I never posted about it but I was elected to the TAB last November. I’m deeply appreciative towards several people who reached out and encouraged me to run. I probably wouldn’t have run if they hadn’t done so, which is a lesson for me personally and communities in general. Having served a few months now, I have some thoughts on the TAB. This is me speaking in my personal capacity as a kernel developer and not for the TAB as a group or any other individuals.
The first question everyone seems to ask is “What exactly does the TAB do?” The answer to that is tied to the history of the TAB. Most of this happened well before my time and is probably better documented elsewhere but the short summary is the TAB came about from the creation of the Linux Foundation from OSDL. There really wasn’t a good forum where kernel developers could have a voice, thus the TAB was born. While the name is “Technical Advisory Board”, it’s designed to cover the kernel community. The TAB Chair also has a seat on the Linux Foundation Board1. Over the years, the TAB has worked on everything from UEFI to encouraging corporate participation to combating GPL trolling. As time passes and problems get solved, what the TAB spends its time on also changes. The TAB has sometimes been compared to other open source project boards but one important note is that the TAB is not responsible for technical decisions directly. It’s not the place of the TAB to sign off or approve architecture changes.
The most succinct phrase I can think of to describe the TAB is “service to the kernel community”. All the work the TAB does should be for the benefit of the kernel community. Saying kernel development is all about the code is a pretty big lie. You will not be successful in kernel development without the ability to communicate. Some of those skills from working on the kernel can transfer to work on the TAB but not all kernel developers may be interested in using those skills in another forum. Part of the advantage of having a group like the TAB is that those people who do care about particular issues can help find solutions to make everyone’s life easier. Small groups taking the lead (and being transparent) is one way to scale growing communities. The reason to serve on the TAB is because you want to solve problems that will be brought to the TAB. Sometimes those problems will have a technical slant (UEFI for example) but many times the issues are people focused (code of conduct). Sometimes the TAB isn’t the right place to solve a problem but the TAB also serves as a resource to redirect people to a more appropriate forum.
This is all still incredibly hand wavy but the point is the TAB is there if people need it. It’s useful to have a single body of people to ask questions and help guide people If you have ideas of things the TAB should work on, I’d welcome the chance to hear it.
The evolution of the Linux Foundation is best discussed over tea or the ↩