The debate was sparked by a ZDNet Australia news article which quoted from a publicly accessible online diary written by immediate past president Greg Lehey, in which he baldly stated: "Things don't look good: David Purdue, the new president, only intends to stay in the position for one year and there's talk of winding up AUUG due to lack to interest.
"Our membership has dropped 50 percent since November 2000 and there's no evidence (as we thought we had two years ago) that the rate of decline is slowing".
The article, based largely on that quote and subsequent concessions by Purdue that membership is indeed sliding, sparked a response from Lehey. It reads, in part:
"Yes, I wrote the statements you quote (at http://www.lemis.com/grog/diary-jul2004.html#30). But you got them out of context. I wrote "there's talk of winding up AUUG due to lack of interest.". You wrote "AU Unix and open systems group in dire straits".
Your correspondent certainly doesn't take on board the comment that the statements were taken out of context -- they looked pretty definitive to me. Still, Lehey and I will have to disagree on that one.
Lehey remarks, tellingly, in his online diary that AUUG has talked about winding up several times over the past three years and will probably continue to have such discussions for the next few years. "It's part of our duty to consider this kind of eventuality and to gauge whether it's going to pose a real threat".
Both Lehey and Purdue agree, however, on these key points: membership is declining and that decline must be reversed. Lehey argues that membership of both free and paid user groups in general is on the way down. It is encouraging to AUUG that they have achieved an 18 percent increase in registrations for their conference next month, as well as a 36 percent rise in sponsorship funds (although they refuse to release raw numbers).
ZDNet Australia believes groups such as AUUG play a vital role in buttressing communities of interest in the information and communications technology sector and their decline is a matter of concern. However, they must adapt to the changing needs of their members to stay relevant. Your correspondent hopes the board is either working to or in the midst of preparing a blueprint for survival. It would be a shame to see a venerable body (in information technology terms) go under.