[Linux-aus] LA co-branding proposal

Anthony Towns aj at erisian.com.au
Sat Jan 9 00:47:54 AEDT 2016

G'day world,

I thought it might be interesting to write up my idea for an alternative
to rebranding LA as something more like an action plan, rather than just
a concept [0].

I think the motivation for rebranding LA as "Open Source Australia" or
similar, is that:

 a) "open source" / "free software" ideals broadly are what's interesting
    and motivating about Linux, and have always been much closer to the
    heart of what "Linux Australia" has been about than just the Linux
    kernel or Linux distributions per se

 b) a bunch of people do interesting "open source" things outside of
    Linux, such as developing open source software on and for Windows or
    Mac, or building open source hardware that doesn't actually run Linux,
    or promoting open data that's completely OS agnostic.  Those are all
    things that fit well together with what "LA" has done in the past,
    but since they don't involve "Linux" directly, it can be confusing
    to people as to why a group called "Linux Australia" is involved

Maybe those are the same reason? Maybe someone could phrase them better
too. *shrug* I'm assuming the above is close enough for non-profit work.

I'm going to add in a couple of other things that I think matter:

 c) changing the organisation name is hard and risky -- there's a whole
    legal process to go through, and it's not totally obvious that there's
    a name out there which actually works better in every way than the
    one we've got anyway. getting a name change wrong would cause a lot
    of confusion and be a lot of additional work to fix. ("hard and risky"
    doesn't mean we shouldn't do it anyway, of course)

 d) having "LA" do things is generally a bad idea; having subteams
    working on projects (like individual LCA or PyCon teams) with LA
    just doing administrative support and oversight works much better.

I don't think the above is controversial; but I think a clear statement
of assumptions makes it easier to resolve disagreements, so the above's
hopefully a clear statement of my assumptions.

Anyway, add that up and here's what I propose:

 1) we form a new sub-committee focussing on "promotion of open source",
    called either "opensource.org.au" (which LA has control of already,
    AIUI), or, purely as an interim measure, "that bunch of rabid

 2) the new sub-committee gets some or all of the following goals
    along with a mandate to make them happen:

    a) setup and register a new trademark and trading name for LA
       to use, eg "Open Source Australia" (after consulting on wtf that
       name should actually be). Once registered, conferences under
       the LA umbrella, such as PyCon AU can opt to say they're being
       run by "Open Source Australia" rather than "Linux Australia"
       if they prefer. if there's no good consensus on a single name,
       possibly create two.

    b) resurrect the opensource.org.au website and make use of it

    c) experiment with membership levels, eg accepting annual donations,
       either as nothing more than a donation, or in return for minor
       benefits like PDF certificate or an "@opensource.org.au" forwarding
       address. maybe accept corporate memberships?

    d) experiment with providing endorsements like "command line user",
       "bug reporter", "scripter", "bug fixer", "kernel hacker",
       "hardware hacker", "published documenter" that LA members can
       earn to acknowledge and encourage personal development and
       contributions to open source. (maybe do the same for corporate
       members, like "publishes source code", "complies with the GPL",
       "uses open source", "hires hackers and doesn't claim copyright
       on what they do in their own time"...)

    e) run/promote small scale hackfests where people learn
       open source related skills or contribute to open source projects

    f) track and promote open source alternatives to proprietary
       technology, eg "instead of google docs, try ....", documenting
       benefits and drawbacks. the "rabid fanatics" subctte and LA
       council should both make sure any non-free software they use
       is covered by this list, and regularly look into whether the
       drawbacks have shrunk to a point where shifting is reasonable;
       other sub-cttes should be encouraged to do likewise

    g) write up the effects of existing and proposed legislation and
       regulation on open source use/hacking, and make suggestions on

    h) write up and promote example contracts for hiring open source

    i) ...?

 3) the LA *council* should not do any of the above however! instead
    they should just monitor the "rabid fanatics" subctte like they
    would any other -- making sure they don't do anything that harms the
    organisation, don't spend crazy amounts of money, aren't being totally
    dysfunctional, etc. Providing financial support should be similar
    to a LUG or LCA, etc -- ability to get reimbursements and dealing
    with tax, definitely; but no huge commitment of funds. Likewise for
    sysadmin support.

 4) if folks who might otherwise want to contribute content to the LA
    website think "promoting open source" matches what they're trying
    to do, they should totally be part of the subctte if they want
    to. *maybe* that means the "media" subctte ends up getting subsumed;
    or becomes more of a "SIG", eg a mailing list/irc channel/wiki where
    people doing media work for LCA, PyCon, opensource.org.au, etc share
    advice/tips/leads and retweet each other. (or maybe something else

 5) *if* any of the goals work out, that's great! they should be
    continued next year. if not, no big deal. depending on how things go,
    maybe the subctte should be split -- perhaps you could have separate
    subcttes for "running and promoting open source related hackfests" and
    "promoting membership and involvement in LA", eg.  all of that should
    be pretty straightforward under LA's existing subctte policy, I think.

 6) *maybe*, *eventually*, if a bunch of the goals work out, the
    opensource.org.au site becomes much more interesting than the
    linux.org.au site, and the "Open Source Australia" (or whatever)
    name becomes better known than "Linux Australia", in which case the
    council might officially rename the organisation and turn linux.org.au
    into just a redirect

 7) *maybe* if the approach above works out, and people are
    interested in practice, and not just rhetorically, we could create a
    "Linux 4 life" subctte (aka "that other bunch of rabid fanatics"?),
    with goals along the lines of "encouraging *Linux* use and hacking",
    and give them control of the linux.org.au website, with the mandate to
    fill it up with interesting content related to use/development/... of
    Linux (kernel, distributions, ...) in Australia; again with the same
    constraints on the subctte described above in (3)

I think there's three big benefits of taking this sort of approach:

 - it allows progress despite disagreement about whether the name change
   is a good idea, and provides more evidence either way. if it turns
   out it was a good idea all along, great, see step (5); if it turns
   out it wasn't, it's easy to just disband a subctte and stop renewing
   a name registration. and in the meantime none of LA's existing events
   has to care about it if they don't want to.

 - it provides a good example of how to do cool stuff in LA outside of
   being on the council, other than running a conference; conversely it
   gives the council a good example on how to promote forward progress,
   while at the same time not committing to doing extra work themselves.

 - it mostly puts the focus on the fun/cool/rewarding bits (ie, promoting
   open source, helping people learn, switching away from non-free stuff,
   ...) rather than the administrative bits (let's get a new name,
   reorganise subcttes, update the constitution, import all our data
   into different software that hopefully sucks less, etc)


[0] Historical references:

     - http://lists.linux.org.au/pipermail/linux-aus/2013-January/020319.html
     - http://lists.linux.org.au/pipermail/linux-aus/2013-January/020330.html

    AFAIK the idea of just setting up a separate trading name never went
    any further from that point; corrections appreciated.

[1] I guess I'm distinguishing the council and the subctte's roles
    as something like this: LA's purpose as an organisation is to
    "assist groups/individuals who make up the free software and open
    source communities in Australia" [2], so the LA council should be
    focussed on making it easy for groups to do cool things (like run
    conferences). Meanwhile, the "rabit fanatics" is one such group,
    and the stuff they do should mostly be "cool things" -- promoting
    open source, running hackfests, telling people how great it is that
    they learnt how to rebase or bisect in git, eg. I think that's a
    useful split to maintain if it ends up with an "Open Source Australia
    Council" and an "promoting open source subctte".

[2] https://linux.org.au/values

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