Linux Aus face to face

So, catching up on my WoBloMo posts. On the 21st I was in Melbourne for the Linux Australia council meeting. Saturday was mostly organisational stuff: basically getting an idea what each of the council members thought about the approach we’d take for the rest of the year. Stewart invited Andrew Cowie to give a presentation on corporate governance and related background from LA’s history. It was pretty similar stuff to what Andrew talked about when he was on the committee (from 2003 to 2006), basically that it’s important to have a split between oversight and executive roles (ie, making sure stuff is done properly and actually doing stuff), keeping your head around all the different sorts of strategies and objectives the organisation might pursue, and focussing on being a sustainable organisation, so dealing with people coming and going and prudent management of funds and resources. In some ways it’s a difficult issue for LA because we’re at the point where we have enough resources to want to do lots of cool stuff, without having the resources to handle it in a sustainable manner; we have money, but not enough to hire staff for an extended period; we have income from the conference, but it’s not very diversified and can be quite variable; we have volunteers, but they’re often already overloaded, etc. I don’t think we came up with any answers per se, rather than just kept an awareness of the questions; but compared to a few years ago, it seems like LA’s beginning to settle into something approaching a working compromise, which is good.

The other comparison that can be made to a few years ago is more of an absence. When Andrew was on the committee, at least in the year we had in common, he and Pia had a habit of butting heads, more or less on this topic. From where I sat, it was mostly entertaining: a real live dialectic, noble scholars jousting on the field of ideas wearing their philosophys’ favours on their arms — though I gather for both Andrew and Pia it was mostly just frustrating. Particularly since there was something of an impedance mismatch in their roles within the organisation, rather than being a debate between people with equal responsibilities that someone else gets to adjudicate. To attempt to paraphrase Pia’s line of thinking (and without the benefit of it having been reiterated just a few days ago), I’d say her view was that sustainability is very much a secondary issue compared to activity and actually getting things done; that Linux Australia is a volunteer community, so make use of that and get people to do things for free so you don’t have to worry about how much money you have, and reward that contribution with kudos and appreciation, and ultimately if your organisation is doing great things, people will find a way to keep it going one way or another anyway.

I’m personally more biassed towards Andrew’s focus than Pia’s — I’d rather work on the multiplier between effort and results, than increasing efforts with the same multiplier. But not completely so: there’s no point having huge results for very little effort if nobody’s putting in any effort, after all, and there’s no point having an organisation that can sustain itself forever, but that never actually does anyone any good. So for me, it seems valuable to keep the other side of the argument close to mind.

(We discussed a bunch more practical stuff on Sunday, but I couldn’t very well have posted about that the day before, which was the WoBloMo post I’m meant to be making up for here…)

One Comment

  1. Russell Stuart says:

    Its nice to see this reported on somewhere. Thanks.

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