Proposed revisions of Article 3: Membership

Nils Lohner lohner at
Thu Mar 18 22:38:29 UTC 1999

I have had several discussions with Ian, Joey, and Dale about this, and 
this will be the first time those thoughts are really put down in writing. 
Eventually it would be nice to have a document that contains all of the 
rationales behind the articles- that way people can see the 'spirit of the 
law' as well as the letter.

Actually, before the real 'writing' I'd like to outline a few possible 
scenarios.  I'm not sure which one makes most sense... all have their 
advantages and drawbacks.  I'm somewhat torn between scenarios 1&2- I'm 
not sure which is better suited to SPIs goals.

I'd like to figure out which scenario makes the most sense (and why!!) and 
then figure out the details, and then actually write the bylaws article.  
When commenting on this, please don't just ask questions- also try to 
propose solutions at the same time.

Discussion season is open.


Scenario 1:
  'flat' membership.  In this case everyone who agrees with the principles 
and goals of SPI can become a member.  Voting can be either limited to 
voting for board embers, or voting on resolutions etc. as well (with 
quorums established etc.).

  - No membership levels (i.e. flat membership)
  - very little administrative work
  - greater membership carries more political weight
  - advantages if members only vote for the board members is that SPI can 
be very reactive (in terms of speed).  If you think about it, you're 
electing the people that listen to the discussions, and then make the 
decisions (i.e. vote on the resolutions that have been developed).

  - if members vote on resolutions etc. then the voting process will take 
a lot longer.  Thus SPI will be less reactive.  Perhaps the board can be 
permitted to approve a resolution with a super majority (2/3 + 1 or 
something similar)
  - more/less informed members (some will be more/less active) mean 
discussions will likely last longer

Scenario 2:
  tiered membership.  Have 'contributing members' and 'supporting members' 
where the contributing members have to be active in the free software 
world in some way.
  contributing members can vote on board members and resolutions
  supporting members can not vote, but can propose resolutions

  - voting is easier since there will be less people who have to vote
  - voters will be more informed since they're more active
  - SPI still gets the large membership base

  - you need to define contributing (that's not hard) and somehow verify 
that the member is contributing.  A neat idea would be two year 
memberships and at the end of the two years you have to send a mail 
stating what you've done in the last two years for the community.
  - more administrative work- the membership committee has to worry about 
all this
  - do we _want_ to create a difference between members? i.e. the 
discussion is going and someone says 'but I'm a contributing member and 
you're not!'  Yuck.  Ugly.

Scenario 3:
  only contributing members are allowed.  (I personally don't like this 
option at all.)

  - informed members
  - simpler (shorter) voting periods

  - much much smaller membership -> less political weight.  If we're 
trying to represent and stand for the community, we should allow anyone in.
  - less of a range of opinions in the discussions and less interest in 
the discussions.  why should non members join in?


Nils Lohner                         Software in the Public Interest, Inc.
E-Mail: lohner at          PO Box 1326 
Board Of Directors <board at> Boston, Ma. 02117 USA

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