult life, and on the Board of such organizations about half the time.

I agree with Casey that the DP Board will need to have or crystallize a concept of how to operate as a group, and how to capture, winnow and prioritize ideas from both within and outside the organization. There will undoubtedly be a "shakedown" period, and perhaps the most important Board duty in the first year will be to design a succession path for Juliet to follow through on her New Year's resolution, and to select and empower a successor.

The successful Board candidates will also need to develop a longer-term perspective, so we can mature from a dynamic but reactive organization to a strategic one, without losing our focus and the crucial participation of our members. Members. too, who want to play a role in the evolutionary stage, will need to adopt a longer-term viewpoint. Problems and fixes will be directed to the GM, or into the existing mechanisms for problem resolution.

We should develop and implement a means for members to communicate with the Board (not enter into a debate with it). And we'll all need to adopt enhanced means of communicating about strategic issues in a volunteer environment.

Here is a link to a resource I have always found useful--it contains a wealth of short articles and viewpoints about the kinds of issues that volunteer organizations encounter.

www.volunteertoday.com

and particularly germane to our current discussion would be this article, particularly the table at the bottom, and its embedded links.

http://www.volunteertoday.com/archives2009/March/mar09boards.html


April-11-2009

Simple Simon, You're much more active on the Canadian site than here, having been instrumental in founding it.

Does it operate under a Board of Directors?

What have you learned there of value that you hope to bring into this organization?

Would you consider yourself to be the GM (or equivalent) for that site?

Hardly--DPC is still an infant in its cradle. DPC has a Board, but at the moment it consists solely of the two founders and our legal counsel.

We are small, operate on a very tight basis, with a miniscule number of projects (rarely more than 300 active projects at any one time), and attempt to remain "folksy" and closely connected. We currently produce around 12 to 15 completed books per month.

Most members started at DP-INT, and remain active members here to this day. Many are extremely talented, and dedicated--we get a lot done with our few members (about 650 at the moment).

I am the Site Admin (SA) of DPC--what we are gradually coming to refer to at DP-INT as the GM--and as such, actively involved in the daily operations of the site. Eventually, we'll grow to the point that it's impossible, but right now, I have some (small) involvement in virtually every project. For example, because of the way that PG Canada is set up, DPC does all the copyright checking and WWing for PGC.

Far from bringing ideas from DPC to DP, we're still learning every day from our "big sister"--though sometimes we're cheeky and make suggestions.

The most important reason I agreed to stand for possible election to the DP Board was that I believe strongly that we need to keep the components of the broader DP community working closely together.

A prime example--we are currently working hard on an approach that will enable us to "synch up" our site code with DP's--use exactly the same functionality and programming, while preserving the differences in language, local flavour (note the spelling) and nomenclature. As a bonus, it may also enable both sites to implement multiple languages fully. So DPC can have [CAN-ENG] as its default langauage, but offer a member the option to express a User Preference for [CAN-FR]. And DP-INT would have [US-ENG] as its default, but offer [US-ESP] for the Hispanic community...

Much work remains to be done.

In summary, I would expect to bring considerable experience as Board member of volunteer organizations, and as a management consultant at Board level, to DP, but very little would come from my experiences at DPC. Rather, I expect DP-INT to continue to be an inspiration and model for DPC for many years to come--we're only 16 months old.

Simple Simon