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Organizational.WhatDoWeWantToBer1.10 - 29 Jul 2008 - 12:31 - BenScotttopic end

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"After all, aren't we just a bunch of drinkers with a computer problem?" -- Rich Soule, on the GNHLUG mailing list

This topic is currently a little incoherent -- I'm trying to get ideas down and sort them out later. Contributions, as always, are welcomed.

One problem GNHLUG has had more-or-less since it's inception is the question of "What do we want GNHLUG to be?". Opinions definately vary.

GNHLUG has, to my knowledge, no charter, no mission statement, no formal declaration of purpose. We know GNHLUG exists because a bunch of people say it does, and there is a domain name and a web site and some mailing lists. That's worth a lot, but still rather vague and undirected, which makes doing something more difficult.

There have been efforts to get GNHLUG registered as a not-for-profit organization (see LegalEntity), and I believe they even succeeded at one point, but I don't know if that registration is still in effect. Either way, we certainly never used it for much of anything. [The documents were never submitted to the state -- BruceDawson - 04 Apr 2005] [Turns out they were. -- BenScott - 14 Dec 2006]

I think it is a given that we need /something/ more if we want to go beyond being a "social club for geeks". In the past, we tried organizing GNHLUG around traditional lines, with a "steering committe" and a "chairman" and all that, but to me there seemed to be a steady undercurrent of displeasure with such formalities. Maybe we should be less formal. OTOH, maybe we should be /more/ formal.

In the past, someone wise pointed out that we have multiple possible "target markets" for GNHLUG, in which there is considerable overlap. Here are some ways to break things down:

  • Experience level
    • Potential Linux users -- People who are not using Linux but could be, or should be
    • New Linux users -- People who have decided to try Linux, or want to, but need help
    • Experienced Linux users -- People who know and use Linux, and want to share knowledge and camaraderie
  • Attitude
    • Technologists -- Those who consider computers a profession, or at least a serious hobby. They find Linux interesting because they find technology interesting. "Geeks".
    • Users -- Those who consider computers a tool, and nothing more. They find Linux interesting because it might be a better means to an end.
    • Managers -- Those who consider computers a department or a budget item. These find Linux interesting because it can save them money (long-term or short-term). "Suits".
    • Note that most managers are users, and in the case of someone at home, someone may be all three.
  • Type of entity
    • Individuals -- Using a computer by and for him/herself.
    • Parts of a whole -- Using a computer for an organization.
    • Organizations -- Businesses, non-profits, etc.
  • Role desired
    • Passive -- Sit back and watch
    • Active internally -- Share with those who ask for it
    • Active externally -- Advocacy

To any of the above, GNHLUG could be:

  • A means of education
  • A source of technical assistance
  • A place to share professional knowledge
  • An advocacy group
  • A social club for geeks

-- BenScott - 03 Apr 2005

Your thoughts are very good and well generalized. However, I believe a certain (non-trival) segment of our membership does not want to formalize the organization because:

  • It requires commitment
  • Formal organizations tend to exploit their memberships in various ways.

I'm thinking we need to set things up so that an "formal orgainizational structure" will not exploit those who don't want a formal structure. It seems that the Chapter model might work for this - we have a "psuedo-chapter" with an agreement not to dictate to the local chapters what they must do.

-- BruceDawson - 04 Apr 2005

I think it is good to keep in mind that organizations do not exploit members. Organizations have no ability to do anything. Individuals who are allowed to improperly exercise authority within an organization have the ability to exploit members. Having said that, I believe the five roles for GNHLUG Ben stated at the end of his comments sum up what I believe are essential elements for GNHLUG. This in turn requires some level of organization and leadership which is either provided via an agreed upon structure or as the result of one or two people taking charge and doing what they think should be done.

I have belonged to Ham Radio clubs whose memberships are about as fluid and decentralized as the LUGs and they have done well with a formal organization as it promotes longevity, capacity to accomplish things, prevents the hijacking of the name and group by a srong willed person or two, and creates an entity that the public and other bodies can relate to as opposed to a morphous collection of individuals. Of course this means someone has to be willing to act on behalf of the GNHLUG and to be acountable.

-- EdLawson April 5, 2005

I've visited 3 of the five active LUGs so far this month, and hope to make a fourth next week. I think the essential role that GNHLUG can play is the network that can bind the LUGs together. Common services, shared information, shared speakers, topics are all advantages of strength in numbers. Quarterly meetings sound intriguing. Single volunteers running groups of a dozen participants tend to get burned out. But five of these groups give us 60 members, even if rarely in the same place at the same time. I'm not sure where we take it from here (and I know this question has been raised numerous times in the past decade), but I'd welcome the chance to talk more about the question -- TedRoche - 15 Apr 2005
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