wiki:projects/leadership-committee/feb-2011/notes

Meeting Notes

Notes from Mayfirst LC Meeting 02.26.11

In attendance: Alfredo, Jamie, Daniel, Joseph, Amy, Josué, Hilary, Liz, Makani (in person) Genaro, Louis, Mallory (by phone)

After introductions and opening, we started with Alfredo's Leadership Report.After Alfredo gave his report, discussion followed re: the points made re: MF/PL "errors" in analysis on the Net Neutrality debate and social media.

Louis suggested that these issues are part of MF/PL's organizing model/method and that we need to have time to discuss this more substantively if we are to really address these issues -- it's hard to separate these issues from the organizing model.

Makani agreed that we need to discuss these issues but wanted to be clear that there were other issues that shaped perception of MF/PL among NPC groups.1) Groups were concerned not only about the 'whiteness' of MF/PL techies but a perception of MF being out of touch with technology today; that there were generational issues that some perceived as gendered.Debates and arguments with younger staff re: the facilitation process.Classic clashes that characterize this gap include a sense that younger organizers aren't serious and engage in too much touchy feely tactics, etc.2) The social media "line' only reinforced these perceptions and 3) missing the Net Neutrality debate is also a part of defining many people of color outside the technology movement.UNIDOS, MAG-NET were heavily involved with a left line on net neutrality but MF/PL was not there because they did not recognize them.It feels a little like a contradiction of MF/PL's position on technology as the people's.

ACTION/S

  • Make time to discuss MF/PL organizing model

The finance report.Lots of good news re: the increase in assets.It was important to note that the total income does not reflect uncollected invoices.Although folk appreciated the breakdown re: outstanding invoices, it was suggested that a balance sheet be added to the reporting because the inclusion of outstanding invoices in income line 9 though standard for accrual based accounting) is confusing without a balance sheet.

It was proposed that MF/PL hire a staff member who focuses on collecting outstanding invoices, manage the finances, etc.Jamie outlined tasks as 1) track outstanding invoices; 2) deposit and code deposits; 3) create financial report; and 4) do 990s.If MF/PL wants to operate as a full 501c3, there will need to be more segregation of duties including CPA does the 990.MF/PL is at the threshold where reporting and some sort of audit or independent financial review will be essential.

Daniel suggested that the *hosting *line be changed to membership reflect MF/PL as an organization not provider.This will help address the confusion folk have about whether MF/PL is a business or political organization.

Daniel suggested that the confusion folk feel re: MayFirst could be exacerbated by calling the position Business Manager.We should definitely change the name.Folk agreed.Hillary offered her position title which is *income receivables organizer*.Jamie suggested that we not take the time of the LC to determine the name change but that the position title will be renamed.

ACTIONS

  • Update accounting line to shift HOSTING to MEMBERSHIP
  • Include a balance sheet with financial reporting
  • examine current accounting practices/segregation of duties to ensure

that MF/PL has process consistent with good accounting practices

  • Develop a clear job outline for the position to be hired and identify

a title that reflects the organizational structure and politics of MF/PL

  • Once title and job description is clear -- hire staff person

Membership report. Although membership is growing, it is growing more slowly each year. Hilary asked if the report included membership that has left.Mallory responded that she only had data of new members from the Lowdown announcement.Genaro asked if the outstanding invoices reflect dropout rates and that we should track dropout rates.

Jamie highlighted that this is another reason why we need a business manager to ensure that this is tracked more effectively.He promised that next year, the LC will get more detailed information on membership including dropout rate.

Genaro suggested that we track demographic data like whether they are grassroots group, race, gender, etc.Alfredo responded that we don't currently track this info but we should start -- especially race, gender, "chronological," (age) etc.

Mallory suggested that since this data will be hard to determine, we should create a survey or have members write a kind of bio that allows people to self report these demographics.

ACTIONS

  • Draft a survey or 'bio' template for members to complete in order to gather data as recommended
  • Track dropout of members and dropout/retention rates

Infrastructure report. Jamie gave the report with the recommendation that new sub committees be formed to help carry the load of the work (see report for subcommittee listing).

Discussion

The floor opened for discussion of the reports.Daniel on the website resources: we need to think carefully about whether dedicated servers will actually address the resource question.Dedicated servers will provide more flexibility and control over software but it may not isolate members from resource sharing or contention for physical resources.It will take some intentional work to ensure that we address resource use.The basic issue of resource use -- if we have to address what we do when one member uses the kind of resources that excludes the use of those resources by others.Optimization needs to happen but we need to look at what to do when they are no more resources to be had and there are these kinds of resource priorities/resource pulling.How do we want to approach this?Sites that have been attacked, sites that just take up too many resources, etc.

Key questions;

  • How do we articulate a clear policy that provides guidance to the support team in the following cases: 1) a site is under attack, 2) a site is wildly popular generally, 3) a site that has spikes of popularity
  • Perhaps we should identify a set of scenarios and solutions that lays out technical and communications
  • Do we set aside a large amount of resources that are left idle except when used in case of spikes?

-In addition to having a policy, we need another level of diplomacy.The site leadership needs to be consulted.We identify and "tag" sites where these are issues and develop a communications strategy for working with sites in these cases?

  • Support team needs guidance on how to make a decision when we must choose between the health of an individual site vs. the health of the system
  • There are technical approaches that can address SOME of these challenges but not all.
  • do we ask members to contribute according to the resources they use?
  • How do we deal with it when we hit limits ?What do we ask of or tell members when we hit limits?

