It’s fast coming up to that time of year again when WLUG has our annual general meeting and the committee that guides the LUG for the next year is elected. With only 2 weeks to go, and with just over 2 weeks behind us since the AGM announcement (and the accompanying call for nominations) there have only been 3 nominations for the 7 possible committee positions. All 3 nominations are existing committee members who are standing again, and I’ve not heard any suggestion that there are others considering standing either. Naturally this situation has led to people asking the question “Can WLUG survive” and “What happens if we don’t get a committee!”. I think this will be an interesting period for WLUG, it’s not entirely new, there were similar situations this time last year, however unlike then we seem to have run out of people who can be easily shoulder tapped this year. So is it all doom and gloom for WLUG? I’ll give you my opinion soon, but first lets look at how WLUG got to where it is today.
I can only really give an accurate history from 2001 onwards when I first became involved, however luckily I think that covers most of WLUG’s history, and certainly all of of the history of WLUG Inc.
The first WLUG meeting I attended was also the first WLUG meeting in quite a while from what I recall, it was at the old Bugger The Mortgage building at the
north end of Victoria St and was organised by Mark Jones? of BSD. The general aim of the meeting was to kickstart the LUG (again) and try and get some sort
of organisation into the meetings. From what I understand of before that time the LUG existed primarily as a mailing list, with occasional sporadic meetings. There was no official or even semi-official organisational structure.
My memory isn’t that great so I can’t really remember a lot of the detail that happened in 2001 after that, however eventually the consensus seemed to be that more structure would be good for WLUG and that an Incorporated Society would be the best way to achieve this. Daniel Lawson took on much of the hard work involved in bringing the society into being and laid many of the foundations for the success of WLUG over the next few years.
The inaugural committee was elected in Sep 2002 and several of its members continue to serve to this day as part of what I would call the “core” group of WLUG members.
Wlug Inc. 2002 – Present
It would be very hard to argue that WLUG Inc. hasn’t been successful over the past 3 years. The LUG has certainly grown from what it was and has developed
a number of exteremely useful resources, the cornerstone of which is undoubtedly the wiki. The credit for which is strongly owed to Perry Lorier. These resources are well known and I don’t think it is exagerating to say that WLUG is the most organised and well run LUG in the country. I think every month for the past 3 years (maybe with the exception of Dec/Jan) there has been an organised WLUG meeting, a big difference from the prior situation of ad-hoc meetings every now and again.
During this time much of the effort and work that has driven WLUG and achieved the successes has been contributed by the “core” group of WLUG members, (which I think can be loosely defined by those that have sat on the committee for more than a single term).
The LUG has successfully run several Installfests and the Unix Tutorials at the university over the past 3 years. Activites that were both designed to advertise the LUG and attract new members. However this is where WLUG has not succeeded well at all over the past 3 years. While the LUG has certainly grown somewhat, I feel that we’ve failed to develop active membership within the LUG. We have a strong group of people that attend the meetings each month, and participate on the mailing list, but a real lack of volunteers to do the actual work of running and developing the LUG.
This certainly isn’t intended as an attack on any existing members of the LUG, including those that have joined over the past couple of years, or any of the
commitee members who have contributed to the LUG during that time. By and large, I think everyone has committed as much as could be expected to the LUG, however those commitments do naturally come to an end. Of the “core” group who have been leading the LUG for the past few years there are a number of people who are stepping down from the Committee or a no longer available to stand for a variety of reasons. Some are moving (or have moved) away from Hamilton, others simply don’t have the enthusiasm for the LUG any more. However the contribution these individuals have made to the early development of the LUG is significant and I’m sure that even as they scale back their organisational involvement they will still retain an interest in the general LUG workings. Of those “core” members who are still involved and are standing again, it would be silly of us as a LUG to assume that will always be the case.
I think a recent series of discussions within the Linux Australia community nicely summarises the situation WLUG is facing. While some of the comments are only applicable to the larger Linux AU organisation, I think we can certainly take many of the points about needing to ensure that the organisation has sustainability and avoids burn out of it’s Committee to heart. Hindsight is certainly a wonderful thing and it’s easy to see now that we have badly neglected the important aspect of ensuring there are new LUG members committed to continuing it’s development as the current “core” group needs a break or moves on.
Hopefully most of you will have recognised that the title of the entry is actually a rhetorical question. I think it’s a fact that WLUG will continue to exist providing many of the same resources as it does now, there is too much capital invested in it for it to be left to die. The real question then becomes how does WLUG address the problem of sustainability and ensure that we have a full committee for the upcoming year and the years following that.
I’m not going to propose a solution to these issues right now, a) because I don’t have one yet, and b) because it’s 20 to 1am, I’ve just spent two hours writing down these thoughts and I have to go to work tommorrow morning.
As a final point I think it is worth asking some hard questions of ourselves, such as:
- Does Hamilton have a big enough user base to support a LUG like WLUG without burning out a small group of key individuals?
- What could we have done differently to have had a new committee ready to be nominated and take over?
Perhaps the answer is that WLUG Inc. should be scaled back and toned down. Perhaps the solution to the problem actually lies in NZOSS and LinuxNZ integrating closely with smaller LUGS. I don’t know the answer yet but we should definitely think about all our options.
I am certain that WLUG will survive however, one way or another.