I'd had absolutely nothing to do with LA until I got on the organising committee of linux.conf.au 2005, and even then I didn't really follow what was going on. I viewed it as needlessly political, when I really just wanted to get on with doing stuff. I became a member when I registered for linux.conf.au 2004 (heck it was free, why not?) but to this day, I'm not subscribed to linux-aus.
Funnily enough, I'm now one of the volunteer sysadmins for the organisation though, but then, that's in line with me getting on and doing things, so it's probably not that funny.
Anyhoo, Jon ponders throwing money at some dedicated warm bodies.
I've been a continuous member of the System Administrator's Guild of Australia since 1998, and this is the only other vaguely similar organisation that I have any experience with. Granted, SAGE-AU is obviously a fee-paying organisation, so it has a revenue stream to work with, but I get the impression that LA has a bit of money in the bank, and it too has a revenue stream, in the form of linux.conf.au.
For as long as I can remember, SAGE-AU has had an office/operations manager/admin type person, in the form of Lee Monet. She's fluctuated between full-time and part-time, and from all outward impressions, she's an integral part of the continuing operational viability of the organisation. She is also consistent from year to year, where the Executive aren't necessarily. She does a lot of the legwork for the annual conference as well.
I think if LA were to hire a dedicated person (call them what you will) even on an initial part-time basis, it would improve the effectiveness of the organisation, allowing the Executive to get on with the job of overseeing things, and making decisions, rather than getting bogged down in technical and operational details. I also think it would cost a lot less than the $100K that Jon considers it would cost for a paid CEO or secretariat. If I tried hard enough, I could look up the SAGE-AU financials to see how much Lee costs.
I guess what it boils down to is where does Linux Australia fit in in the grand scheme of things? I get the feeling that it's really come about as the umbrella for linux.conf.au, but is looking to do more with itself, but hasn't quite worked out what that needs to be. I'm totally ignorant of the history of the organisation, so I can only go by my personal impressions. I suspect that the various members of the committee that have come and gone over the years have differing views as well.
Does it want to be a super LUG? Does it want to represent users, developers, vendors, or all of them? Can it effectively represent all three groups at the same time? The Australia Unix Users Group seems to be trying to reinvent itself as the Open Source representative of the country, then there's Open Source Industry Australia, which I hadn't even heard of until linux.conf.au 2005, which sounds like it's trying to represent people trying to make a buck out of Open Source. And of course, the Australian Computer Society that swans around and tries to keep the ear of Government about all things IT.
So, if you ask me, the Australian IT/Linux/Open Source .org scene seems to be a bit crowded. Maybe LA could do worse than just stick with running a kick-arse conference? Is linux.conf.au even staying true to its name? Maybe the biggest return to its members would be keeping the conference cost low?
Just my random musings from the couch on a Friday evening...