*Emerging criteria/values*

  • Direct communication to the group involved
  • Identify best solution that takes into account the needs of the member /and/ the needs of the whole
  • have protocol re: keeping relevant LC members in the loop when relationships at stake
  • takes into account the fact that the support team is volunteer and provides them with the tools and info they need to follow the protocol including when and how to contact LC member who wants to be kept apprised

Jamie suggested that we basically give the support team permission to take any site down that is interfering with operations

Daniel suggested that we institute an error message like Twitter's fail whale that makes clear what happened when site is taken down.

Amy: we need to ask, 'What support do the tech support need?'And what is the political/communications approach?

What do other hosts do?Some apologize, others evade and ignore that there are problems.

There are technical issues and political issues.The technical issues are severe however; the plans in place will help address these issues.This year is a transitional year and it will be tough but it's on the path to addressing these issues.

Of course, we can use more resources.The support team needs to document what resources are under contention and identify gaps and make a proposal to the LC.

We need to document and communicate the challenges to the members so that there's a sense that we're all in this together -- and that it's not the end of the world when we're down; it's part of the struggle.Part of this is developing a kind of ambassador/representing role that when issues come up to help communicate about it so that it's not all on the tech support team shoulders.

We might establish an "emergency' contact list for each site for tech

Josué: each time a site goes down, it's an opportunity to interact with a member and we need to think about what we want to convey and leverage this effectively.

Jamie: we need to focus on this idea of all of us being in this together -- both in terms of taking a site down to save others or supporting a site under attack even when it puts us at risk.Both are forms of solidarity.

Amy: we should also think about strategies like "mirroring' as they did with wikileaks.

Daniel: we are doing some mirroring and freezing of sites.

MF/PL organizing questions

We do need a deeper discussion of this.It was hard to see MF/PL perceived as "technospartacists"

The issue of harmonizing the radical politics of technology and the radical politics of the left

The powerful thing for MF/PL to do is not to just do what communities ask but to move beyond that and be more of a partner in shaping the politics

Perhaps that is true but there is an issue of how to build with folk who are facing real serious crises.The tech issues can seem a bit esoteric as many important left frameworks can be.We need to engage in the same kind of bridging and political education that helps ground this work in our folk's organizing work day to day.

We also need to help people understand the way capitalism / fascism, etc., works in technology (like goggle as monopoly or the situation in Egypt).

The USSF situation didn't always allow for a lot of debate to help clarify our "line" and address the concerns re: proprietary networking for example.However, MF/PL could have engaged the process more effectively.However, there were successful efforts to build bridges that should be noted.There were definitely positives.

Unions understand that they wouldn't go to Wal-Mart for supplies for a demonstration.How do we help people understand that their tech decisions have the same political impact?Also, we need to interrogate what we mean by alternatives.People talk of meat alternatives for example

What is it that we do?How do we support movements?

We do need to address the perception issues re: the core tech political questions -- through more consistent, long term political engagement.An animated clip that outlines the issues?A position statement?Talking points?

We can think in terms of developing technology strategies that are not necessarily "on" or "off' a particular tool/app, etc., but more in terms of being strategic and moving the work toward a more progressive

Proposal to LC that we use one of the subcommittees -- the Program Subcommittee will develop a position paper on these issues.Daniel, Hilary and Makani, (Amy?) to work on this

Workplan

For item 3, change position title to Office Manager and revise the position description per the conversation earlier on this.This could help identify revenue streams to increase support for tech staff.

Concern that if we do not address the need for paid staff on server maintenance.Although compensating one person may cause problems with the team, there are members concerned about the unsustainable way we are managing servers with no compensation (not that compensation is the only way but it is a reality in a capitalist world)

Emphasize that each LC member is responsible for recruiting 5 members a year.Recruitment subcommittee should discuss criteria including which segments we should prioritize.

Recruitment work should also look at how we can build opportunities for members to relate to each other.

Interns are one way to get more support.Perhaps the techie of color institute could be a source of interns.

Perhaps we can also leverage the tech network by publicizing that it's a volunteer team and we can help offer referrals to get work to support members of the support team

Given the importance of building relationships with members, should we add organizing to the staff person's duties?

The Techie of Color institute still needs lots of fleshing out along the lines of the issues raised today (i.e., what will it do?Do we serve staff in orgs or "grow" individual techies? )

Recruitment issues are tied to server and resource issues.Need to prioritize statement on resources and "we're all in this together, etc." so that folk recruiting have "handles"

Recruitment subcommittee should develop a clear communications plan that includes a short list of how people can be involved beyond paying dues.

Consider a quarterly virtual meeting and/or webinar on critical issues -- something a little more interactive than Lowdown.Try to keep it low maintenance.Would this be the purview of the Expansion Subcommittee?

Recruitment subcommittee:Josué, Amy, Liz.

We need to revisit some of the suggestions from previous recruitment discussions, identify new ones and experiment and play.Is there a budget for this?We should consider allocating funds.

Recruitment subcommittee should look at the coordinators' proposal plus the other suggestions and come back with a proposed budget and plan for LC review.

This sounds more like a campaign that is essentially organizing (though you can member outreach without organizing in the classic sense).

Expansion subcommittee could be tied to program subcommittee but focus should be on current members and how to engage them in a deeper way including LC

Coordinators should come up with a list of current members including some kind of breakdown of categories and make a call re: their political importance

Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on Feb 28, 2011, 10:52:25 AM