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Re: BLUG Management (was Re: [blug-non-tech] Hope you all had fun !)

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  • Atul Chitnis
    All: Please DO NOT take this as an attempt to raise an ugly war again, because it is not. I am simply fulfilling a promise, and closing the circle on something
    Message 1 of 15 , Dec 11, 2003
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      All:

      Please DO NOT take this as an attempt to raise an ugly war again, because
      it is not.

      I am simply fulfilling a promise, and closing the circle on something that
      happened in September. At that time I promised that I would address this
      issue again after LB/2003.

      Please note that I am addressing those parts that I left unaddressed in
      September - if you want answers to those parts, check the archives.

      This is not an invitation to anyone to come flaming with both barrels - if
      you really care about the BLUG, you will let this matter die. No one will
      be happier than me if not a single reply is made to this note.

      Atul

      On Sun, 31 Aug 2003, Kiran Jonnalagadda wrote:

      > 1. Who are the "we" referred to above? I know "we" is supposed to
      > expand to "managers of LB/2003", but who are these people? Can we have
      > a list of names and a description of what each did to become a manager?

      The managers of the event were Kartik, Mahendra, Khader, Swati, Tarique,
      Manish, Kishore, Prady, Harsha, Jessie, Gopi and me.

      They each became a manager for several good reasons, some which were that
      they were interested in helping with the event, they stepped forward and
      volunteered to help, had proven track records at being able to to handle
      the work, were all volunteers at past events, were trustworthy and
      reliable.

      These people were not "self-appointed" - they worked hard to earn their
      place on the team that arranged the event.

      Note that while the Bangalore Linux User Group is a registered society,
      Linux Bangalore is an event created and driven by a group of people (the
      very group listed above) for the Linux and Open Source community - not for
      or as the Bangalore Linux User Group. LB != BLUG, and vice versa. The BLUG
      *facilitated* the LB series by providing support.

      The same applies to the Linux bangalore mailing lists, which are run by me
      personally. They are intentionally not called "BLUG-*" to make it clear
      that these lists do not consider themselves to be the BLUG, and I have
      stated this repeatedly on these lists as well.

      Therefore, let us be clear about the fact that the managers of Linux
      Bangalore (the event) are not (and never have been) responsible for the
      BLUG. They have simply used their available resources (organisational
      skills, contacts and driving power) to help the BLUG at times (such as
      help plan BLUG meets).

      > 2. Where are the logos that were submitted? Don't BLUG members have a
      > right to choose their logo democratically? Why is this task assigned to
      > a self-appointed management?

      To answer this, one needs to explain how things work in the real world.

      For the past so many years, the Bangalore Linux User Group has facilitated
      events like the community participation in events like IT.COM, BangLinux,
      Linux Bangalore, etc. by providing logistical support (such as volunteers)
      and content (speakers).

      We have always taken great pains to highlight this, and to some extent
      have been successful in doing so. But last year, during LB/2002 (and this
      year, during another event - the IPv6 summit), we realised that among
      all those colourful sponsor logos, the BLUG was getting lost.

      We badly wanted to highlight our home LUG, and since no one else felt this
      need (which really could only be felt by people like us, who arrange
      events, and hence understand the importance of such things), we decided to
      drive a campaign that would result in a nice recognisable logo that we
      could use to represent the BLUG at the forthcoming LB/2003.

      No one "assigned the task to a self-appointed management".

      You don't have lunch using a democratically elected body of people to
      decide that you should do so and how.

      You have lunch because you are hungry.

      This project was dropped when the matter was politicized. We are very sad
      that this happened, but there was no way we could continue the project
      without further bloodshed (mostly ours).

      > 3. Several companies must be interested in sponsoring the BLUG site for
      > the benefit of publicity in each page's footer. Don't BLUG members get
      > to choose who sponsors the site? Competition among sponsors will ensure
      > that the site is well maintained and useful. For example, the current
      > front page does not validate at the W3C validator [1], even with
      > Doctype and Encoding explicitly specified [2].
      >
      > [1]
      > http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http%3A%2F%2Flinux-bangalore.org%2F
      > [2]
      > http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http%3A%2F%2Flinux-
      > bangalore.org%2F&charset=iso-8859-
      > 1+%28Western+Europe%29&doctype=HTML+4.01+Transitional

      While this statement itself seems a bit "motivated", let me address it
      anyway.

      First of all - no other company, other than Sify, has ever come forward
      offering to host the site. No offer has *ever* been made. Period. No
      interest has been shown by either your company, or that of your close
      friends, either.

