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

Mark Bristow mark.bristow at owasp.org
Tue Jun 21 00:17:58 UTC 2011


(sorry for the text wall, as you can tell I am passionate about this topic
which is why I signed up for the conferences committee in the first place)

Respectfully to you and Jason, I disagree.  I DO agree however that the
Committees exist to facilitate and grow their areas of responsibility
however sometimes this is done by setting guidelines/rules/policies to
facilitate this.  If it doesn't matter who's "jurisdiction" things fall
under, then why was it transfered from the Conferences to Chapter

Of course it matters, and it matters for several reasons.  As OWASP has
grown there has been a need to share the load of organizing our activities.
 In OWASP 1.0 there was just a loose collection of "leaders" who would
organize projects, events, chapters et all in a somewhat organic way with
little structure, then as we grew in notoriety, membership and became a
501c, OWASP 2.0 we added a board who's job it was to provide oversight and
be the caretakers of OWASP, resolve conflicts and help steer the
organization.  As of 2008, OWASP 3.0, the Global Committees were formed as
the individual tasks of facilitating, growing, coordinating and organizing
Chapters, Education, Conferences, Projects, Membership, Industry and
Connections became too much for a single group of 6-7 people to coordinate.
 The organization elected by nomination, volunteers with the skills,
expertise and experience necessary to execute on the more focused committee
missions with the board providing final oversight.  I know
we occasionally pine for the days were things were loosely coordinated and
organized but that was before OWASP had international recognition, a
budget, complex infrastructure, full time staff members, summits, and
thousands of members.

We are not who we were in OWASP 1.0, to deny this is to deny ourselves,
we've accomplished much and grown tremendously since then.  The key however
is to be OWASP 3.0 in a way that keeps the spirit of OWASP 1.0's innovation,
community and volunteerism.

With OWASP 3.0 we realized that we NEED a bit more structure at the bottom
(In my view the membership is always at the top of the pyramid and the board
at the top of the bottom) in order to ensure that OWASP continues to
function in a coordinated way.    I'm sure you remember Conferences in 2008,
they were a hot mess.  We had a great event in NY but were having trouble
extending that success into other events and keeping that institutional
knowledge.  Events were "popping out of the woodwork" with overzealous event
planners with big dreams asking for significant financial resources in order
host their own events in their city (I remember I was one of them).  No-one
was coordinating the schedules of the events, and thus, everyone
had their events at nearly the same time of year, making
our volunteers, speakers and sponsors weary.  Limited funds were not
prioritized, tracked, ensured we could back them up.  I remember being told
as an ASDC09 planner by allison that we needed to hold off on one of our big
ticket items because the OWASP card was totally maxed out this month (much
angering our catering people as I recall).  No one was keeping track if the
events were making any money or not, we had the "wait and see" approach for
profitability even as OWASP was taking on full time staff and having
ever increasing overhead costs to support things like the summit, conference
bridges, website support and staff.  In short it was a mess that worked by
the skin of it's teeth and personal heroics.

While not all gone, we don't have these problems anymore.  Why?  The
Conferences Committee was put in place to provide just an ounce of oversite
and set some really basic rules about how events were put on and to provide
a TON of guidance (I dare you to look at the history of the how to host a
conference page), templates, ops support, financial support etc
from those who knew how to run successful OWASP events.  We changed how we
coordinated events, evened out the schedule a bit relieving some of the
financial pressures on the foundation, helped events get sponsors, do CFPs
and CFTs, negotiate contracts, and now we are sending people to help on the
ground at the larger events.  Conferences run a lot smoother now and this is
because they are being coordinated/overseen in addition to fostered and
grown.  This managed growth has allowed us to host more events, in more
places (AppSec China Anyone, Brazil twice) and pop up a myriad of regional
and local events, all while turning better profit for the foundation to
support things like projects, infrastructure, loss-leader events (aka free),
supply budgets to committees, sponsor leader travel, the list goes on and
on.  This year we even started sharing some of these profits directly with
the host chapters, although some decided to take this as a "limitation"
rather than an improvement.

