[kwlug-disc] KWLUG is changing

Paul Nijjar paul_nijjar at yahoo.ca
Tue Jan 3 00:29:27 EST 2017

Happy GNU Year, everybody. It appears that 2017 will be a year of
transition for KWLUG. Here are some of the upcoming changes (both
planned and possible). Sorry it is so long.

Happy GNU Webhost

KWLUG is switching webhosts for its website and mailing lists. Mark
Steffen has volunteered some server space for us with him. That
transition will be happening within the next few months. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cedric and Steph at
CCj/Clearline for hosting KWLUG for over 15 years. They have been very
good to us. 

I am hoping that the transition will be smooth enough that you do not
notice any disruption in KWLUG mailing lists. The website will be
getting a refresh but I am hoping that this transition will be smooth
as well. We will keep the list updated as the transition gets closer.

Other than the website and mailing lists, I am not aware of KWLUG
assets that need to be moved. If you know of some please let me know.

Happy GNU Website

As part of the transition I am migrating kwlug.org from crufty
old unsupported Drupal 6 to Drupal 8. The migration is taking a lot longer
than I hoped but it is happening. (If any of you know Drupal 8
migrations and are willing to answer my dumb questions I would be

Why Drupal 8 and not a static website generator? It is primarily
because (a) I want Drupal 8 experience, (b) there is a lot of
historical data I want to reorganize and preserve and (c) I have
committed to doing the work. After the people rise up and there is a
bloody coup, you can migrate the website to something saner. If you
had your heart on doing this project yourself with some static
generator then let me know. 

If you would like to help make the website transition
happen then there are several options. The new site will need to
either port or reimagine a website theme. (I have some ideas about
this.) Sadly, there will be manual cleanup work after the upgrade is
complete, so you could help there. If you are enthusiastic about
getting involved with the core data migration then maybe I can move
the workflow online, but this will take quite a bit of effort.

Happy GNU Website Features

Related to the above, it might be worth talking about current
plans for the new website. A long time ago we intended to use KWLUG
more as a community portal, but it slowly deteriorated to becoming a
meeting information site. In addition, the first time I proposed
migrating off of Drupal 6 there were other suggestions I gleaned and
incorporated. With that in mind, here are my thoughts
around strategy: 

- Meeting agendas remain front and centre, but also include links to
  other information about meetings (slides, podcasts, video)
- There is a new theme that is simplified and mobile-friendly. 
- Most of the non-KWLUG calendaring gets farmed out to Watcamp (but we
  still advertise Linux conferences, laptop rescue missions, etc). 
- Content creation (ie blogs) can still happen upon request, but
  mostly we use a Planet-type aggregator instead. We could also
  aggregate our KWLUG social media presences, maybe.
- Allow the website to change as new initiatives come up.
- Maintain a historical archive of past content and activities.
- Instead of everybody getting logins, only those who are creating
  content (organizing meetings, writing blogs, uploading podcasts...)
  get accounts.

What is missing? What is wrong? 

Happy GNU Organization Team

Through attrition and Machiavellian chicanery, I have taken on a lot
of organizational roles at KWLUG and have subsequently gone mad with
power. It is time to distribute some of that load. We have never had
formal roles in the group (by design) but there has been work to be

As of this writing, I am still okay with organizing KWLUG. But for
resiliency there should be other people who can take on the following
roles. I have split up tasks in ways that seem sensible to me, but if
you would like to help with multiple ministries, or would like to
restrict yourself to individual tasks, that is okay. 

If you volunteer for this, it is important that you are willing to
commit to the role for a while. None of this takes a lot of time (I
probably spend about 10 hours a month doing organizational work,
including hosting meetings). If you are willing to help let me know
on or offlist.

### Ministry of Housing

- Arrange and host meeting space

### Ministry of Information 

(Andrew Cant is doing some of this.)

