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[Linux-aus] Adelaide F2F notes - Saturday (DRAFT)

Linux Australia Committee Meeting Notes
Adelaide, 2005/06/18


    Jonathan Oxer, President (Chair)
    Pia Smith, Vice-President
    Anthony Towns, Secretary
    Mark Tearle, Treasurer
    Geoffrey Bennett
    Andrew Cowie
    Stewart Smith

The Linux Australia committee met in Adelaide over the weekend of the 18th and 19th of June to discuss the organisation's roles and focus, to review the organisation's activities over the past financial year and to plan for the next financial year. The meeting came to order at 10:10am on Saturday continuing until 5:00pm with an hour's break for lunch.

The following is a summary of issues discussed.


Linux Australia's budget was the first item discussed, in order to form
a basis for the remainder of the meeting. The period for review was
taken to be from the end of LCA2004 to now, which could variously be
considered one period (by income), two periods (by expenses) or one and
a half periods (ie, 18 months). The financials have not yet been
finalised for the past year as the LCA2005 books have not yet been
closed off, but the following numbers for expenses are believed accurate
for planning purposes.

    Face to face meetings for the committee: 3 x $3000
        March 2004: Melbourne
        February 2005: Sydney
        June 2005: Adelaide

    Linux Australia expenses: $5000
        LA banner: $1000
        Insurance: $2000
        misc expenses (PO box, fax, etc): $2000 (est)

    LPI fees: $1000

    Media training: 2 x $5000
        May 2004: Sydney
        April 2005: Canberra

    Grants: $9000
        2004/05: Computerbank transport: $2800 [allocated, not spent]
        2004/11: Education Expo: $2000
        2005/05: DarLUG CD booths: $1800
        2005/06: LCA HOWTO: $2000 [not yet finalised]

    Open Source Forums: $700
        June 2005: $200 (reimbursements)
        March 2005: $500 (catering)

    Ghosts of Conferences Past: $17000
        2004/08: $5000 (Canberra)
        2005/05: $12000 (Dunedin)

    Total: $51,700

This approximately matches estimates of income over the same period
provided to the committee.

The offset timing of LCA this year makes assigning values to a
particular year somewhat awkward, so the figures above should be viewed
with some care.

The treasurer and secretary expressed their expectation that firmer
numbers for the 2004/5 financial year, including the finalised books for
linux.conf.au 2005, should be available around the end of July to enable
more precise control of the LA budget in future. In the meantime, the
committee is concerned that there is less leeway between expenses and
income in the period examined than expected.

Linux Australia, Structural and Governance Issues ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The most contentious item on the agenda was regarding LA's role.

Andrew Cowie spoke at length on the standard corporate organisational
structure of a board with a supervisory role over an executive that
undertook the day to day management of the activities of the
organisation. In particular, while the oversight duties appropriate to a
board of directors are generally relatively lightweight, the active
management of the organisation, in LA's case managing insurance details,
managing receipts, complying with tax, trademark and other laws,
providing services for sub-committees, and ensuring sub-committees are
functioning effectively.

Concerns were also raised about organisational continuity, in particular
that activities undertaken in the executive role require a
familiarisation period which is difficult for individuals elected
directly into an executive role. The committee reviewed various options
for corporate structure, including a self-perpetuating board versus an
elected board, staggered two-year terms, and an elected board that then
appoints an executive internally from its numbers.

The committee further considered the possibility of a board appointed
CEO or executive assistant, and whether that could be handled as a
full-time or part-time paid position. The committee considered in
confidence the experiences of similar organisations that have similar
positions, but was unable to determine a particularly good fit that
reflected both our limited budget, and the structure and goals of the
Linux community. The committee further reviewed some of the possible
means of oversight of a semi-independent executive, such as an
independent CFO reporting to the board.

The committee considered in particular that the book-keeping activities
currently undertaken by the Treasurer, and some of the spokesperson and
media roles undertaken by the President and Vice-President, as well as
some of the tracking duties undertaken by the Secretary would benefit
from being able to be undertaken as a paid position, rather than being
at risk of needing to be put aside due to other commitments.

Mark Tearle in particular indicated that other commitments had made it
difficult to carry out his duties as treasurer to his satisfaction
recently. Mr Tearle indicated also that his goal in standing for the
role of Treasurer was to organise the books which he had expected to be
a two year task, and that as a consequence of both these factors he was
not sure he would stand again next year. Stewart Smith and Andrew Cowie
both indicated that they believed some form of restructuring was
necessary, and noted that this was the crux of their election platforms.
 Mr Smith and Mr Cowie further noted that they considered their
involvement in the committee to be limited to a supervisory role, rather
than one of taking action directly.