      Secondly, the site does not just exist because the BLUG decided it needed
      it. It exists because well-wishers of the BLUG (duly listed in the
      sponsor section of the site) decided that the BLUG needed a web site of
      its own. They pulled together resources (cash, time, talent, design
      skills, etc.) and the result of this was a web site for the BLUG.

      You statement about "Competition among sponsors will ensure that the site
      is well maintained and useful" seems puzzling. Is the site currently
      unmaintained and useless? And how exactly would "competition among
      sponsors" happen, given that only one sponsor can actually sponsor the
      site? It is unlikely that IBM would maintain a site that HP is a sponsor
      of.

      What you really seem to be saying is that you object to the fact that one
      *particular* company is sponsoring the site.

      For more than two years of its existence, the site bore no sponsor logo at
      all, but just a name-mention of the two entities responsible for creating
      the site (not hosting or maintaining it). This is easily proved by looking
      at archival webshots:

      August 2001:
      http://web.archive.org/web/20010801162945/http://www.linux-bangalore.org/

      July 2002:
      http://web.archive.org/web/20020719041144/http://linux-bangalore.org/

      December 2002:
      http://web.archive.org/web/20021201024844/http://linux-bangalore.org/

      The first time the current site sponsor logo appeared on that site is in
      February 2003 - not because the sponsor insisted on it (why should
      they, after not doing so for more than 2 years, and not even during the
      highly successful LB/2002?), but because some members thought it was
      something that should be done.

      http://web.archive.org/web/20030208111332/http://linux-bangalore.org/

      Note that the current sponsor, who happens to be my company, doesn't
      sponsor the site because it sees it as good advertising value (as other
      potential sponsors might see it as), but because it cares about the BLUG.

      Since this is becoming a highly politicized issue, and because someone
      sees "profit" in having someone else sponsor the BLUG site, Exocore offers
      to withdraw its sponsorship for the official BLUG site (which currently
      consists of unlimited web space and bandwidth plus site administration) to
      allow another company to sponsor the official BLUG site.

      However, note that this will necessitate the creation of a new domain, as
      the name "Linux Bangalore" is the name of the event, not the Bangalore
      Linux User Group. As long as the two were seen working together, there was
      no problem, but if there is to be a formal parting of ways, then this
      point needs to be addressed. Linux Bangalore is an event that will
      continue to be driven by a group independent of the BLUG.

      You support your argument with some technicalities about web design and
      HTML coding. When I had similar issues on my personal site, someone sent
      me a heads-up not only telling me that there was a problem, but also how to
      fix it. I appreciated that - it is the Open Source way of doing things -
      find a bug, and report it, along with the fix.

      The point is really that site represents the inputs and design of people
      who care, but who may not be exceptionally gifted in Web programming and
      design. The current BLUG site design is done by Mahendra when he was the
      coordinator, the LB event sites have been designed by Swati Sani. Some of
      the back-end coding has been done by me (the news system), Tarique and
      Kingsly (event back-end code), Kartik (content), Biju (content), and a
      long list of other people. You are free to point out issues and help fix
      them.

      Ironically, the person who helped me fix my site was *you*. I wonder why
      you didn't think it worthwhile to provide similar help to the BLUG site,
      instead of making the *need* for such help a political issue.

      > 4. As a registered not-for-profit society, isn't the BLUG legally
      > obligated to present to members an annual statement of accounts and
      > minutes of board meetings?

      Of course it is.

      > 4a. Where is the statement of accounts for the financial year 2002-03?

      At the time when you posted your note (early September), the first year's
      accounts (the BLUG did not have an account until December 2002) had not
      yet been finalised (the last date was 30-Sep-2003), and needed auditor
      approval.

      The accounts for the year 2002-2003 were finalised and have been published
      in the souvenir distributed at LB/2003 - just as it had always been
      intended. The same information will be up on the website in a couple of
      days (after we tie up remaining loose ends, such as publishing event
      slides).

      Note that these do not really represent *BLUG* accounts - because the BLUG
      has never had any financial transactions.

      That bank account was opened solely for the purpose of LB/2002 (and, by
      extension, LB/2003). Therefore these represent *event* accounts, because
      the BLUG has not had a single financial transaction outside the scope of
      the events.

      The minutes of "board meetings" are available as well. Here they are:

      "Met, had coffee and snacks (paid for by Jessie out of her own pocket),
      went home. Nothing of significance was discussed.".

      The importance of this should immediately be apparent:

      The BLUG is a registered society for the sole purpose of being legally
      able to open an account to deposit sponsor money for events. The "board"
      has no function at all, and has taken no actions at all.

      In fact, in view of the politicization of the whole thing, I would
      recommend the dissolution of the society, and to go back to being what
      things were like before - a group of enthusiasts who make it their goal to
      spread the word of Open Source.

