[Linux-aus] Can Linux Australia survive?

Jonathan Oxer jon at ivt.com.au
Fri Jul 1 08:00:03 UTC 2005

Sorry about the sensationalist subject, but I needed to do *something*
to dress up a boring topic!

Just to make sure the relevant people (ie: you) see it, this is a story
I've just posted to my blog. Followup discussion welcome.

>From http://jon.oxer.com.au/blog/id/65
Can Linux Australia survive?

AJ has just emailed notes from the face to face Linux Australia
committee meeting held two weeks ago in Adelaide, and last week Stewart
posted some thoughts about the sustainability of the organisation.

I think it's an unfortunate confirmation of the problem that Stewart's
post didn't get much (any?) response.

Right now Linux Australia is at a difficult size - you could almost
think of it as being at the "teenager" stage of development. It has
grown well beyond a small organisation that exists solely to facilitate
a conference, but it's not yet big enough or well resourced enough to
support a paid executive to handle day to day chores. It's involved in
far more things than almost anyone outside the committee would be aware
of, but doesn't have staff to delegate chores to.

So it's doing lots of things, but the responsibility for making those
things happen falls on the (voluntary) committee.

That's dangerous. As Stewart said in his post, Michael Davies made the
astute comment that LA currently survives by burning people out and
replacing them with fresh blood. The committee is refreshed annually
with an influx of new suckers to jump on the treadmill, but as activity
in the organisation increases the burnout rate will no doubt increase

So what do we do about it? Is it time to restructure the organisation?
And why are we here anyway?

At the meeting we discussed a number of extreme options as ways of
exploring the bounds of the reasonable. For example, maybe Linux
Australia should downsize its operations and just be an organisation
that exists to provide a legal structure for LCA. In that case it would
become not much more than a shell which gets passed on from year to
year, with a process in place for determining the next host group but
not much more.

Personally I think that option totally sucks and would be a fundamental
failing of the organisation, and I think I can safely speak for the rest
of the committee in saying they feel the same way.

Or the other extreme is to hire an executive, perhaps in the form of a
CEO or a secretariat to undertake all the jobs it's hard to find
volunteers for. That would easily chew up an extra $100k / year, which
would require making the organisation work hard just to make enough
money to stay alive. We'd have to chase direct corporate sponsorship,
push LCA to make more money, diversify income streams, the whole box and

Personally I think that's all a bit much right now too.

But as I said, these are examinations of extreme positions. They're very
useful things to think about even just as mental exercises to frame our
own concepts of the bounds of reasonableness.

So where from here? Assuming we want to follow a middle-ground course,
what should that be?

At the end of the discussion the committee basically decided to leave it
up to me to set a course since there was no clear consensus among the
group. Oh well, I suppose this is where the burden of responsibility
comes in! Time to be Presidential. Or something.

Over the last two weeks I've been thinking about it a lot and I'm
formulating some ideas, but I'll leave that for another post. In the
meantime if you've got things to say about LA and the way it's run,
*now* is the time to start making yourself heard.


Cheers   :-)

Jonathan Oxer

More information about the linux-aus mailing list