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>> Can Linux Australia survive?

Fri, Jul 1st 9:53am 2005: Linux Can Linux Australia survive?

AJ has just emailed notes from the face to face Linux Australia committee meeting held two weeks ago in Adelaide, and last week Stewart posted some thoughts about the sustainability of the organisation. I think it's an unfortunate confirmation of the problem that Stewart's post didn't get much (any?) response. Right now Linux Australia is at a difficult size - you could almost think of it as being at the "teenager" stage of development. It has grown well beyond a small organisation that exists solely to facilitate a conference, but it's not yet big enough or well resourced enough to support a paid executive to handle day to day chores. It's involved in far more things than almost anyone outside the committee would be aware of, but doesn't have staff to delegate chores to. So it's doing lots of things, but the responsibility for making those things happen falls on the (voluntary) committee. That's dangerous. As Stewart said in his post, Michael Davies made the astute comment that LA currently survives by burning people out and replacing them with fresh blood. The committee is refreshed annually with an influx of new suckers to jump on the treadmill, but as activity in the organisation increases the burnout rate will no doubt increase proportionally. So what do we do about it? Is it time to restructure the organisation? And why are we here anyway? At the meeting we discussed a number of extreme options as ways of exploring the bounds of the reasonable. For example, maybe Linux Australia should downsize its operations and just be an organisation that exists to provide a legal structure for LCA. In that case it would become not much more than a shell which gets passed on from year to year, with a process in place for determining the next host group but not much more. Personally I think that option totally sucks and would be a fundamental failing of the organisation, and I think I can safely speak for the rest of the committee in saying they feel the same way. Or the other extreme is to hire an executive, perhaps in the form of a CEO or a secretariat to undertake all the jobs it's hard to find volunteers for. That would easily chew up an extra $100k / year, which would require making the organisation work hard just to make enough money to stay alive. We'd have to chase direct corporate sponsorship, push LCA to make more money, diversify income streams, the whole box and dice. Personally I think that's all a bit much right now too. But as I said, these are examinations of extreme positions. They're very useful things to think about even just as mental exercises to frame our own concepts of the bounds of reasonableness. So where from here? Assuming we want to follow a middle-ground course, what should that be? At the end of the discussion the committee basically decided to leave it up to me to set a course since there was no clear consensus among the group. Oh well, I suppose this is where the burden of responsibility comes in! Time to be Presidential. Or something. Over the last two weeks I've been thinking about it a lot and I'm formulating some ideas but I'll leave that for another post. In the meantime, if you've got things to say about LA and the way it's run, *now* is the time to start making yourself heard.

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