Throughout this all, there has been ONE place to go to get information on
events, ONE group of people setting high level organizational goals (do any
of the other committees have posted goals?  we do:)
https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Global_Conferences_Committee_2011_Plan) and
one voice to mediate issues, set policies and guidelines to help foster
great OWASP events.  When you start getting two voices, they start getting
conflicting information and it causes issues (I know you have many examples
where the committee had set one policy and certain individuals misinformed
people about that policy when asked instead of re-directing the inquiry to
the committee), you need a "one stop shop" so everything is clear.  Our
wildly enthusiastic volunteers are to thank for these successes, but every
once in a while, having someone there asking "why" before they write a $100k
check has been a good thing.  Unfortunately OWASP does not have unlimited
resources and occasionally we cant support everything everyone wants to do
(although we almost never say no, just not now, or perhaps in a different

This is not unique to conference, almost every committee has some set of
"policies".  Projects define project criteria and set standards for
active/inactive projects, Chapters have the chapter leader handbook and set
rules for participation, openness, and frequency.  Membership sets the
prices of membership levels, defines codes of conduct and manages voting
rights.  Each committee has to define some level of "oversight" and
"policies", to deny that eiteer Conferences or Chapters needs to do so is
just well, terrible management practice.

I think that the small one day, local events that perhaps don't charge a fee
or cost less than $1000 to run, essentially large chapter meetings, could
and should absolutely be managed by the chapters committee.  But when it
comes to hosting the bigger Regional and Global AppSec events,
with hundreds of guests, venue contracts, catering, travel, transportation,
training these are the things that the Conference committee does best.  I've
not heard a single criticism that the committee was not doing this well.
 Why stop us from doing our jobs?  Lets continue to grow and investigate new
ideas for events, new ways to reach more developers (I still owe the GPC a
Secure the Flag Competition) but in the mean time, we still need people who
have done successful events to help mentor and guide those just starting
out, that's what the Conferences Committee is here to do.

On Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 7:12 PM, Kate Hartmann <kate.hartmann at owasp.org>wrote:

