Improving transparency for meetings

Various GNOME projects and initiatives hold (semi-)regular meetings. Some are announced in advance on matrix, some on discourse, some are very ad-hock. Agenda and notes might exist and might get published.

None of this is discoverable nor very open to new people. It would also be nice to know what people attended a meeting and more importantly, at least a rough version of what was discussed.

I’m also aware that some meeting are without an agenda and there is no reason to take notes (meeting to triage bugs and MRs for example).

I still think it would be nice to have a more organized way to have those meetings: some way to discover all kinds of different meetings, a schedule and an agenda for the meetings, encourage to take take notes and publish them at the same place (even if the notes are as simple as: “triaging issues and MRs”).

Unfortunately I’m not aware what kind of software could be used for this.

  • BBB seems to have some support for this kind of stuff, maybe that’s enough?
  • Can we use a new discourse category and encourage people to follow some guidelines? (The engagement team seems to be using discourse actively already for this)
  • Something else?
  • Can we configure BBB to let people know about guidelines we come up with?

I agree we could do much better with meeting transparency.

Could help with meeting planning and history afterwards too? I haven’t dealt with the platform myself but I see there’s for foundation members. There events could link to their BBB meeting and such.

It would be nice to integrate BigBlueButton meetings directly into the platform directly, instead of just attaching links to rooms managed separately in the BigBlueButton UI on (which is currently provided by an add-on application named Greenlight). It looks like the events platform is built using Indico, which does support collaborative tool integration – but only with Zoom (for now).

Such an integration would allow a BigBlueButton room associated with a meeting to become available automatically during the scheduled meeting time. It could be joined directly from the events interface, and the events interface could displaying recordings made during the event when people go back to look at it later. Access controls (like a private meeting only available to foundation members) could be applied there too.

Note that if this was done, Indico would talk directly to the underlying BigBlueButton platform, rather than go through the Greenlight application, so you wouldn’t be able to re-use an existing Greenlight room or have recordings display in Greenlight if you did this.

Regarding meeting minutes - even if you aren’t using or don’t want the full recordings capability in BigBlueButton, it would be possible to enable a “notes” recording format which simply publishes the content of the BigBlueButton shared notes area (an embedded Etherpad) after the meeting. I don’t think this feature is built-in to BigBlueButton, but I have the scripts to do it hanging around somewhere.

Some guidelines can be provided to users of BigBlueButton by configuring the server with a default presentation PDF file with instructions. Also, the server can be configured to send a message in chat to the moderator who starts a meeting with a link to documentation/instructions as well.

(Disclosure: I’m a developer on the BigBlueButton project)

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This sounds great! What of it is actually doable right now though?

The default presentation PDF and chat messages to the moderator could help informing about taking meeting notes and we could publish them, but if we don’t have a place to put everything this seems kind of pointless to me…

Yeah, figuring out where you plan to collect and publish meeting notes might be the trickiest point. I’m not the person to figure out a solution for that :slight_smile:

The changes that it would be possible to make right now on the Greenlight side, via admin configuration are:

  • Allowing users to preupload presentation for a room. If you have a room that gets re-used for a recurring meeting, you can put instructions specific to that meeting on the presentation shown by default. Changing this server setting makes a new option visible in the room settings. (Sorry for the archive links; you’re using an old version of Greenlight and the developers of that project decided to delete the old docs as a way to encourage folks to upgrade.)

The changes that it would be possible to make right now on the BigBlueButton side, via configuration changes on your BBB server, would be:

  • Changing the default presentation shown in all rooms (unless overridden in Greenlight) to one that includes extra instructions.
  • Changing the chat welcome message shown to moderators and/or viewers in all rooms (you can show different messages to different user types) to include extra instructions, or links to an external service if you decide to use something else to write or collect notes.
  • Enabling recordings (this might require changing settings in Greenlight), and installing an additional “notes” recording format (you can enable or disable other recording formats as desired). The resulting notes will show up automatically on the Greenlight room after the meeting. This works best if the same Greenlight room is repeatedly used for a recurring meeting, since the notes from past meetings will be shown in a list with dates.

It looks like the “notes” format is available as a package on the currently supported BBB 2.6 and 2.7 versions (I mistakenly thought it had been removed recently), so it should be straightforwards to turn on. If your BBB server admin would like any assistance with setup or tuning, please feel free to contact me directly.

I’ll also look into opening an issue on the Indico plugins github repo requesting a BigBlueButton plugin.

The current Greenlight v3 version does have some nice UI improvements, and I’d suggest upgrading from v2 for continued support. It’s possible to migrate rooms, settings, recordings, etc. Note that Greenlight v3 no longer has native LDAP support. Instead it needs an authentication server that supports OpenID Connect – or Keycloak for LDAP user federation (see the External Authentication docs).

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