No particular strategy achieved any degree of consensus, and the
committee agreed to defer to the President's judgement on how to proceed
on this topic.

Committee Meetings ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pia Waugh raised some concerns regarding the committee's weekly informal
teleconference hookup, in particular that she found it less effective
than the fortnightly formal teleconference meetings that had been taking
place last year. After discussion, the committee decided to try to
improve the teleconferences by having the secretary return to preparing
a bullet point agenda in advance of the meetings, for the president to
lead the discussion more actively, and for the committee as a whole to
attempt to make better use of the task tracker for monitoring followup

Strategy ~~~~~~~~

Following a break for lunch, the committee moved on to discussing its
communication strategy. This began with an explicit summary of LA's
focus and strategy.

The committee determined that the organisation's focus, to be reflected
in both its actions and communications, was to be on the Linux community
rather than the Linux kernel or related products per se. The projects LA
is most focussed on supporting are projects that improve the community,
either by encouraging more personal interaction such as through
conferences, or expanding the community through advocacy, or encouraging
a more vibrant community through supporting individual activities.

The committee also noted that new activities to be undertaken by the
organisation would by and large need to be carried out by interested
volunteers since the committee members themselves were all already quite
busy. The committee's focus is thus one of enabling, facilitating and
encouraging, rather than doing or directly managing.

Communications ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The committee considered two key audiences. The first was the LA
membership, in order to ensure information about what activities have
been undertaken in LA's name is available and to ensure that the
resources LA can offer members are well known. The second key audience
was the wider community of Linux users and potential users, and
particularly helping ensure information about Linux and Linux related
activities is widely available.

Communication with the membership is broken down into roughly four
areas: communications required by law to go to all members, important
announcements, reporting of activities such as minutes and financial
summaries, and general informal communications. The committee determined
that announcements were not being communicated sufficiently well and
that it would be appropriate to subscribe members to the announcement
list when they join the organisation, and to remind existing members of
this option. The committee have set up a wiki [0] and will investigate
whether that makes maintaining reports and minutes more effective.
Planet Linux Australia and the linux-aus mailing list will also continue
to be used for informal communications. Most of these activities will be
undertaken by the committee directly.

[0] http://wiki.linux.org.au/Ctte/

Communication amongst the community in general is LA's other priority.
The main issues the committee wants to ensure people are aware of are
threefold: what else is happening around the Australian Linux community,
what resources are available to members of the community, and what
activities aren't being undertaken that interested volunteers might wish
to look into.

The committee considered a range of methods of assisting these sorts of
communications. The committee hoped that Planet Linux Australia would
continue to serve as an effective, and low-maintenance way of allowing
the Linux community to keep itself informed, along with word of mouth
from LA members and others subscribed to the more formal LA announcement
lists. The committee also hopes to be able to provide an up to date news
feed summarising activities within the community.

The committee's focus on most communications issues is to make sure the
information is out there, and then encourage word of mouth amongst the
community. The priority for communicating what resources are available
is thus to ensure that the LA webpages have a reasonable description of
those resources for those who go looking for it, rather than attempting
to push the information out to people. The committee hopes awareness of
the availability of resources will be raised by news of interesting
projects that make use of LA resources.

Additionally, the committee continues to consider ideas to increase the
connectivity of the Linux community's word of mouth network. Two ideas
that the committee believes may assist in this are encouraging multi-LUG
events, such as Software Freedom Day, and the possibility of a LUGger
exchange, perhaps having LA assist with the expenses of sending a member
of one of the more established LUGs to speak at a regional LUG.

The committee also considered a number of secondary audiences, and what
communication items may be relevant:

    * Potential users
       - Software announcements
       - Australian business information, and software available
         (cf vendors directory)
       - How to get involved in the community
       - Forthcoming events of general interest
       - The free software / community vision
         (cf NGOs starting to using Linux)

    * The non-Linux using public
       - Position statements policy issues & current events

    * Government
       - IP concerns
       - How Linux can help government
       - What other countries are doing

    * Allies - EFA, LI, AUUG, etc
       - Coordinate on IP issues, how to communicate with government
       - Handling of common events

    * Media
       - Building relationships to assist with communicating in general

The committee hopes that members of the community will be able to assist
with many of these issues, but notes that the press team as it stands
has not been as effective as had been hoped. The committee thus
discussed the prospect of reformulating the press team so that it serves
as an editorial or advisory role for people from the community who wish
to put out press releases on their activities, rather than being a
single source of Linux related press releases, and hopes that may prove
more effective.

