GNOME Foundation's new executive director sparks witch hunt

Holly Million faces scorn despite proven job record

Holly Million is replacing Neil McGovern as the executive director of the GNOME Foundation, although her colorful CV is leading to shocked reactions from some in the community.

GNOME's new director Holly Million has worked for some years in the non-profit sector. She is former executive director at the Biobricks Foundation, and has also worked with Dignity Moves and Artists United, as well as fundraising for the Oscar-winning 1997 short documentary A Story of Healing.

She replaces former Debian project lead Neil McGovern, now ED of Ruby Central, who left the role a year back. He, in turn, replaced self-described punk rock lawyer Karen Sandler, who replaced original GNOME ED "Stormy" Peters.

A point to note here is that Million is the second GNOME ED who is not primarily a technologist. The role involves public speaking on behalf of GNOME, and importantly, helping the non-profit organization to raise sponsorship. Being the confident public face of an open source project isn't about software development: it's instead a role for a communicator.

Concepts like "open source" and "desktop environment" are not easy for many corporate or governmental people and bodies. After all, in the world of proprietary operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, IBM OS/2 and its offspring, or even the world's leading Linux distro ChromeOS, you generally get no choice in such matters.

As, in many countries, you get no choice of religion. Even some large wealthy nations are quite homogenous in religious belief, which can lead to people becoming intolerant of less common religions and belief systems, even if they don't realize it. Which we suspect is what lies behind some of the reactions to Million's appointment, such as that of industry commentator Bryan Lunduke. He seems unable to handle GNOME hiring a "Professional Shaman" as new Executive Director.

GNOME is a controversial desktop, and no stranger to differences of opinion itself. We are sure that such reactions were anticipated, sadly enough, and Million appears to have been going around the web deactivating accounts or making them private.

The Reg FOSS desk spent time in Dublin, Ireland, while getting married last week, and among other things saw the original Book of Kells in Trinity College. It occurs to this hack that the same sort of extreme focus and devoted effort that went into hand-inscribed manuscripts also goes into software development, especially in languages that require exacting pains-taking care such as C, of which it has notably been said:

Writing in C is like building a mosaic out of lentils using a tweezer and glue

Perhaps this is why FOSS has attracted some other intensely religious people, such as GNU's Friar Thomas Bushnell of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. On the other hand, languages that don't turn people into fungible cogs also don't cause large organizations to come together, complete with schismatic communities.

From this vulture's position outside of all religions – including that of extreme devotion to free software – all of them are pretty much equally strange, and we've found pagans, witches, and other non-conformists more friendly, welcoming and accepting than any of the big, well established sects. We wish them, and Million, well – and more power to their collective elbows. ®

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