2022 Election Campaign: Jon Roberts

(note: sorry there are a couple links below that are not “live”. The forum software’s anit-spam wouldn’t let me post anything with more than two links)

It looks like the FSSF needs board candidates and some of us are heeding the call. I’m not part of the group (yet) of other candidates who have declared so far. I will share (1) about myself and (2) about my experience with volunteer organizations and (3) my personal opinions on viable paths forward for FSSF.

About Jon (that’s me!)

I live in San Antonio, TX with my wife and my two young miniature schnauzer’s.

I’ve been using F# professionally for about the last five years. My wife and I had our four children early in life, I reached 45 years this year and my youngest child started university this last fall (comp sci major heading to a 4.0 in her first semester - yes I’m a very proud papa). I’m about to go through and clean up my repositories on Github and I found bigjonroberts/Flurl.fs, which is probably my first “public” F# endeavors anywhere (which went nowhere and will be cleaned up soon). I’ve been a very day-job workman-oriented F# developer. I have primarily used the language to solve business problems at work. The last couple of years I’ve been building systems using Azure functions written in F# and Farmer to manage/deploy infrastructure to Azure. I have taken on some roles and titles that included some more management and leadership responsibilities at smaller startups the last couple of years and have just recently decided to lean back into coding/architecture/individual-contributor roles (a good sacking will do that). I think that my wife and I are at a place were we can downsize and I will finally have some time to build some OSS projects that I have wanted to create. I’m also dabbling more with front-end concerns that I largely abandoned over 20 years ago and have successfully avoided throughout the rest of my career up till now.

As I enter the empty-nest phase of life, I anticipate having some more time over the next few years to do things like work with the FSSF, either as a board member or in some other capacity.

Jon’s volunteer experience

I have been volunteering as a youth leader with my children’s scouting and sports organizations for over 15 years. A few years ago I did a 3 year stint on our local HOA board and served as president for one of those years. I have also served as an admin/leader in our local software developer group here in San Antonio. This is a largely online group that has a slack with about 750 members. I was a catalyst in pushing this group to hold it’s first in person meetings prior to the pandemic and I am hopeful that we will resume in person meetups in 2023.

Here are some of the things I have learned in working in volunteer organizations that would influence my approach as a member of the FSSF board of trustees:

  • Some people are going to be unhappy, very unhappy. This is a fact of life in any leadership position, but in volunteer spaces the power differential is inverted and the leaders often get crapped on a lot. This isn’t to say that I would ignore these people. If you are in a leadership position, you have to let folks have their say and treat them with respect. But you also can’t let some people or vocal minorities hold up initiatives that benefit everyone. If you are going to lead in a volunteer organization, you should go in with eyes wide open that you will to at least some degree, be on the receiving end of some people’s anger or unhappiness, often when there is nothing you can directly do to change the thing they are unhappy about.
  • Succession and involvement are important and often difficult in volunteer organizations. This is why even healthy volunteer organizations tend to fluctuate in their membership and effectiveness over the years. I’ve learned that it’s more effective to build relationships with people across the community and/or organization and ask them to help with one-offs or small things and gradually bring them in. Everyone is worried that they will get stuck with a thankless job. It takes effort to get people involved bit by bit and find out who is willing to commit more.
  • The pandemic took a toll on most of these organizations. This applies to all of the organizations that I have worked with and in over the past couple of years. For this reason, I have some extra grace for the recent board and officers of the FSSF.
  • Continuity of some type is important in most organizations. I’m glad to see that Janne is running for another term and Reed has been very gracious to be willing to stay on as director. Knowing that there are at least a couple of people who have been here staying on for a while buoys my spirits about the future of the FSSF.

Advancing F# and meeting community needs with the FSSF

I like the focus on education that I have seen in the common statement on the other board candidates’ announcements. I would want to engage with the community members already producing educational material to see what we could do to better support them and to make materials more accessible to more people. I could see a need to create a sister organization specifically around education if the FSSF charter or tax-filing status prohibited certain more agressive promotion. To know for sure, I’d want to check the charter and what limitations are imposed and if those could legally be reformed.

I do think that if education and better access and more educational content were pursued over the next few years, there might be an opportunity to solicit more corporate members and more funding from corporate members who are using F# in their businesses.

There is another intriguing element in the F# ecosystem and community right now: Fable.

Fable is advancing and growing and is now targeting more languages, there could be a divergence in the community vision for F# and with Microsoft. Or, some aspects of Fable development could end up funded or taken on by Microsoft. As a board member, I think that exploring needs of the community and possibilities here is an interesting challenge and worthwhile endeavor.

Thanks for taking the time to read this long-winded announcement.