Proposed revisions of Article 3: Membership

Lynn Winebarger owinebar at
Fri Mar 19 15:49:24 UTC 1999

On Fri, 19 Mar 1999, Ian Jackson wrote:
[out of order clipping]
> I see a very real risk that if SPI ends up legally owning significant
> amounts of copyrights, patents, trademarks, money and other property,
> it could easily become an effective target for `hijacking' by sudden
> large numbers of new members, in order to wrest control of SPI's
> assets away from their intended purposes.  This kind of thing is
> already happening regularly to eg Building Societies[1] in Britain.
> [1] A Building Society is a mutual society.  It's a financial
> institution, a bit like a savings and loan.

   I agree, though I was afraid I was being somewhat paranoid.  

> Instead, I believe that voting membership should be open to
> individuals who have contributed significantly to the free software
> community.  This will, unfortunately, require some effort to
> administer, but the alternatives (dictat by the Board vs. the
> possibility of hijacking) are much worse.
> I don't particularly care whether there is an additional non-voting
> `associate membership' or some such.  There seems little point though
> - what is the purpose of these associate members ?  Just to make them
> feel good ?

    I was thinking of a two tiered membership in the following way.
[level 1] (significant contributors to free software) 
          right to vote on all policy issues
          can serve on all committees
[level 2] (enthusiasts)
          can vote on non-policy issues (times/places of general meetings,
	      SPI t-shirt design, other things that organizations
              do that don't affect their policy direction).
          can serve on minor committees (non-policy committees) (?)

   Major committees (those making policy decisions/recommedations) would
have their membership voted on by level 1.
   Minor committees could have their membership voted on by everyone.  
This is because, while enthusiasts might not be good programmers, they
still might be very good at evangelizing and spreading the word.
Actually, it's likely there are be non-programming types who are much
at PR than the programmers.
   This brings me to a question, which is what exactly will count as
contributing to the free software community.  Presumably, this does not
mean _only_ developers, but also people who write documentation, or are
heavily involved in spreading the good word, or volunteer to do the dirty
work behind any organization (setting up tables for a public meeting comes
to mind).  Possibly some kind of record of volunteer hours could be kept
and once someone had exceeded those hours they could go from enthusiast to
significant contributor.  Another possibility is to have a committee
dedicated to membership decisions.  In cases where a dispute arises 
(personal conflicts, probably) a general vote could be requested, and if
a majority vote in favor, that person would go to level 1. (members not
sending in their votes within some specified time would be presumed to 
be voting no, to prevent a large time wastage by frivolous disputes).
   I would also think membership should be subject to renewal.  If a
developer stops working on free software for, say, a year, then s/he's
off level 1.  Same with members who get in by volunteering - they'd
need to keep up their efforts.  After some time, say 5 years, level 1
membership would become permanent, barring some action fundamentally
contrary to the nature of SPI (voted on by 3/4 majority).   Of course,
there are a number of folks who would be grandfathered in now as permanent

  There are other variations on this (perhaps only permanent members
[level 0] could serve on the board?).

   Anyway, I do think there is good reason to have an enthusiast level
membership.  They would be on the [snail] mailing list for promotions and
such as well.  Plus, it's just plain good sense to include your users -
that's one of the reasons free software works so well (I think).


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