What next Linux Australia?

What next Linux Australia?

Summary: commentary Jonathan Oxer was surprisingly candid about the state of affairs at Linux Australia, the organisation he leads.In his July 1 blog entry, Oxer openly questioned the group's survival, pointing out the obvious -- Linux Australia is stuck in no man's land.

TOPICS: Open Source, Linux
commentary Jonathan Oxer was surprisingly candid about the state of affairs at Linux Australia, the organisation he leads.

In his July 1 blog entry, Oxer openly questioned the group's survival, pointing out the obvious -- Linux Australia is stuck in no man's land.

The organisation was established mainly to manage an annual conference on Linux but over the years, it has morphed beyond its original shape.

Oxer has found that increasingly, the amount of work which lands on his plate, and in the laps of other volunteers, is too much to bear.

"Right now Linux Australia is at a difficult size -- you could almost think of it as being at the "teenager" stage of development. It has grown well beyond a small organisation that exists solely to facilitate a conference, but it's not yet big enough or well resourced enough to support a paid executive to handle day to day chores.

"It's involved in far more things than almost anyone outside the committee would be aware of, but doesn't have staff to delegate chores to," he wrote.

Oxer has proposed hiring a full-time executive but this would come at a hefty cost -- $100,000 a year would surely put a huge dent in the organisation's coffer.

To many in the media, the entity is seen as a voice for the Linux community, and at times, for the open-source fraternity at large. This recognition is undoubtedly due to the passion, drive, commitment and time so freely given by its members and office bearers.

I'm sure Oxer recognises these traits, which made it even more puzzling to see how he tagged his band of soldiers.

"The committee is refreshed annually with an influx of new suckers to jump on the treadmill, but as activity in the organisation increases the burnout rate will no doubt increase proportionally," he lamented. I would be surprised if volunteers didn't take umbrage at being labelled a sucker.

Apart from a permanent or full-time headcount, the association would have to be more active in seeking direct corporate sponsorship(s) and finding ways to diversify its revenue base. But these stumbling blocks seem to be too much for Oxer at the moment.

Unlike the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) or enterprise software user groups, Linux Australia does not have the financial backing and resources these organisations enjoy.

Since vendors like IBM, Red Hat, Novell and Oracle have pledged allegiance to Linux and open-source software, it would be interesting to see if they come to Linux Australia's aid -- with no strings attached (well, hopefully not that many).

It will be up to Oxer and his team to negotiate the balance between funding and integrity/independence.

The president has asked for suggestions on how Linux Australia should operate. Obtaining feedback is always a good thing but one must also set a deadline for a decision to be made.

Oxer believes the organisation is merely at the "teenager" stage of development. I strongly disagree. Perhaps he's yet to realise that the course it takes in future will have wide ramifications because fundamentally, Linux Australia is today a victim of its own success.

Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor.

Topics: Open Source, Linux

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  • This is a follow-up blog entry I wrote this morning, but it's particularly relevant to this article:

    In light of the interpretation that's been put on things recently I need to clarify my thoughts on a couple of things.

    Linux Australia *will* survive.

    In fact, it will flourish. It's becoming stronger and more relevant all the time, and despite the negative inferences from recent discussions it's probably one of the most successful national Linux associations in the world.

    My original post was in no way meant to suggest that we all give up and go home, it was intended to point out that due to the growth and success of the organisation we have to think very carefully about how we want it to operate. If it was just meandering along in second gear it wouldn't matter, but it's not - we're accelerating rapidly, and *that's* why we need to take stock of the way things are done.

    Thanks to everyone who has provided constructive feedback and I hope you continue to do so. This is after all a *community* organisation.

    The article this comment is attached to seems to wildly mischaracterise what I said, and the spirit in which I said it. I suggest you have a look at what I actually wrote and what's been said since on the Linux-aus mailing list (it's all public) and make up your own mind rather than blindly accept this article.
  • Jonathan, I read your comment and have one thing to say ... ZDNet reeks of Micro$oft influence. In fact,it appears that, they are more plagued by the MS strings than Linux Australia will ever be by any OSS vendor.