      I myself cannot initiate such a dissolution, given that I have never been
      a member of the BLUG board, nor have I ever been invited to be one, nor
      did I ever see the need to be one in order to achieve my personal goals -
      which are the spread and adoption of Open Source technologies in India.

      Given the nature of messages posted by you *after* this note of yours, it
      is quite likely that you could imply "manipulation behind the scenes".

      This would be a ridiculous suggestion, given that my boss (Gopi Garge) is
      currently the president of the BLUG "board" - a board that is a
      meaningless entity in itself, and whose "manipulation" would not gain
      anyone anything.

      And even if there was something to be gained - anyone who believes even
      for an instant that you can "manipulate" Gopi needs to *seriously* have
      his head examined.

      The BLUG board was simply a required paper function. In Biju's words, it
      was "legal fiction", required to achieve something specific - which was to
      allow events to happen.

      > 4b. Who are the members of the board? How did they get elected to that
      > post?

      The members of the "board" were 7 people legally required to register a
      society. We chose people who were least likely to be accused of anything
      untoward in nature. The list of people can be found in the memorandum on
      the site.

      > 4c. Does subscribing to the mailing lists make one a member of the BLUG
      > (for the legal definition) or is there some other procedure? If the
      > latter, what is the procedure?

      No, being a member of a mailing list does not make you a "legal" member of
      the BLUG - the mailing lists are not the BLUG.

      Nor do you have to be a "legal" member of the BLUG to avail of any of the
      benefits of the BLUG - it has always been a stated objective *NOT* to
      differentiate between people this way.

      There is theoretically a procedure to become a legal member, but because
      the intent of the society formation was never to differentiate between
      members and non-members, the system is meaningless because it has never
      been used.

      I am therefore not a legal member of the BLUG either. And yet I have never
      felt any less a member of the BLUG.

      And no, you cannot wave your chequebook to "buy" yourself a voting right
      in the BLUG, because the BLUG has no legal "voting" system - the BLUG
      society is a legal piece of paper whose sole purpose was to enable the
      collection of sponsorships for specific events.

      We have since discovered that even this is not necessary anymore (it is
      now possible to open an account specifically for an event), and after the
      final accounts for 2003-2004 are published, both the account and the
      society could be dissolved as they serve no purpose to anyone other than
      the politicians.

      > The memorandum of association at
      > http://linux-bangalore.org/blugmemo.php does say something about these
      > issues, but has significant gaps. For example, where is the "prescribed
      > form" for membership and when are the annual general meetings held?

      To show you just how meaningless that query is - the prescribed form is on
      the back of a paper napkin in Coffee Day, Cunningham road. You are free to
      design your own prescribed form and use it. I recommend the paper napkins
      at Barristas, since they blot less.

      The BLUG has two annual days - August 25th and a formation day (March
      20th) - the latter has never been celebrated or marked in any way so far.

      By general consensus, August 25th represents the BLUG's annual day, and
      marks the only sort of "official annual general meeting". On this day, the
      current coordinator sums up what has been done by the BLUG over the past
      year, and invites suggestions for new stuff.

      Any financial transactions are also announced. If none were announced,
      none took place.

      Nothing else of significance is discussed, and we sit back and enjoy the
      evening socialising, having an outrageous amount of fun and good food.

      One of these days, you may want to attend one of these meetings.

      > 5. Who appoints the coordinator for each year? In three years and three
      > coordinators I have seen, the next coordinator is always named at a
      > meeting without prior discussion either at a meeting or here in the
      > non-tech list. How is this decision made?

      Simple - no one appoints anyone.

      Since I am not legally a BLUG member (thanks to your note, this is now
      clear), I cannot really *define* how it is done, but I can tell you that
      the process works by volunteering.

      Despite the jokes we make about it, each coordinator has essentially
      chosen himself/herself, either by volunteering to be the Sacrificial Goat
      for the year, either through direct voicing of such an offer (e.g. KD, VLB
      and me), or by actions throughout the year which made him/her a logical
      and popular choice (by finger pointing - Biju, Jessie, Mahendra, Kartik).

      If you would like to be the coordinator next year, please volunteer.

      The only requirement is that you should be able to prove active
      participation in every aspect of the BLUG - which I think is a fair
      requirement.

      BTW - simply attending meetings, listening to talks and eating food is not
      considered as "active participation" in most organisations in the world.

      > I hope someone has answers for these. An organisation that purports to
      > be the country's largest association of open source/free software
      > supporters cannot appear to be run by a closed/anonymous management.

      I completely agree. I hope you are satisfied with the answers, and are now
      convinced that there is no BLUG-related management, and certainly not
      closed or anonymous.

