[Linux-aus] Legal issues, minutes? [Was: State representation on the board]

Andrew Cowie andrew at operationaldynamics.com
Sat Jan 10 15:28:17 UTC 2004

On Sat, 2004-01-10 at 12:54, Anthony Towns wrote:
> Likewise, keeping my ear to the ground made it pretty obvious who
> had gotten l.c.a 2005 not long after Hugh announced that someone had.

It's not a secret. Never has been. We were, however, requested by the
organizers of LCA 2004 to keep it under wraps so that it would not
adversely pull attention and interest away from this year's event.

<shrug> We listened.

> (Of course, now it's in the LA minutes, so anyone can find out...)

Given the above, this gives you some idea of the fine line to be walked
with such things. Of course it's in the minutes. We made the decision 6
December. Hugh posted a message 15 minutes later. But I couldn't release
those minutes until a) a subsequent meeting had formally accepted the
minutes (that's proper meeting procedure) and b) there was no longer a
sensitivity aspect to those minutes' content. As it is, we're about a
week too early, but I here we are having this discussion, so, so be it.

Now that they're published, you can read there a decision of why we
broke with "tradition". I knew it would be contentious, so I tried to be
clear in my notation of the discussion. <sigh> Writing to that degree of
depth takes *time*. Is it worth it? (to make it even barely consumable
by a public audience at some future time?) Debatable. Read on.


The real story is that formal minutes are NOT an effective communication
mechanism to an organization's membership. Newsletters are good for that
sort of thing, as are lots of other means.

That we collectively didn't do as great a job on that front as we could
have is a given. The question of how information is best disseminated,
and whose job such communications should be, is a question that next
year's Committee will have the joy of facing full on.

I *personally* don't even think they should be published. In February, I
wrote my peers with a note that in part said:
        Forgive me, but I come from a number of environments where the
        minutes of the Board of {Directors, School Governors, whatever}
        are a very private thing. You don't, for example, ever get to
        see the minutes of the Boards of Directors' meetings of a public
        corporation, even if you are a shareholder. Nor do you get to
        read the minutes of weekly [Federal Government] Cabinet
        meetings, even though from that document flows most of executive
        power in a Constitutional Monarchy such as Australia, Canada or
        I have written our Committee minutes with public consumption in
        mind, which is why they're a tad on the verbose side. It's a
        tradeoff - if they're too brief outsiders won't get it (they may
        not anyway, but one has to try) and if verbose they take too
        long to prepare. 

I did, however, defer to the collective desire of my peers in this
matter, and so public they are.

It's easy to say (as has been suggested in this thread) "oh, just make a
public version of the minutes" but in my experience a) that's even more
clerical work, and b) it generally results in nothing actually being
said in public. Which brings us back to minutes not really being
suitable as a communications vehicle.

Jeff commented (with good humour) that "I don't like him" because he had
commented to me that he didn't think the form[at] of the minutes I
prepared was very good (well, he did do so in public without bothering
to chat with me privately first about it, which I'll admit I do find
distasteful). I don't mind that Jeff though [thinks] so, but again, I
believe the point conceals the real issue of "what is effective
communication, and how best to do it"; I do happen to believe that I
write good minutes, and I will certainly agree that they are a bit
laborious, but I am writing with the obligation of establishing due
diligence on the part of the Directors in mind. As Secretary, nothing
else matters to me.

I certainly don't think that such documents are really all that
effective from a public consumption standpoint, nor are they a
substitute for good a communications strategy. But that's not why
they're written they way they are, and that's really that.


I *personally* think that if we had focused on an effective public
communications vector, as opposed to having the Secretary to make
meeting minutes available (and then lulling ourselves into thinking that
this took care of the communications need), we would have done better on
the let-the-community-know-what-we're-up-to front.

Having said all this, which is pretty bloody disloyal as it is, I will
accept collective responsibility that we collectively didn't to better,
and not try to blade my peers.

You know what? This is deja-vu - as I quoted above, we've had this
conversation already. Looking back, all we did wrong was to have most of
our discussions on our private mailing list, committee at linux.org.au,
instead of here, on linux-aus at linux.org.au. Simple matter to correct for
next year.


Andrew Frederick Cowie
Operational Dynamics Consulting Pty Ltd

Australia: +61 2 9977 6866  North America: +1 646 472 5054


More information about the linux-aus mailing list