Last night at the Annual General Meeting we had a motion to disincorporate The Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) . The proposal was for LUV to cease being an incorporated society on condition that Linux Australia (LA)  accepts us as a sub-committee. As a sub-committee of LA we would elect our own committee to run things locally but have LA hold the finances, deal with all the paperwork that the government demands, and generally do as many of the non-core tasks associated with running a users’ group as possible.
When we discussed this at the LUV committee meetings it didn’t seem like a big deal. But as is often the case with political discussions it turned out to be difficult.
There was a lot of discussion about LUV supposedly ceasing to exist, people seem to think that LUV is defined by having an incorporated society. My impression was always that it was defined by a mailing list and having meetings – and I was involved in both before there was an incorporated society.
Lurkers and Ownership
During the discussion we had some input from members who were typically lurkers who seemed to feel that their property rights towards LUV were being infringed, this annoys me. I think that if someone chooses not to be involved in running an organisation then they should choose not to concern themselves with the details of how the organisation is to be run. People who attend the meetings should have a say in how the meetings are run and have reason to be concerned about anything that might affect them and the opinions of speakers also matter. People who are involved with mailing list discussions should have a say in how the lists are run. But people who have never volunteered for a position on the committee shouldn’t be greatly concerned about the internal issues of how things are run.
Some concern was expressed about the financial situation of LUV and whether we would still get enough donations to keep it running when combined with LA. There was even some FUD suggesting that LA would just take our money (they had assured us that all funds and donations would be ear-marked for us). The current LUV financial situation is that Red Hat pays for the venue for the monthly meetings and the rent for the venue comprises about 2/3 of all donations. The remaining 1/3 comes from one company. So in the current situation if Red Hat ceased donating then we would have 18 months to find another donor or cease holding meetings before our bank balance became unreasonably low. If the company which gives the other significant annual donation was to cease doing so then we could operate for a few years on savings but we would need to find some other source of funding.
It seems to me that joining LA would give us more financial security. Then if Red Hat ceased paying for the venue then LA could keep things running until we found another donor, I’m confident that LA wouldn’t allow LUV to just shut down because of a shortage of donations.
If people are really concerned about the financial situation of LUV then they should urgently seek further donations such that if any one donor decided to stop giving then we could still operate as normal. To achieve that goal I think we need at least another $1,000 per annum. This issue of redundancy in donations is something I raise every time that LUV finances are discussed.
My conclusion is that people aren’t really bothered about the financial security of LUV except when they are looking for reasons to avoid change.
Doing New Things
During the course of discussion about the future of LUV there were a number of requests for improvement. One significant request was for more support for regional Linux users. Some years ago we held a mini-conference in Ballarat which went well. I think it would be good to do such things again, the cost is not particularly great and I’m sure it would be accepted by LA for funding, but we need to organise it.
Organising such events is something that anyone can do. Any LUV member can plan an event, get costs for everything that is needed (food, accommodation, travel, etc) and then pitch it to the LUV committee in terms of which things should be paid by LUV and which by the members concerned. We could then work on getting additional funding from LA if necessary. But planning an event takes some effort and it’s often effort that can only be done by a local. Finding a suitable venue and getting some assurance that a large enough audience will attend is something that can’t be done remotely.
I think that the problem for LUV in regard to such things isn’t a lack of money or independence. I think that the problem is that the committee spends too much volunteer time on administrative tasks and not enough time directly doing things that benefit members and the community in general.
In the past I have declined nomination to the LUV committee because I felt that I could contribute more by giving lectures, finding other speakers, and doing other things to directly improve the group. I was on the committee last year and have now been elected to it again, but I’m starting to think that I made a mistake. Maybe I should have declined and let others work on the new model rules and other paperwork.
One committee member has claimed that the time taken on administrative tasks isn’t taking time away from other LUV related tasks, I invite any committee members who feel that way to address some of the services that members are requesting. Speaking for myself my lack of time directly impacts that I can do for the club.
I think that ownership of a club should be related to what people do for the club. If you have a feeling of ownership and lack ideas for how to contribute then you can ask the LUV mailing list, there are lots of people with suggestions for things to do.