      The only real "formal" activity of the BLUG has been the meetings every
      month. The topic, format and content of the meeting, along with the
      speakers, is always decided on the mailing lists, in a completely
      transparent manner. Mailing list members suggest topics, suggest talks,
      suggest themselves as speakers, and the meet happens.

      As for the Linux Bangalore event - there is certainly event management in
      that, but it is not related to the BLUG. And even here it is neither
      closed nor anonymous.



      Have we said enough on all this?

      Then let me say something now - something that has been burning inside
      me for these past three months, and something I was unable when you first
      posted your note.

      In 2001, I ceased all further interaction with Linux India when a process
      of politicization was started, trying to turn LI into an "organisation"
      with "positions", a "hierarchy", "elections", "rights", "registration" and
      "powers".

      The BLUG isn't about any of these things. However, your note attempts to
      position it that way - and it is something I reject. Completely.

      The BLUG is about Open Source technology and its application and adoption.
      As long as it stays that way, and achieves its goals (which it certainly
      has done in a big way since 1999), I see no reason for anyone other than a
      hungry politician wanting to change this.

      Attacks on the "BLUG management" are meaningless - there is no "BLUG
      management" - heck, there isn't even a formal BLUG - it's a bunch of
      technology enthusiasts and a couple of mailing lists, for $deity's sake!

      Demanding "answers", and implying "rights" because you happen to be a
      member of some mailing lists (that is run by me, not the BLUG, and isn't
      een named "blug-xxxxx" to make it clear that while it serves the BLUG, it
      isn't the BLUG) highlights the single biggest problem with many such
      communities:

      An over-inflated sense of entitlement.

      It is a classic symptom seen when a perceived "audience size" reaches
      critical mass - that's when the politicians (and the armchair
      revolutionaries) step onto the stage.

      None of this would have happened had the BLUG been perceived to be less
      successful, and would have represented a much smaller group of people.

      And it causes such communities to be self-limiting, even self-destructive
      in nature.

      I sincerely hope that the promoters of the campaign in September now have
      their answers, and will allow the BLUG to live on in peace, rather than
      promoting further politics which would invariably divide the BLUG and
      potentially destroy it.

      Despite everything that has been written above, the BLUG is a very very
      real thing to many people (including me).

      But if the time has come to encourage politicization of the BLUG (or any
      other community), then the time has also come for a whole lot of people to
      ask themselves why they would want to stay involved.

      Starting with me.

      Atul
    • Biju Chacko
      ... I generally agree with the way things are run -- my objections are mostly more in style rather than substance. However, that has got to the most ridiculous
      Message 2 of 15 , Dec 14, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        On Thu, 11 Dec 2003 23:29:06 +0530 (IST), Atul Chitnis wrote:

        > As for the Linux Bangalore event - there is certainly event management in
        > that, but it is not related to the BLUG. And even here it is neither
        > closed nor anonymous.

        I generally agree with the way things are run -- my objections are mostly more
        in style rather than substance.

        However, that has got to the most ridiculous argument I have heard. I find it a
        little difficult to swallow that 'Linux-Bangalore' and BLUG are different things
        and that LB/200x is not a product of the BLUG.

        It's a great rationalisation (which (no offense) Atul is very good at) but it
        doesn't reflect reality.

        *Any* organisation's culture and ethos is just a reflection of the people who
        run it. The BLUG and LB/2x (like any open source project) are run by people who
        stand up and do all the dirty work. There have been numerous efforts to get
        people involved (I've done it a couple of times myself). People have come
        forward and helped out. Again like any OSS project, the people who have
        contributed the most get listened to the most.

        There has never been any barrier to entry. I started by carrying chairs and
        moving tables at Bang!Linux and ended up as SG. Pretty much everybody who was
        listed as a manager of LB/3 has had similar experiences.

        In short, if you want to change things send in a patch. A patch in this case
        means actual work rather than cribs from the sidelines. Like any patch, don't
        expect yours to be applied until it's proved to be useful.

        Now for the disclaimers: Hmmmm ... I hardly have any:

        1. I'm not involved in the BLUG management anymore, so I don't have any self
        interest in defending it.

        2. I'm not particularly friendly with Atul anymore, so I sure as hell have no
        interest in defending him.

        3. I don't work for Exocore anymore (don't hold any particular affection for it
        either) so I don't feel that I should defend it's sponsor status.

        But I'm not unbiased -- the current form of the BLUG and LB is as much my work
        as it is anybody's. I find it offensive that anyone should insinuate that it's
        controlled by a secret cabal that's conspiring to keep everybody else out.

        -- b

        --
        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Biju Chacko http://in.redhat.com Red Hat Inc
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