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LUG talks today

Today I gave three talks at my local LUG. The first was my latest SE Linux talk (I’ll put the notes online soon). The second was a talk about voting.

I asked for a show of hands, who has already decided which party they will vote for at the next federal election (about 12 people put their hands up). I then asked people to put their hands down if they were not a member of the party that they intend to vote for, including myself there were only two raised hands in the room (including mine)!

With the way party politics works nowadays the major parties are not very interested in representing their core voters. Why try to please for people who will vote for you anyway? Instead they try to appeal to swinging voters and pressure groups. If you have decided to vote for a party they have no reason to try and impress you. Therefore you should join the party and try and influence the policy decision making process from within.

The issues that I believe are most important to the Linux community are free software use in government, sane intellectual property laws, the right to a fair trial, and not pandering to the US (which is related to the previous two points).

If you have already decided who to vote for then you should join that party and make your vote count in the party room.

One member of the audience said that he had been a member of one of the major parties but that the internal politics turned him off. If that is your experience then I think you should ask yourself whether you want to vote for a group of people that you can’t work with.

The final talk I gave was about getting speakers for Linux Users’ Groups. There is always difficulty in finding speakers for clubs. Ideally we would have meetings planned a few months ahead of time so that they could be advertised in various ways. Newspapers often have columns dedicated to providing information about public meetings but the lead time is usually at least a week (and the meeting would have to be advertised at least two weeks in advance – so more than a month’s planning ahead is required).

Getting a larger number and variety of speakers will attract new members, encourage existing members to attend more meetings, and inspire members in their Linux work.

Talks can be given by almost anyone. There is a constant demand for speakers who have expert knowledge in the topic, but anyone who is a decent speaker and has the confidence to stand up at the podium can give a good talk. For expert speakers possibilities include academics, industry leaders, leaders of free software development projects, and journalists. But that’s not all, anyone who wants to spend the time researching a topic can give a talk on it. For example I’ve been learning about MySQL recently for my own servers and will probably offer a talk about MySQL aimed at sys-admins who don’t want to become DBAs but who just want to get a database running. I’m not a MySQL expert (and don’t plan to become one) but I believe that there are many people who want to do the things I do with MySQL and who could benefit from a talk that I might give.

The best place to find speakers is a conference or trade-show. If they give a talk that works well you can suggest that they give it again for your local LUG. You can also find speakers at conferences that you can’t attend. If someone visits your country for a trade-show in a different city you could send them an email saying “unfortunately I can’t attend your talk, but if you are interested in visiting my city in the same trip then there will be an audience of X people interested in seeing you”.

There’s no harm in asking, the worst that they can do is decline. Ask everyone who you think can do a good job. Also make sure that you don’t make any commitment (unless you are member of the LUG committee).

3 comments to LUG talks today

  • Dave Hall

    I was the person who commented about the internal politics being a turn off. I would have liked to have continued the discussion after the meeting, but as that didn’t happen, I will leave a few comments here.

    I agree that voting for a party you can’t work with it not a good idea, that is why I don’t vote for a major party. At the same time Australia still has a 2 party system (we love our duopolies). Even when a minor party holds the balance of power, the 2 majors agree on so many areas of policy that the minor parties are mostly irrelevant, many people don’t know that on most bills, Labor and Liberal vote together. For example, both parties voted for the DMCA style provisions of the US FTA enabling legislation.

    The minor parties do have a role to play, but it isn’t really in the parliament. Minor parties advocate policy positions that the major parties are unlikely to fully adopt, but they help shift the middle ground of political debate. The Liberal party was able to implement its extreme immigration policies, yet still appear reasonable as One Nation’s policy was even more extreme. The Greens play a similar role with the Labor party, albeit dragging the ALP to the left. I think David Hicks is a good recent example of how the minor parties helped shift the debate.

    Any quality policy developed by a minor party is likely to take at least 5 years to be adopted in a diluted form by the major party aligned to the minor party. In order to get good policy adopted by either a major or minor party you need to be patient. The Greens play an important role in Australian politics, but getting one of the major parties to adopt a Greens policy (or a variation of it) is the key to having implemented. Developing good contacts within a major party is as important as having people join the minor parties.

  • When you have a little time to spare, it may
    be interesting to read an article discussing
    Kenneth Arrow’s so-called “impossibility
    theorem”. Arrow sets out a number of
    conditions, all of them reasonable, which he
    claims a voting system (or any other
    procedure for aggregating individual
    preferences to form
    a social preference) should satisfy. He
    then proves that these conditions
    cannot be jointly met.

  • etbe

    Interesting reference, the URL is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow's_impossibility_theorem .

    This however isn’t relevant to the issue of why party politics forces you to be a swinging voter or a party member to have your preferences noted.