Over the “pinksterweekend” (Wikipedia informs me that’s Pentecost) the board of KDE e.V. met in real life for the first time in over two years. The board of directors meets weekly online, and we have regular – two or three times a year – weekend-long sprints to hammer out bigger issues and do administrative backlog. Since COVID, we have done these weekend sprints online as well, but we felt that at this point, the benefits of an offline, real life meeting outweighed the risks. The meeting was hybrid, with four people in the room and one virtual participant.

Here is our intrepid board of directors, posing for the group photo.

KDE e.V. board group photo
KDE e.V. board group photo

Present through KDE’s BigBlueButton infrastructure for online meetings, and embodied as a KDE Slimbook, there’s Eike Hein. From left to right in real life, Neofytos Kolokotronis, Adriaan de Groot, Aleix Pol i Gonzàlez and Lydia Pintscher.

Online Board Meetings

We have had online board meetings. A BBB room is all we need, and since we’re in UTC+1 and UTC+2, coordinating times is relatively easy. A 10-13, 14-18 seven-hour video session with an hour for lunch gets us through the day, and we have managed to do these meetings effectively in the intervening years.

A seven-hour call (and that times two days) leads to a number of things:

  • my butt hurts (sofa is not soft enough)
  • my ears are warm (headset too tight)
  • coordinated bio-breaks are a necessity (“ok, after going over the travel sponsorship requests, five minutes to pee”)
  • an hour for lunch is too short (for decompression of the mind; I can shove a mirthless cheese sandwich down my gullet in 3 minutes, but lunch is for calm)
  • shit gets done.

The online meetings generally also translate into an hour or two in the evening of working on the things agreed-upon during the day. So writing lots of mail, generally.

Real Life Board Meetings

This was the first one we had for some time. A room and some power plugs and internet is all we need, and we’re in one timezone so coordinating times is easy (except I like to sleep in). Thanks to found.ation we had such a place. A 10-13, 14-19 eight-hour work day with an hour for lunch gets us through the day.

An eight-hour sit in a room with people leads to a number of things:

  • an hour for lunch is about right
  • shit gets done.

It’s a silly little thing: when in a room together, I can get up, walk to the tap, grab a glass of water and a cookie (or, in Greece, a feta-and-spinach pie) and it doesn’t much interrupt the meeting. I can hear what’s going on, I can even shout from the kitchen if I have an opinion. That takes away a lot of the bodily discomfort of the online meeting.

KDE e.V. board group photo at Ubuntu Cafe
KDE e.V. board group photo at Ubuntu Cafe

Because lunch is an hour of socializing, it decompresses much better. Turns out Lydia and I both like ridiculously pink graprefruit soda. We can carry virtual Eike around: here’s a body-transplant to a Steamdeck, and we’re standing in front of the Ubuntu Cafe. Not a Linuxy-Ubuntu, but a good place for breakfast and an ice coffee.

After a day of meeting, things go social again. That means there is a decompressing-together of the day, as well as “o yeah, this ..”. A table full of feta-based dishes and a pitcher of wine is a good way to foster communications through midnight. The main consequence is that there are many more hours in the day beyond the scheduled meeting where some work gets done, and it feels less like work.

Hybrid Meetings

While this worked, and the Slimbook did its job well (plus a Røde omni-directional microphone), I feel kind of bad for Eike. He gets the downsides of being on-camera and in-focus all the time, and none of the upsides of being in the room. On the other hand, he didn’t have to listen to my terrible jokes, either.

I wrote “virtual participant” up above, but Eike is a real person, so from his perspective I was (one of) the virtual participants, and we shouldn’t forget that it’s both turtles all the way down, and people all over the place.

Next Meetings

The next board meeting will be KDE Akademy, in Barcelona in real life and online in KDE’s BBB infrastructure. The board will be there, either all together or hybrid – or all online if things go terribly in public health between now and october.

We’re ready for it either way.