[Owasp-board] Removal of Regional/Local event oversight from Conferences Committee

Mark Bristow mark.bristow at owasp.org
Mon Jun 20 18:50:17 UTC 2011

OWASP Board,

I apologize for not being able to make the meeting today but having a
newborn at home simply had to take priority.  After reviewing the meeting
was very sorry to see that you decided to take up this very important
topic without my participation despite my request not to do so, I had made
arrangements to attend the original meeting on June 6th but unfortunately
the board postponed and I could not attend today.   I was very troubled to
see the results of your decision to "Move local and regional events from
umbrella of conferences committee to chapters committee, effective July 31,
2011" supported by "Tom, Seba, Eoin, Jeff, Dave" and frankly am somewhat
bewildered at this change.

Over the past 2 years under the Conferences Committee’s leadership, we’ve
seen OWASP grow from having one, perhaps two global events each year to
having a Global AppSec Conference in North America, South America, Europe
and Asia every year in addition to increasing the number of regional and
local events we participate in worldwide. In the last year the GCC has
instituted clear, concise policies to govern events that were previously in
a state of disarray causing significant internal conflict, developed a
system for managing events automatically as well as streamline the event
management process, and launched a new Global Sponsorship initiative to help
OWASP better attract sponsors to events.   We have instituted new programs
to better support events, streamline processes for getting promotional
merchandise and booth support to non-OWASP events, attempted to streamline
the contracting process and purchased common equipment to save OWASP money
in running events.  The committee has grown from 3 to 11 members, and hired
part time operations support giving us the additional bandwidth and support
we need to get all of these done and done well.  While we are not perfect
I'd argue you'd be hard pressed to find a more ambitious and successful
global committee at OWASP.

I don't know if this was discussed but it's not clear to me that the board
has a full understanding of the financial implications that this change may
reflect for OWASP.  Last year conference income accounted for *77% of
OWASP's annual income* and brought in a total profit of $240,399.71 (*up
151% from 2009 under the conferences committee's oversight*).  *Regional and
local event income totaled $295,845.52 representing 40% of OWASP's
conference income*.  Moving these responsibilities to an *untested committee
*who is not focused on or experienced in running events could put OWASP in
significant financial jeopardy.  To give you some perspective the *regional
and local event income is 149% more than* the $198,620.74 that the
foundation spent on the Summit last year.  Despite these operational,
support and financial sucesses, *it's unfortunate that the board has
obviously lost confidence in our ability manage OWASP Events, by reducing
our oversight, as was defined in our recently re-approved (by the board)
mission statement*

I will not pretend that there are not some areas where the Conferences
Committee needs to improve. I agree with the sentiment that we do not
clearly define the differences between the "type" of event or level support
between Global AppSec, Regional and Local events. We also need to continue
our work of spreading out the OWASP Global Event Calendar as we are still
very heavy in the second part of the year. I will also admit that not every
decision the Global Conferences Committee has made has been popular however
sometimes unpopular or difficult decisions need to be made for the greater
good, *this is why the committees exist*. I will say that all of the
decisions made by the conferences committee have been conducted in the most
open and democratic way possible. We conduct almost all of our business on
the mailing list for all to see and contribute and we vote on almost every
decision so that those who have been validated by their peers to serve on
the committee can have their say in the process. The conferences committee
was even the *first to develop a self governance document* which was adopted
in part or in whole by several of the other committees, including chapters.
Considering the massive responsibility placed on the conferences committee
in both leading the outreach effort and in ensure the foundation has
sufficient operating income to continue it’s existence I’d say the Global
Conferences Committee is doing a great job and don’t see the reason or
rationale for making any move that would obstruct them from continuing to do
great work on behalf of OWASP.

I will concede however that if the board feels that local events, involving
only 1 or 2 chapters or under a certain size, would be better served under
the responsibility of the Chapters Committee, I would understand that.  To
support these smaller events we mostly provide foundation funds, guidance
when asked and leave the vast majority of the planning to the local team,
something that the Chapters Committee could take on.  Additionally these
events have a less significant impact to the foundation as a whole and in
general do not generate significant income (last year they represented 0.88%
or $2065.07 of total event income, many local events don't charge and we
think that's GREAT!). However, the Conferences Committee has the experts for
running larger events such as Regional (such as AppSec DC and LASCON, which
can have hundreds of attendees) and Global AppSec events and I'm not sure I
see the wisdom or logic in moving their oversight, especially for Regional
events, to a committee who is not focused on events and does not have the
expertise in this area.

I have a suspicious feeling that this initiative is really a different venue
for a small number of individuals who object to one and only one of the GCC
policies on profit sharing (see
some hard facts on that issue) what was voted
on by the GCC<https://docs.google.com/a/owasp.org/document/d/1eVX6lDyAtsUBrDKp6C7pcPTk8ObCv-QgnFAGq_zj510/edit?hl=en_US>and
by the board <https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Minutes_March_8,_2011>.  If
so, then this entire issue should be dropped and those individuals should
challenge the policy not the committee that oversees events.  The committees
are there to make tough decisions and this decision was based on significant
community input, conducted in a fair and open manor, and was set
specifically to allow the most OWASP outreach possible, be fiscally
responsible for OWASP as a whole and eliminate the creation of rich/poor
OWASP chapters.  Opponents of the policy suggest a system that last year
would have allocated an a*dditional $35,976 to only 2 chapters* leaving
almost every other chapter unchanged.

Again I apologize for not being able to make the meeting, however if someone
could outline the board's rationale for this decision I would certainly
appreciate it.


Mark Bristow
(703) 596-5175
mark.bristow at owasp.org

OWASP Global Conferences Committee Chair - http://is.gd/5MTvF
OWASP DC Chapter Co-Chair - http://is.gd/5MTwu
AppSec DC Organizer - https://www.appsecdc.org
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