[opensource] Meeting Thursday at 7PM

Isaac Jones ijones at syntaxpolice.org
Mon Oct 10 20:31:00 EDT 2005

Jim Dinan <dinan at cse.ohio-state.edu> writes:

> Dear OSUOSS Members,
> My inbox has been filling up and I couldn't be happier!  I have been
> receiving loads of mail from all around campus from people who want to
> be a part of this group and are ready to get started _now_.

I'm glad that someone is taking initiative here!  I hope that there
can be a lot of open discussion about where the club should go, but
IMO it's most important that it just start GOING :)

I hope you won't mind if I offer some friendly advice.  I'm not trying
to run the club from beyond, just let you know about my experiences.
I was a founder of the club and I drafted the constitution and ran the
club for a few years.

> - Revitalize our mission statement: As an advocacy group, we need a
> clear focus of our goals as an organization.  I am looking forward to
> your feedback on what _you_ feel _your_ club should do.
> - Revise the constitution: The constitution can make or break an
> organization.  We need to ensure that our constitution gives us the
> tools we need to succeed and grow.

I'm not going to be there (since I'm in Portland), but my proposed
agenda for this would be more like this:

- Get tons of people there who like open source software.  Post to the
  mailing lists and put up fliers (fliers are more important than you
  might think, btw.  that means work. someone has to make the fliers
  and copy them and then put them up.  This sucks, but it's realiaty).

- Get some people who are willing to act as the interim officers.

- Plan your first meeting or two.  Maybe a technical talk, hackathon,
  social meeting, whatever.

- Brainstorm about future activities.  What do people want to DO.

- If you have time left over, do some of the work-work.  Fill out some
  forms to get the club on the rolls and what-have-you.  The new
  officers can do this while everyone else (if there is anyone else)
  plays tuxracer or something.

I guess I'm pretty biased, but I do like the constitution, and I
think you might try to give it a chance, or at least be open to the
ideas of the old membership, who are all pretty available by email.
I'm certainly glad to talk about stuff, in case you haven't noticed.
Sorry I'm a bit late jumping in here, I've been out of email contact
for a bit.

I don't think that the club died because of the constitution, but more
because most of the leadership graduated at the same time and there
wasn't a chance to get more people involved that would be around for a
while.  That and computer science started getting less popular at the
same time.

My advice would be to revamp the mission statement and constitution
LATER.  First, get some activities going (you have already started
that).  Get some people together who are interested in working, not
just "leading", and make them officers[1].  Push the paperwork through
to get the club back on the rolls, and get some funds.  Throw some
pizza parties, get lots of feedback, get onto the #osuoss irc channel,
get the web page going.

Then once the ball is rolling, start to get more feedback about "what
is our mission" and such.  I think you need to get people interested
and involved before you can make any actual decisions about what the
mission really is, honestly.  You might think it's the other way
around, but it's not.  What I found after starting the club is that
the mission is defined by the people who get involved and do the work.
I actually started the club in order to _write_ software, not as an
advocacy group at all.  That's not what people wanted to do, though,
so that's not what we did.

So get the ball rolling.  Ready, Fire, Aim.  Or more productively,
think of it as a very big, very heavy ball with a lot of momentum.
Once you get it rolling and get used to how it moves, then you can
start deciding which direction it's going.  You already know the
general direction (free software) so the first matter is to get it
rolling, and people will come along to help you push it.  Don't worry,
it's more fun than pushing around a big heavy ball.

Anyway, I'd just hate to see you spend too much time writing mission
statements and constitutions and such, and not just getting stuff
done.  Show me the code, as we say ;)



p.s. As an interim government, I'm not sure you can _technically_
revamp the constitution before real elections anyway.

[1] The benevolent dictator idea is basically that the person in
charge does a bunch of work, and they shouldn't need to get votes
about everything or ask the committee in order to get stuff done.  At
least in an organization like this.

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