[Linux-aus] The case for an established product to replace MemberDB

Kathy Reid kathy at kathyreid.id.au
Thu Jan 22 15:24:09 AEDT 2015

Hi everyone,

There's been some excellent debate here about the future of MemberDB, 
and whether a mature product - possibly CiviCRM, but not necessarily - 
should be favoured over a collection of lower level utilities.
I'd like to make the case for an established product.

Maintability and supportability

While less mature tools and utilities may do the job - and do the job 
well - and even do *exactly* the job we want them to do, they fall down 
when it comes to maintenance and supportability. We have a small team of 
people who work on ZooKeepr - which is an integral part of running 
linux.conf.au - and both getting new people up to speed and willing to 
commit unpaid time to maintenance is difficult. We all have day 
jobs/lives/other commitments.

If we were to go down the road of a mature product, then the support 
ecosystem would be one of the selection criteria. If necessary, we could 
buy in the skills to maintain and support the product, and 
*documentation* for the product is likely going to also be more 
comprehensive, lowering the barrier to entry of those who may wish to 
volunteer time to maintain it.

Alignment with values

Linux Australia supports open communities and open technologies, and 
contributes to the open source industry and ecosystem in Australia and 
New Zealand. I feel that it's actually a closer alignment to our values 
to support and adopt an existing mature product - even if we need to pay 
to do so - than to build another tool which will likely entropy over 
time - as MemberDB has.

Feature set and applicability

If LA were to adopt a mature tool, the feature set is likely to be much 
richer - even if we don't use all of it. There will likely be use cases 
we hadn't though of as the organisation evolves and our remit changes - 
and to have a mature product established is likely to give us more 
flexibility. A mature toolset is also likely to have wider applicability 
to the LUGs who are Subcommittees of Linux Australia - and therefore 
entitled to leverage LA's infrastructure.

Cost of ownership

This argument is somewhat contentious. A mature product may have an 
initial cost - for purchase, or installation consultancy -and for 
ongoing maintenance and upgrades, depending if it's hosted on LA servers 
or hosted somewhere in the cloud. However, the TCO of a non-mature 
product comes from the loss of productivity in being able to do all the 
things we'd like to do with a Membership system, and possibly the 
competing technologies it would be written in. For instance, 
linux.org.au is on Drupal. The people administering it - Web Team, 
Council etc - are going to be the same people who use the tools and 
utilities. Let's make it easy for the people who volunteer their time to 
Linux Australia to do what they need to do, rather than having to switch 
between multiple systems.

Legal compliance

Linux Australia is incorporated under the Incorporations Act of NSW, and 
administered by the NSW Office of Fair Trading. There are a number of 
requirements this legal framework places upon LA - which are generally 
very reasonable. They include the ability to do good reporting on 
membership, and ensure currency of membership. A mature product is both 
more likely to allow us to achieve compliance, and further - and 
distinctly - demonstrate that we are compliant.

I warmly welcome further discussion around this point.

Kind regards,


Kathy Reid
kathy at kathyreid.id.au
0418 130 636

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