One of the aspects of Fedora is holding public meetings on IRC. We use Meetbot (courtesy of Debian, thanks!) to help administer meetings. Common commands allow Meetbot to do all the hard work of recording proceedings. The automatic minutes make it possible for people who couldn’t attend to follow what happened in the meeting. These minutes are key for maintaining transparency and information flow around the project.
But the minutes still depend on the people who chair the meetings to use the command set to record important data.
- #startmeeting – Sets the overall group for the meeting
- #endmeeting – Cleans up when done, and gives you the URLs for the minutes
- #topic <Topic name> – Sets a topic heading for the next portion of the meeting
- #info – Record some information that’s useful for anyone reading the minutes
- #action <nick> <thing to do> – Clarifies who’s got the ball to complete something before the next meeting; it’s usually a good idea to set a due date*
- #agreed – Documents something the attendees agreed on, also important to make decisions transparent
- #idea – Helps give visibility to something no one is doing yet, but could be useful (also see #help in the MeetBot page)
- #chair <person>… – Add someone(s) to the list of people MeetBot will listen to for commands
* A good friend of mine pointed out that unless you set a due date for an action item, you’re not writing actions, you’re writing a wish list. It should not only be clear who’s got the ball, but when they’re expected to give it back.
Here’s an example of a meeting I ran recently where I used the MeetBot commands to record useful minutes. If you were to look at these minutes later you’d get a pretty good idea of what was covered. You’d also know who was supposed to do tasks before the next meeting. There are a couple action items without clear dates, which is sub-optimal. But overall the meeting minutes are pretty clear.
In some cases, I ended up repeating things people said, using the #info command at the front to tell MeetBot to record in the minutes. If you’re running a meeting you should be prepared to do this. I also like to add everyone in the meeting to the #chair list, to help increase information flow when needed. (It’s also not a bad idea to reduce the chance that a single chairperson will be knocked offline and unable to #endmeeting.)
Are you reading your minutes when done to see if they’re effective? If not, you should. Use what you find to make your meetings better and more transparent for the community. I thought about showing some recent examples of poor minutes usage, but I didn’t want to embarrass anyone.
If your minutes only serve to show a link or two, and an attendance roster, that’s pretty much useless for most community members. Sure, logs are useful, and good for transparency too. But it takes a long time to read logs and extract necessary points from the dialogue. That dialogue can also sometimes be confusing after the fact due to the way IRC works.
Use the facilities we have available to us in Fedora to provide more information and transparency on what you’re doing. The couple of extra minutes per meeting spent using MeetBot will save each reader many more in return!