    My advice: All OSS organizations should stay away from ZDNet! Period.
  • Only the utterly humorless would take umbrage at being called a "sucker" in this context. How many kernel developers did this e-mail message (http://lkml.org/lkml/2005/5/7/4) drive away?
  • wow! i can see why LA is in deep trouble. the president doesnt even understand that the article reflects the good things LA has done. strange bunch.
  • Linux is like Heinz. It comes in 47 varieties.
    How can you be taken seriously when the tribes are fighting amogunst themselves.

    I have tried just about every type of Linux and have never been able to use my scanner, even with latest sane and other drivers.

    This is why big busines and governments don't take it seriously.
    At least with Apple or MS you know what ever applications and hardware you have will work. Linux is hit and miss.
    It needs one type only say Redhat and all others forms of linux need to die before it can be taken seriously. All parties need to get together and form one group, at moment there are god knows how many people pushing buttons in Linux world.
  • Excellent idea Greg. Make it simple and homogeneous. Historically this idea has worked a treat after all Green is good. Clothes should be green and should follow the same style. Cars, planes and trains should be green and produced by the one true manufacturer, there should be one government and one party and one red star and there will be success happiness and propsperity for all.
    Linux is like the mammals expanding and evolving into new ecological niches. Dont worry they will certainly not all survive but can you tell now which one is best adapted to replace the large reptiles in 5-10 years time? Imposing a bottle neck and genetic homogeneity now reduces the diversity for slection in the future and means almost certain extinction but then again perhaps that is your intention.
  • What Linux Australia is experiencing now is not all that different to the plight of many start up ventures , small home based business and even to some extent smaller mid range companies.They are fighting a losing battle.

    They operate in an anything but a level playing field and are the subject of the whims of a so-called free market place.

    They also suffer from perception both good and bad , difficulty in achieving market penetration and probably the most dangerous of all problems .. they were not first into the market space they now are trying to occupy.

    As a consequence the bigger players will always be undermining the small guy efforts , use subtle if not always effective tactics to reduce market interest in any new product or operating system and will remind large organizations aligned to say the Microsoft standard how expensive it will be to change.

    In the end the cost of change , the potential risk that Linux may NOT become mainstream I feel will always condemn the product to a latch key status.

    It is a bit sad that in almost all markets now even outside of IT increasingly the big boys play in their own space , set and control the rules kill off potential competitors either by changing the rules , creating fear , promoting innuendo , citing cost or in a few rare cases bringing to market a clearly better product. In the case of the last example I have no issue .. what concerns me is the ability of larger monopolies to control markets and kill off initiative , quality research and improved service models.

    Built into this is a protectionist viewpoint that exists on a global level i.e keep Microsoft to the forefront .. it supports the US economy at the same time we in Australia are being told we should plough up our apple trees , oranges , peach canning factories etc and import food produce from the good ole USA .. Oh the hypocrisy of our leaders ...
  • Greg, I'm sure the Govt's of the world are hanging out for your scanner to come on line!

    Only then will the floodgates open!

  • I agree with the Linux Australia president.

    Read the mailing list.

    The Linux Australia committee has renamed itself as a board of directors, has taken a holiday overseas using association funds from government grants to the organisation, and has taken to conducting its conferences overseas, to reduce services to Australian members.

    Oh, and the committee severely resents being held to account for its actions, or being criticised or questioned, in relation to its actions.

    These are all shown in the mailing list posts, as is the nature of the comittee, and its loudest supporters.
  • The only thing I took umbridge to is Ms Foo's inability to write "Mr Oxer" in her rave instead of just "Oxer". The latter method of referring to someone is ok for dead poet's,writers,etc, but Mr Oxer is going to read her article and I think some respect is deserved and is missing.

    Mr Oxer's "label" for volunteers shows more about his frustration than anything else and would not upset a thinking person. I wonder at Ms Foos need to harp on it.
  • Greg,

    1. Heinz is a brand name. It can therefore have many products associated with it.

    2. Go and find out what a Hardware Compatability List is.

    3. You must have a braindead Windows-only scanner.

    4. Much Big Business and Gov't have their heads stuck in Microsoft's arse because of deals and kickbacks.

    5. You worry me regarding any future.

  • you're right dave! these journos should worship the ground MR OXER walks on. how dare MR OXER be treated this way. you tell em!