Addressing MusicBrainz' growing problems: part 1 of many

I’m finally back from being on the road. I’ve caught up on much needed sleep and am now working regular hours again. This means its time to address the various issues that we left to ponder before I went on vacation and my trip to Europe. While I was in Europe and in IRC while I was rebooting our database server, inhouseuk said the following:

inhouseuk: you need to start behaving more like a sort of CEO rather than a one man band πŸ™‚

I agree. But then, what exactly is this sort of CEO (or rather sort of Executive Director) supposed to do? And what isn’t he supposed to do? Thats a really tough question that I would like to pose to the community at large. If you have any thoughts on this, please speak up.

The first thing that I want to do is to describe the job I have been performing for the last two years since the non-profit has been running. Then, with help from the community I would like to come up with my job description going forward. That way we can all be on the same page about I should and should not be doing.

Things that I should probably not be doing any longer are in bold.

Executive Director of the MetaBrainz Foundation

Server maintenance

  • Hardware purchasing/acquistion of used hardware
  • Colocation issues/contracts/maintenance
  • Managing hardware costs and future planning
  • Manage off-site servers (nl., test.)

Business Development

  • Conferences/tradeshows/schmoozing/maintaining contacts for MusicBrainz
  • Meetings with potential partners/licensees
  • New licenses sales
  • Managing and soliciting sponsors
  • Raise funds for further server development


  • mb_server (and too little of it)
  • lucene searching

Legal Department

  • Licenses for data/software/web services
  • Contracts for data/licenses/web services
  • Interacting with lawyers
  • Find pro bono lawyers

Community Relations

  • Answering questions in IRC/mail/blog/mailing lists
  • Conflict resolution
  • Managing developers

Foundation Issues

  • web site/donation tracking
  • State/federal filing requirements
  • Board of directors management/meetings


  • Keep general books, manage invoices, pay bills
  • File tax reports/manage accountants
  • Post monthly financial results
  • Manage bank accounts/investments


  • Answer support@ emails, with help from Wolfsong
  • Help partners/licensees (at least have support@ team help

Please note that not all of these tasks are things I do every week. But should something come up, I have to rise to the task. If a server tips over, I go to fix it. If a customer has a question I ask it. I may just go for weeks without dealing with a tipping server.

Do you agree or disagree with the items I’ve identified as things that I should not handle any more?

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7 thoughts on “Addressing MusicBrainz' growing problems: part 1 of many”

  1. I pretty much agree with the list but the bold items can not be left alone without a solid development and support group. Both of which unfortunately aren’t available at the moment.

  2. I can help out with ‘Answer support@ emails’, but only it’s clear who’s responsible for what πŸ˜‰

  3. Here are my thoughts on the bold points:

    mb_server: I guess this means that you want Keschte to continue mb_server development? In this case we (the whole community) need to figure out how to organize this in an adequate way. If the “great dispute” has shown one thing, then that Keschte’s way of doing development needs other communication tools that your (or inhouse’s) way. I suppose a dev blog and forums would be the tools to start with.

    lucene: Who would do that?

    Conflict resolution: A couple of people have volunteered to do that. I am willing to be part of it if there are enough shoulders in the …Moose project. Maybe we should do a “kick-off” IRC session with all interested parties. Numerous people have asked for forums. IIRC a couple of them have proposed to be forum moderators. I am not saying that this could fully replace, but it could surely distribute the load to (a) many shoulders, (b) history (since forums can be searched, stickied, etc).

    What else?

    Lukas had taken your (now revoked) decision to ‘fire’ Keschte as a reason to leave the project. I guess this means that MusicBrainz needs an instance that would make such decisions in a different way for the future. The “community adivisory board” is now practically not fuctional. However, I believe that it would make sense to idetify certain realms in which you do not have to take the dictatorial power onto your shoulders alone. Most large projects have community councils. Maybe now is the time for MB to get one.

    I myself would gladly accept someone’s shoulders to share the work of the Style Secretary.

    Finally one last thought: The list sounds a bit as if you would stop to hack alltogether. Do you mean that? Are there any bits which you will continue to do left, that are *fun* to do for you?

  4. Don said:

    > mb_server: I guess this means that you want Keschte to continue mb_server development?

    I’ll address development issues in detail tomorrow.

    > Finally one last thought: The list sounds a bit as if you would stop to hack alltogether. Do you mean that? Are there any bits which you will continue to do left, that are *fun* to do for you?

    Yes, there are.

    But in the last few months I have done very little dev work. And when I did, I did it in my “spare” time, much like other OSS developers do. I’ll still hack in my spare time with others, but really what I am getting at is that we need paid developers who will hack on mb_server.

    More on these points tomorrow.

  5. Conflict resolution: I believe a part of this job should be done by the toplevel manager. So by you, Robert.

    MusicBrainz is growing up, becomes a structure while it was a group. Conflicts are a normal/unavoidable in this case. Of course, everybody has to control him/herself, like at work or anywhere else. But when conflicts grow, you are the ultimate reference point as a manager.

    I also think you should no longer handle all legal and accounting issues. ‘Should’… as much as possible as that’s not easy to find someone who can.

    It’s only a ‘normal user’ opinion. I hesitated to post this comment since I’m not involved in the MB running – I only enter some releases and fix some AR’s when I have some time. Please take this message for a simple ‘opinion from outside’. Thank you all for making MB to exist.

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