[Talk] subsidy of user groups and chapters

Conrad Parker conrad at vergenet.net
Thu Aug 1 13:37:10 EST 2002

Dear AUUG Board and interested bystanders,

below is a suggestion about how AUUG can work with user groups and other
similar organisations in order to promote the Unix generally.

I sent this to the board about 12 months ago when I joined; from memory
the ideas were well received, but I failed to push through with the
implementation (my fault). Hence I'm now offering this for the new board's
consideration, as I'm confident they collectively have the energy to pick
this apart and hopefully put at least some of it into action :)

I haven't edited this at all, and most of it should still be relevant. At
the time I was also president of the Sydney Linux Users Group (SLUG) so I
made an attempt to keep SLUG's needs out of this discussion, but there's
probably no real need to exclude it.

In essence, what I'm proposing is a way for AUUG to help its chapters and
other Unixy user groups (LUGs etc.) by providing a safety net and sharing
the business side of things. Some simple policies in this area, communicated
well, could go a long way.

 -> skiing time

----- Forwarded message from Conrad Parker <conrad at vergenet.net> -----

Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 16:59:50 +1000
From: Conrad Parker <conrad at vergenet.net>
To: AUUG Executive Committee <auugexec at auug.org.au>
Subject: revitalising chapters

[following up on action item E34 from last week's meeting]

Some ideas for supporting AUUG chapters:

 * we should always involve the local chapter in events

 * we should arrange face-to-face meetings for chapter organisers, eg. an
   annual meeting of chapter heads with the exec, perhaps at the conference

The newly revitalised SA chapter seems to be thriving because it has
adequate support and nurturing from the SA exec members.

 * We should provide guaranteed funding for chapter activities.

Chapters should know that they can rely on AUUG for basic funding, and
that we will reliably help them with arranging their own self-funding

A question: are AUUG chapters independent, eg. have to file with the Dept.
of Fair Trading (or similar), or are they fully covered under AUUG?

How is AUUG different to the hobbyist user groups?

The most striking difference (to me) between AUUG and other groups is that
AUUG is reliable and as such can do some things that purely volunteer
based organisations cannot.

AUUG should cater for the users that LUGs etc. can't cater for:

 * Catering to non-fanatical users

For every SLUG member there's 10-100 Linux users who don't want to waste
an evening a month hanging out with bigoted geeks. Around the country there
must be thousands of Unix users who may not be fanatical enough to turn up
to every monthly meeting, but who would take the occasional tutorial and
who would get value out of reading AUUGN.

 * Catering to commercial users (Enterprise Unix)

For example providing somewhere people can learn about administration of
big systems, and meet others who do the same.

 * Catering to R&D labs.

For example so people can learn about tools for software development in
large teams (which is generally too niche for a LUG crowd).

 * Catering to universities (students and researchers).

Students and researchers use Unix in many wierd environments. Many
of those students will go into the workforce and later choose what
computing environment they use.

 * Teaching advanced Unix usage and development

LUGs are forced to always provide for novices, and members complain when
presentations are too technical. There is little opportunity to learn
advanced skills in LUGs unless they are of wide interest and sexy.

It should be a natural path that people move from hobbyist user groups to
their local AUUG chapter once they reach some level of proficiency. I'm
not just talking about technical skill, but also for when people recognise
a need for a more thorough understanding of Unix and appreciate that it's
not all about sexy video graphics and USB devices.

Hobbyist user groups are important to AUUG: at the very least they are
keeping the spirit of Unix alive outside of universities and R&D labs.

We should make sure to help them out, particularly those just starting
out as they often die after a year or so of disorganised and sporadic

Similarly there are student computer clubs that we could help out with
Unix-related activities.

Some things we can do for such groups:

 * covering for event insurance (as has been done)

 * providing at-cost credit card processing for the group's membership
   dues etc.

 * help with arranging meeting venues (eg. if AUUG can enquire through
   large Unix vendors with national presence)

 * providing a national forum for hobbyist groups to coordinate events
   with each other (such as the national installfest)

 * providing a fixed, fair amount of sponsorship for events (similar to
   how a University's student body helps out student clubs).

Funding of Chapters and Sponsorship of user groups

[NB: I'm not considering SLUG in this discussion: SLUG is an incorporated
body and self-sustaining, at least for now]

I was involved with some student clubs at UNSW. The Student Guild there
provided a simple funding scheme: if you were affiliated with them, they
would provide some funding for events. I think it was something like that
they would match you dollar for dollar on your takings up to a fixed
amount, or another option where they would agree to cover you for a loss
up to a fixed amount.

Anyway, the upshot was that as a club organiser, you knew in advance that
you could afford to put on an event without risking a loss, and you knew
the kind of budget you could play with. You had to arrange the kind of
funding you wanted with the Guild a few weeks in advance, and it was only
good for three events per year. You had to be affiliated with the Guild
and apply for reaffiliation each year; to reaffilliate you had to keep your
books in order (cashflow and membership details) and you had to have an
approved constitution (I suppose so the club was an honest club that would
survive committee changes).

Now, I'm not suggesting we throw money at user groups and chapters willy
nilly. I am suggesting we encourage their growth and encourage Unix-related
events in student clubs.

If these groups know they can rely on us for a fixed amount of funding
then they can arrange events without worrying too much about losing money.
And if the amount is capped and we budget well, we shouldn't have to worry
too much about what they're using it for (eg. if they really need 3-phase
power or whatever): the point is we would provide a reliable service.

As for covering these costs, we can perhaps arrange corporate sponsorship
of these events: thus, another function we can play for such groups is
to arrange external sponsorship revenue for them, which we would share with
them or which we would take whilst providing them with a guarantee against

Of course, we would have different rules and funding restrictions for
our own chapters and for other groups.

We have to make sure the support we provide for chapters and for other
groups is well known, to encourage their growth. In particular, if we want
people to start up new chapters, they have to know that they will get
reliable support from us.  

 -> beer time

----- End forwarded message -----

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