Sub-committee Review ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mike Beattie provided the committee with a summary of the progress on
LCA2006, noting that they're currently in the process of getting quotes
for the detailed line items on their budget, and are getting most of the
bigger items decided upon. Progress on contacting keynote speakers is
reportedly good, and the organisation of the Call For Papers is ramping
up. Mr Beattie expressed the LCA team's concern that the temporary host
LA had provided for the LCA team's use was somewhat sluggish, and that a
permanent host was required within the next week, or at worst the next
two weeks. In accordance with indications from the LA admin team that
the existing box, digital.linux.org.au, should probably not have new
services added to it until it could be cleaned up significantly, and the
committee's estimation that a new sponsored machine was not likely to be
available in the timeframe required, the committee determined that
immediately purchasing an inexpensive rackmount server for LCA's use was
the most effective course of action. Pia Waugh noted that she could
source a box through her company, Volante, quickly, and Jon Oxer
indicated he could host the box at IVT as long as the traffic
requirements were not outrageous. The committee indicated Mrs Waugh and
Mr Oxer should proceed with this course of action.

Steven Hanley provided a report on the LCA2005 team's status. Mr Hanley
indicated that they were experiencing difficulties extracting the audio
data from the ogg video streams, which is needed for preparation of the
post conference CDs, and that this was the group's most significant
concern at present, with around two requests for info on the audio data
and the papers coming in each week. The LCA team have copies of
approximately 80% of the papers. Mr Hanley further informed the
committee that almost all the outstanding invoices resulting from the
conference had been paid, though there were still some reimbursements
that needed to be handled.

Stewart Smith briefly indicated the Melbourne group of which he is a member was quite active in preparing a bid for LCA2007. Pia Waugh noted that there was a group in Sydney also interested in bidding. The committee also noted there had been independent expressions of interest from Wollongong and Broome. Mrs Waugh also indicated her concern that discussion by members of the committee who were participating in bidding for the next LCA implied a conflict of interest. As a consequence the committee did not look into the bids in detail, and considered the possibility of delegating the choice of winnning bid to a selection of past organisers to resolve the conflict of interest. The committee
determined that early October would likely be the best time to receive final bids.

Anthony Towns and Pia Waugh briefly summarised the progress of the team
investigating the possiblity of running "women.linux.conf.au", which
would be a technical Linux conference for and by women, with the aim of
helping women feel comfortable participating at a technical level, and
to serve as a stepping stone to greater involvement in the Linux
community at large. Currently there are about a dozen women on the list
 both from Australia and abroad, and discussion has reached the point
where broader input from women in the community is desired on what form
the conference should take, and if there are sufficient volunteers in
the community to organise it. Mr Towns and Mrs Waugh indicated that they
were investigating options for setting up a poll to assist with this.

No report was received from the Community Code team, though the
committee had previously been made aware that they were primarily
waiting to be informed that LA's insurance would cover their activities
properly. Mark Tearle was happy to inform the committee that the
insurance had recently been renewed, and that he would pass on this
information to the Community Code team.

Rusty Russell provided the committee with a summary of activity in
relation to the Fair Use inquiry currently underway. He indicated he had
received about twenty responses from members that he would collate as
part of the organisation's submission to the inquiry, and that he had a
position paper in draft. Mr Russell noted that submissions are due at
the end of the month.

Pia Waugh reported on the Open Source Forums, noting that three had been
run so far, with an attendance of about eighty people for the first
forum covering patents, about twenty for the second covering Linux on
the desktop, and about thirty for the forum on anti-circumvention early
this month. Mrs Waugh indicated that the desktop forum had been poorly
advertised, and that she had received a lot of positive feedback and
support for future forums. There had also been interest from people in
Adelaide and Brisbane on the possibility of replicating the forums
there. The next forum will be on open source business methods.

Support Issues ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A number of requests had been made of the committee for assistance with
hosting a wiki. The committee determined that providing a moinmoin
instance under wiki.linux.org.au for such cases would be feasible.

Jon Oxer and Pia Waugh had done some work on developing a sub-committee
policy, in order to help groups work out what they need to do to become
an LA sub-committee and make use of Linux Australia's name and
resources. The committee determined the appropriate course of action was
to put the policy on the committee wiki, and develop it there as a set
of guidelines, with new sub-committees continuing to be ratified on a
case by case basis.

Stewart Smith gave the committee a tour of the memberdb system, which is
used to manage memberships, mail announcements to all members, and run

Anthony Towns <secretary@linux.org.au>
Secretary, Linux Australia Inc