[Linux-aus] Candidacy Support Statement - President or Ordinary Council Member

Anthony Towns aj at erisian.com.au
Fri Dec 2 08:46:18 AEDT 2016

On Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 02:45:10PM +1100, Kathy Reid wrote:
> Response #1: Transition from MemberDB to CiviCRM at a cost of approx
> $23k AUD, with ongoing opex of around $2.5k AUD annually and have a
> custom voting module developed to facilitate Elections (cost not yet
> estimated).

That seems kind of gold-plated, especially if the $23k doesn't include
the custom development that will actually let it do the one thing memberdb
actually does... Why so much?

Is the admin team not happy to maintain an instance of civicrm directly?

> Response #2: Develop and execute a formal recruitment program aimed at
> younger potential members, [...]

I'm not sure if this actually makes sense to me -- trying to get new
members only makes sense if being a member is actually valuable to people;
and if being an LA member is valuable, then word of mouth is probably
the best way of getting people involved anyway.

I kind of think that in practice that 95% of the reason LA is valuable
to anyone these days is that it helps people *run* events; and if so,
that isn't really valuable to that many people -- the pool of people
running open source related events in Australia (and maybe NZ) just
isn't that big.

Personally, I think of LA as an organisation run by/for open source
developers/admins/power users -- so, by and large, it doesn't make
sense to me to out source things like running a website or developing a
voting module or whatever: that's our wheelhouse, those are the skills
our members have at their fingertips. Sure not everyone knows how to do
SQL queries or create a drupal module or whatever, but that just means
learning new skills and asking for some help when you need it. And isn't
that approach *exactly* the collaborative spirit of free software in
the first place?

But I wonder if maybe I'm out of date -- that was how things were 10 or
15 years ago, for sure; but maybe LA's active members these days have,
as you might expect, changed to match its value proposition, and LA's
now an organisation run by/for event organisers. In which case paying
someone to do SQL queries or develop and admin software probably does
make sense -- at the very least, if all the members who you'd like to
ask for help are busy organising events, they're not going to have much
in the way of time to help out.

In my opinion, there's obvious drawbacks to either view:

 * if LA's a bunch of volunteer open source hobbiests collaborating and
   building things themselves, then stuff won't be as
   slick/reliable/prompt/presentable/whatever; we'll end up with things
   like memberdb rather than a nice CRM; our website or conference
   management software might be ugly or go unmaintained; things will get
   rewritten unnecessarily because the people involved find writing new
   code fun, etc.

 * if LA's a bunch of event organisers who are all about running great
   events in a particular field, and just want to make those events
   great again, then there's not much reason for non-event organisers
   to be involved as members, so the organisation won't be broadly
   representative of volunteer free software hackers and won't be great
   at influencing government policy etc; and the organisation will be
   reliant on plenty of proprietary software rather than setting an
   example of using open source in the real world; and it'll cost a lot
   more to maintain services since they're not being run by volunteers

To me, the efforts at growth all seem to be pushing LA into the latter
situation -- and don't get me wrong, that would be a fine and worthy
end in and of itself, but to me that looks more like better filling an
existing niche than really expanding the organisation's relevance and
reach (or free software's).


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