- Write monthly meeting announcements
- Update website with upcoming meetings
- Arrange for new speakers to present
- Send reminders to presenters and make special arrangements (HDMI
  dongles, etc)

### Ministry of Culture

(Georghe has been taking video, but since Kyle went to university
nobody has been making vidcast posts for the website.)

- Record and edit podcast
- Record video of meetings
- Post podcasts and videos to website

### Ministry of Homeland Security

(Bill Switzer is doing some of the mailing list stuff.)

- Moderate mailing list as necessary
- Moderate website content
- Decide who is a KWLUG member and who isn't, if there are doubts and
  it becomes necessary
- Respond to "KWLUG Contact" form and dissuade spammers
- Add people to Planet KWLUG feed
- Create website accounts and delete as necessary

### Ministry of Infrastructure

- Administer and develop website features
- Do website updates
- Manage backups as necessary

Happy GNU Meeting Space

At this point we continue to have St John's Kitchen available, but one
reason it is available to us is because I (am? was?) working at The Working
Centre. As some of you know my employment status is currently in
transition, so KWLUG may have to make special arrangements to continue
booking the space in the future. There is some chance other Working
Centre staff will step up to host meetings if I am no longer able to,
but this is not guaranteed. Note that we are okay for the next few
months, so there is not immediate urgency to move. 

There are a couple of other Working Centre spaces that might become
available, but nothing is certain yet. These other spaces might be
better than St John's in that they might be accessible even if there
are no Working Centre staff around to host the space.

St John's is okay as a meeting space because it is free, but we have
known for a long time that it is not ideal. 

If others have leads on new meeting spaces for KWLUG it is possible we
should re-open this conversation. In the past I have been reluctant to
hold meetings at locations where (a) we would be charged per meeting
or (b) there was an expectation that participants purchase food or
drink. But if the membership feels KWLUG would be better off without
those constraints then I won't veto (but I may express reluctance).

Happy GNU Initiatives

Here comes the existential angst. I have sentimental attachments to
KWLUG because it has been around for 15 years, but it is not clear
what KWLUG is supposed to be doing, or whether it is effective. 15
years ago there were not a lot of special interest groups; now there
are dozens. 

I feel there is still enough attendance at meetings to keep them
running, but attendance has been going down over the years, and it
seems that many attendees are more interested in their laptops and
phones than the speakers. 

The main assets KWLUG has are: 

- its free webhosting, mailing lists and meeting spaces, which means
  we do not need to look for sponsorships, maintain membership lists,
  or collect dues.
- its community of participants (in meetings and on mailing lists)
- name recognition and a long history
- some ties to other community assets like Computer Recycling

But we do not have good connections to the rest of the tech community
(we were not included in Geek Week listings, for instance), and we do
not have a clear focus the way other meetups do. Maybe this is a
problem, and maybe not. 

There have been a bunch of suggestions about what KWLUG "ought to" do
over the years. Some suggestions I have heard over the years include:

- Have more support for newer users
- Have more presentations that are "newbie friendly" (many find the
  technical content too technical)
- Increase the diversity of our presenters and attendees
- Be on meetup.com
- Have a hands-on workshop series on using Linux
- Have more social nights
- Do Software Freedom Day again
- Grow the membership and increase meeting attendance

I do not agree with all of these proposals (*cough*meetup*cough*) but
they might inspire you to make something happen. 

What has been heartening is when KWLUG members (individually or as a
collective) use our assets to make things happen. Independently of
KWLUG, Colin Mills has taken that initiative to start/revive KW Linux
Fest. The laptop rescue missions I have been running have been a
sneaky attempt to make KWLUG more friendly for less experienced users.
Maybe Software Freedom Day falls under this banner too. 

In my opinion, KWLUG has functioned best as a do-ocracy. So this is a
call for initiatives. If you would like make something happen then
please step forward. Keep in mind that proposals of the form "I
volunteer to.." will carry more weight than proposals of the form
"Somebody else at KWLUG ought to..". The good news is that if you
volunteer to do something, others might join in to help.

Bleh. That was a lot. Thanks for reading.

- Paul 

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