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Re: [Fsfe-uk] AFFS strategy (Was: Beyond bitching...)

From: MJ Ray
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] AFFS strategy (Was: Beyond bitching...)
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2005 11:25:02 +0100

Various comments, but I've not time to reply to all the vast volume and
I'll mostly stick to where I've info or a strong opinion. This covers:
- The Lists and Organisations
- Offers to LUGs
- Privacy and Openness

Thanks for reading.

= The Lists and Organisations =

Graham Seaman <address@hidden> wrote:
> But if this is not an AFFS list increased traffic does nothing to build
> up the AFFS. Please can either this become recognised as the AFFS list
> (don't know how that would happen - I thought the AFFS was in practice
> the FSFE-UK, but from the responses it's clearly not!); [...]

Here's how I see it:

- FSFE is a pan-European non-profit supporting free software with a
    tightly controlled membership and a larger paying fellowship;
- FSFE-UK will one day be a branch of FSFE in the UK with 3 or so
    members at first - it doesn't exist today;
- address@hidden is a mailing list for UK-related FS discussion;
- AFFS is a membership organisation supporting free software in the UK,
    which is an associate of FSFE.

In (un?)popular language, FSFE is a bit more cathedral,
AFFS is (should be?) a bit more bazaar.  I'm currently one
of fsfe-uk-admin and I'm quite happy for AFFS to use this
list. FSFE highups are subscribed and I expect they'd be happy
with that too.

Adam Bower <address@hidden> wrote:
> Because most of the stuff we do is terribly boring, there has been a
> private committee list since AFFS was started (AIUI, and probably a list 
> before that with discussion of how AFFS was going to be setup with people 
> on it who ended up being on the committee I would think) [...]

address@hidden is a continuation of address@hidden This
list predates AFFS and is where most of the setup discussions
took place, in public not private. It's all there in the archive
and it's not pretty. Before that, there were a few discussions
on a public FSFE list.

= Offers to LUGs =

Alex Hudson <address@hidden> wrote:
> I think we'd welcome it, but I don't think this is something that AFFS
> can take the lead in. We can't generate communities at a local level;
> there has to be a group of people who want to do things locally - what
> help these people will need, I don't know. 

AFFS knows (or can find out or decide) what resources it can
offer but LUGs don't. It should offer those as a starting point,
along with an invitation for LUGs to ask questions.  LUGs are the
backbone of our free software community at the minute and AFFS
offers them little.

All of the suggestions seem good ones, but which have
resources and opportunity? For example, a LUG newsletter would
need an editorial policy, decisions about publishing and some
real bridge-building with LUGs to get a good distribution.

Being a national organisation shouldn't stop this happening,
or local groups forming. Other organisations are national or
international, yet still make local groups of various levels.

More generally, AFFS should be a figurehead or a muster point
when it's appropriate. In some fields, it's probably no longer
appropriate and it's time to work with, in or on the group
that is the figurehead, instead of continuing the pretense of a
workgroup. In others, if there was a clear offer for workgroups,
I think it could work.

I don't really understand the blanket fear of activism:
sometimes it's appropriate, others it's not.  Anyway, if AFFS
is figurehead for nothing, its role in press and promotions
naturally withers away. Why is that surprising?

> How can we measure whether or not we're achieving anything? I guess we
> could measure how many times we're asked to speak, but that's more a
> metric of profile. 

This is another problem. Things should be measured if possible,
even if we don't have a perfect metric for them. Perfectionism
can be crippling. Release early, release often.

= Privacy and Openness =

> [...] because you have 
> a committee who do "things" and they need some way of discussing them. If
> people don't like the way that the committee do "things" then you vote
> them off at the AGM and replace them with someone better. 

The committee should discuss what's happening openly. I know
there was a "just do it" sentiment about grants at the last
AGM, but I don't think it should be taken too far. At present,
members would just be guessing who to replace, as they can't
tell who does what.

> The situation is that if all the things that the committee did was
> public then I could imagine that every time we made a decision we would
> get flamed by some of our members. If you like reading flamage then I'm
> sure that would be interesting but it is a bit of a turn off for me.

A bit more scrutiny might reconnect some committee actions
with the membership. If your decisions are going to be so
unpopular that they are *all* going to be so unpopular with
supporters, are they *all* the right decisions?

If the list gets too flamey, the owner should address it.

Adam Bower <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 29, 2005 at 08:14:25PM +0100, Andrew Savory wrote:
> > If openness works so well in many many free software projects, why do 
> > you assume it would not work for AFFS?
> A difference is that many free software projects have a "cabal" who
> decide what to do. If they think that your idea is crap then they will
> say so and you can go fork or create a patch. [...]

Many projects have "cabal" meetings in full public, with minutes
published hours afterwards and at least they usually actually
say the idea is crap, instead of just failing to reply at all.

Organisations and communities have newsletters of their own,
instead of ones produced by the cabal. Often the editor is not
part of the government.

> Software development imho is quiet different to running an 
> organisation [...]

I think it's not too different and I admire the running of
some projects and organisations that Andrew has been involved
in (whether or not I agree with the organisations ;-) ). We are
often falling over experts, so let's listen to them.

Adam Bower wrote:
> Well, I find this very ironic that you are now applying a rule to
> "specific" emails when you feel free to talk about other private mails
> from the same mailing list (where many of your whinges can be
> followed back to specific emails in the past, well over a year ago, or
> does the privacy of people involved in those not count?).

If I've referred to a private email in error, I apologise. "State
of the AFFS" mentions them on two occasions and none of my
reviewers told me those were unnecessary. I think the rest is
based on my actions or meetings which should be a matter of
public record anyway.

> Anyhow, since you left AFFS in May many discussions have taken place,
> things have moved on and changed. [...]

I'd bet more ctte discussion has taken place in the week-ish
since I announced "State of the AFFS" than in the three weeks
before it. I hope that you're addressing the issues, rather than
questioning the honesty, sanity or sincerity of the account.
You could call it a rant, but it was reviewed by a few people and
checked a few times for accuracy (as far as possible without
breaking privacy of ctte list), unlike most rants.

Not my preferred tool, but I'd exhausted most of my range.

> The results of these
> discussions will be seen by the members in the future.

I'm sure they will be appropriately grateful when told!

Alex Hudson <address@hidden> wrote:
> [...] but maybe the answer is that we open affs-ctte, start
> an affs-private and hope that the majority of discussion continues on
> ctte? [...]
> Just as a straw poll: do others think this is worth pushing? [...]

The sentiment is good, but the past archives shouldn't be opened,
because there are some private messages from external groups. I
think ctte just working on public lists unless it's actually a
private matter would be better and simpler. It may help to keep
down the number of uninformative noise posts too.

Well done! Message ends.

MJ Ray (slef), K. Lynn, England, email see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/

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