> Jason, you have summarized the role of the committees well:  Committees
> exist to solely to facilitate and grow their respective areas of
> responsibility, NOT to "oversee" or "govern" these areas.  From this
> perspective, why the heck does it matter who's "jurisdiction" it falls
> under?!?
> The chapters committee had a great discussion on the next steps this
> afternoon.  This is not about governance, but about which group might be
> able to offer the best support.  It's also not about creating silos, but
> about trying to create the best possible support for leaders who want to
> take their chapters to the next level.
> One of the discussion threads from today's chapter call was to allow the
> planners the option to aim big by aligning their event with the conferences
> committee.  I also have no reason to believe that OCMS would no longer be
> required.  On the contrary, it is such a remarkable accomplishment that it
> is now a critical step in the planning process.
> The chapter committee is composed of leaders who have faced the challenges
> of hosting a one day event or a large scale meeting.  I am confident that
> their perspective along with the support of the conference team's global
> conference experience will strengthen our outreach efforts.
> Kate Hartmann
> OWASP Operations Director
> On Jun 20, 2011, at 4:56 PM, Jason Li <jason.li at owasp.org> wrote:
> Board/Committee Chairs,
> I apologize that I could not speak up more clearly on this issue during the
> Board call due to my bad connection from Morocco.
> Having watched the threads, the whole local/regional/global event debate
> seems to me to be a proxy war for one issue: profit sharing via the
> chapter/conference split.
> Committees exist to solely to facilitate and grow their respective areas of
> responsibility, NOT to "oversee" or "govern" these areas.  From this
> perspective, why the heck does it matter who's "jurisdiction" it falls
> under?!?
> As Eoin alluded to on the conference call, the idea of sticking an
> artificial wall between the chapters committee and the conferences committee
> is ludicrous. Local and regional event planners should be able to leverage
> the respective knowledge and experience of both the Chapters Committee and
> the Conferences Committee!
> Remove the split debate and I see absolutely no logical reason for any of
> this whole event "governance" discussion at all. If anything, this should be
> an amazing opportunity for a joint committee initiative to pursue some of
> the ideas Jeff referred to in terms of growing chapters.
> It seems to me that it only matters when it comes to who gets to decide how
> to "divide up the money".
> I agree with Mark that I think part of the discussion has been charged with
> the undertones of revenue split. If we don't solve that issue, the next
> flash point will simply be what gets considered a "regional event" versus a
> "global conference".
> I believe that most of Mark's points are legitimate concerns about the
> financial situation of OWASP as a whole, and the organization's dependence
> on revenue from all OWASP *events*.
> While it would be nice if we could support every local chapter event to
> grow the organization, the reality is that someone has to make the decision
> on whether to fund events and I do not believe that it should be the
> decision of any one committee. So I think the Board, the Chapters Committee,
> and the Conferences Committee need to sit down together and distill their
> conversation to the real point of the matter which is: what happens to money
> that comes into OWASP?
> And as it will be a long heated disucssion, it's a conversation that I
> *DON"T* think should happen on the leader's list :)
> -Jason
> On Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 8:13 PM, Jeff Williams < <jeff.williams at owasp.org>
> jeff.williams at owasp.org> wrote:
>> Hi Mark,****
>> ** **
>> Congrats on the newborn – I understand those things can be time consuming
>> J****
>> ** **
>> I support the board’s decision today because we want the Global Chapters
>> Committee to grow into supporting the needs of chapters that want to put on
>> local events.  I think there’s a good argument that these events **are**
>> different than global events, and have different support needs.****
>> ** **
>> We want the Global Conferences Committee to focus on large-scale
>> international events – can you support an AppSec for every development
>> platform?  On every continent?  With thousands of attendees?  How about new
>> kinds of events – open-space conferences, more OWASP Summits, training
>> events, college events, etc… There are 15 million developers in the world
>> and we are only reaching a few hundred of them today.  You’ve done a great
>> job with our existing style of conference…  Can you take it to the next
>> level?****
>> ** **
>> I think you’re exactly right that over time we will have to work out which
>> are “Global” events and “Local” events. To me, the decision should be made
>> by the folks organizing the conference – in collaboration with folks on both
>> the Chapters and Conferences committees.  I hope that they’ll get different
>> support and the event will come out differently.****
>> ** **
>> I’d like to make it perfectly clear that this vote wasn’t a referendum on
>> the performance of the Global Conferences Committee by any means.  You and
>> your team have done a great job of establishing infrastructure and managing
>> all sorts of events.  The financial information you provided was greatly
>> appreciated and is a perfect example of the work you’ve done.****
>> ** **
>> Thank you for all your hard work!****
>> ** **
>> --Jeff****
>> ** **
>> ** **
>> *From:* <owasp-board-bounces at lists.owasp.org>
>> owasp-board-bounces at lists.owasp.org [mailto:<owasp-board-bounces at lists.owasp.org>
>> owasp-board-bounces at lists.owasp.org] *On Behalf Of *Mark Bristow
>> *Sent:* Monday, June 20, 2011 2:50 PM
>> *To:* OWASP Foundation Board List
>> *Cc:* owasp-global-chapter-committee; global_conference_committee;
>> <owasp-leaders at lists.owasp.org>owasp-leaders at lists.owasp.org
>> *Subject:* [Owasp-board] Removal of Regional/Local event oversight from
>> Conferences Committee****
>> ** **
>> 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
>> minutes<https://docs.google.com/a/owasp.org/document/d/1VD9ZHEwht9tmM8FKEQ6DBrtmL_gTAhSSnQhiFXYkJ7I/edit?hl=en_US&authkey=CIavkP4B>I 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
>> <https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Confernece_Profit_Sharing_Split_Rationale>
>> https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Confernece_Profit_Sharing_Split_Rationalefor 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 ratified
>> 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.
>> Regards,
>> --
>> Mark Bristow
>> (703) 596-5175
>> <mark.bristow at owasp.org>mark.bristow at owasp.org
>> OWASP Global Conferences Committee Chair - <http://is.gd/5MTvF>
>> http://is.gd/5MTvF
>> OWASP DC Chapter Co-Chair - <http://is.gd/5MTwu>http://is.gd/5MTwu
>> AppSec DC Organizer - <https://www.appsecdc.org/>https://www.appsecdc.org
>> ****
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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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