Many thanks to Michael Downey, and Community Management going forward...

I wanted to write a brief note on behalf of the entire OpenMRS community to recognize the exceptionally important work of Michael Downey within our project.

Over the past 6-7 years, Michael worked tirelessly alongside the rest of us to create a welcoming, supportive community. He lived, breathed, (and often slept!) OpenMRS… and was a fantastic student of open source communities in general. One of the things I personally appreciated about Michael was his wisdom about how our community should evolve, and what we could do to empower individual members of the community to get things done and to lead others. Many of us learned a lot from our conversations with him. A lot of how we’re actively working to evolve the project will forever have Michael’s imprint within it. He has a lot to be proud of on that front.

It goes without saying that Michael has left some big shoes to fill. While transitions are often sad times, the project can and will move on with vigor. If I were to categorize the primary things that Michael helped lead/oversee, I’d place them into four buckets:

  1. OpenMRS IT Infrastructure Oversight

  2. OpenMRS Communication Infrastructure Architecture / Customization

  3. Event Planning

  4. Community Engagement

As you can see, that is a large collection of activities. So much in fact, that many of us believe that it’s too much for a single individual to manage. That said, our transition plans are based upon the presumption that these various buckets of responsibility will ultimately be overseen by more than one individual, and the day to day responsibilities will become more and more a “team sport”, as Michael would have architected himself.

The community leadership is working with Michael and his pre-existing teams to transition his responsibilities to identified community members, and perhaps some new future members to the community. I expect that we will be able to give you all more specific detail about this in the next 2 weeks, so stay tuned to this thread for more information. I’ve asked @burke to help lead this transition process.

Michael intends to still be involved with the community in some activities, in particular the Google Summer of Code. If you see him around, please do let him know how appreciative you are of the many sacrifices and late nights he spent with the project.

I speak on behalf of the leadership team when I say THANK YOU MICHAEL for all that you did for us as the OpenMRS Director of Community.

Also, feel free to ask questions here about the transition, if you have any.


Hi everyone.

In the days since I wrote this note, I’ve had some community members approach me with frustrations regarding Michael’s departure, and a desire to talk collectively about the underlying reasons why he did so. I think that’s a good idea.

One of the main mistakes I’ve made in my time as a community leader is failing to appreciate the importance of formalized community governance. When a community has grown to the size of OpenMRS’, lack of structure creates all sorts of aches, pains, and discomforts within the community. People feel as if they’re not being heard. People feel as if there are things going on “behind the scenes”. That there’s a lack of transparency. That decisions never really get made fast enough. That we fail to hold the community accountable for making sure things get done.

This has a way of wearing on people. I know it wore on Michael, and it certainly wears on me as well. Michael tried hard to advocate for this new evolved model of community. In my opinion, he ultimately lost faith that we could change, as we’ve been slow to operationalize the necessary changes. Perhaps others of you are feeling the same way.

The good news however, is that change is coming. We’ve about ready to institute a “constitution” which lays out the real specifics of community decision making. We’ve hired help for fundraising and marketing that are putting together a campaign to realize our new operational plan, and we’re actively working on restructuring how to make leadership more responsive and accountable. But we know that this is not enough.

Let’s talk about it here. We’d like to hold a virtual town hall meeting sometime this week. What are people’s thoughts?

This is necessary. I don’t know if many people were aware of what was going on; it’s not easily apparent from the outside looking in…but things are pretty hairy right now but I’m cautiously optimistic that things will improve.

In my eyes talk is cheap, I wanna see action. I know the community does too.

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First of all, I second @paul’s many, many thanks to @michael for blessing the OpenMRS Community with his talents & gifts. I know OpenMRS Community is better for having him and his ongoing contributions will be missed.

As to trying to fill in @michael’s (big) shoes (apologies for gaps/mistakes in this… this is just a brain dump to help share where things are)…

There’s an infrastructure team, including @r0bby, @cintiadr, @maany, @ryan, and @elliott supporting various aspects of the infrastructure and, per @r0bby, things are stable. We could always use more volunteers in this space to help share the workload. Also, @paul and I are working with folks at Indiana University (where much of our infrastructure is housed) to see if we can get some additional devops support so folks like @robby have assistance, backup, and feel free to take a break at times.

From what I’ve seen, @cintiadr has been leading efforts with help from @janflowers, @pascal, and others to address the non-IT-infrastructure aspects of the helpdesk, including finding ways to contact people who have reached out to OpenMRS. I know @paul and myself have been looking at how the sausage is made to help where we can. Again, volunteers to help serve as guides to the community (i.e., help newcomers who want to contribute) would be greatly appreciated.

We’re excited about Uganda’s plans to host a regional meeting in September. We are considering looking into hiring an event manager for a second annual OpenMRS Summit in Singapore in early December. Once again, anyone interest in volunteering to help with the significant effort it takes to put together an international meeting would be greatly appreciated.

There are a myriad ways in which @michael led community engagement. For example, connecting to other open source groups, overseeing posts to @OpenMRS on twitter, overseeing the helpdesk and Community Management team, etcetera. Folks like @janflowers, @pascal, @surangak, @lober, @chris, @terry, and others have been contributing their time & efforts to help with partnerships. As I mentioned above, @cintiadr and others have been leading an effort to work through helpdesk contacts. If anyone has interest in contributing to the community through community engagement activities, we’d love to hear from you.


We have Guides cases and new contributors who emailed us asking what they can do. These are falling through the cracks. This is the kind of thing that will tank us.

I have also added additional filters in to make my life easier and hopefully anybody who works with our Desk instance. I added a Filter for Partnership cases. It’d be helpful if the Partnership team checked in daily – maybe a couple hours a day.

Also, the sysadmin from IU – make sure that they are devops, not just a sysadmin. What we do is devops more than system administration.

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Burke, thanks for working this and making the community manager roles clear. We need to make sure that we dont ‘lose sight’ of these four functions , so we should check in on them during our leadership team calls.

Robby, i agree with you about the contributors/ volunteer (and tanking us if we dont get it right !). we are going to work on a ‘volunteer process’ so that we know that we are tracking the volunteers. Jamie started a volunteer site today on Talk, but we may need to pin it and/ or move it to the community area ( cause so many people aren’t just technical–or, at least it seems that way). If there is a better way for us to make sure that we get the right notice about people, please let us know.

and partnerships–let us know the best way to do that daily check in. i would hope that we can make that happen. thanks for all that you doing.

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I have pinned the post seeking volunteers – hopefully it gets more visibility.

@terry, you have an account on Desk :stuck_out_tongue:

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