Q&A about the SVLUG poll of March 1

[Archivst's note: This vanished Web page, formerly published and publicised at http://ian.kluft.com/opinions/svlug-200603/, is mirrored here as documentation for the SVLUG Independence Flyer.

by Ian Kluft
February 28, 2006

There have been a lot of questions about the planned poll and issues announced by SVLUG President Paul Reed, proposing to split SVLUG away from sbay.org. I've made only minimal posts on the SVLUG mail list, due to the flamefest environment going on. There have been a number of questions which I'll use this page to answer before the poll happens. Some of these questions were on the SVLUG mail list. Others were asked directly.

By posting them on a web page instead of sending it to the list, hopefully it'll answer those questions while avoiding having line-for-line responses and making the flame wars worse. There aren't a lot of ways to strike a balance in that situation.


How did this problem start?

After seeing the recurring cycle of public complaints from Paul on the SVLUG mail list, I think all the members can tell by now he's not trying at all to work with us. It shouldn't be hard to understand that this pattern of communications looks a lot like things did in private e-mail and phone calls before.

The problem that turned out to be the precursor of this was an argument between Paul and SVLUG's VP and sbay.org Director Bill Ward in November. Paul had decided he wanted Bill to leave, because he couldn't get along with him. I was talking with both of them but they weren't talking to each other any more. Bill described his communications with Paul as having become one-way, where Paul had an endless stream of complaints and didn't listen to responses.

At first Bill had a reaction anyone might, saying that he wouldn't leave unless Paul did too. Rather than cause harm to SVLUG, he accepted a compromise where he would resign as SVLUG VP but be appointed to lead the efforts to rewrite SVLUG's currently-incomplete mail list policies and SVLUG's charter under sbay.org's By-Laws. Bill remained on sbay.org's Board of Directors. This arrangement was made at the restaurant gathering following the Dec 7, 2005 SVLUG meeting. Crisis averted, or so we thought.

After that was when things turned sour between Paul and me. He was unhappy that I had told some members of the Board of Directors what was going on, and that I had quietly asked some SVLUG members to consider filling in the remainder of the terms of SVLUG's President and Vice President, in case Paul and Bill had caused each other to quit, which looked inevitable for a while in early December. I was trying to put a bit of pressure on them to find a solution on their own, but also preparing so SVLUG wouldn't collapse if they couldn't. Paul said he was unhappy with that. When I said I had been unhappy with the unnecessary crisis Paul created, that was when the floodgates opened.

Suddenly I could understand what Bill had described because it was happenning to me. All the communications from Paul became pretty much one-way, whether by phone or e-mail. I stopped fueling that fire, and hoped some time to let it cool off would help.

It started again in January. An SVLUG and sbay.org member who had tried posting to the SVLUG Jobs list found the archives were empty since October. I forwarded his question to Paul, and apparently used the wrong e-mail address (the one I had as an alias for him all along for years) and got an earful again. The poster was allowed to use sbay.org's announce list to post his job opening because we never got an answer about the SVLUG Jobs list.

That was when I found out that the time to cool off had not helped. Paul was still angry and it was still impossible to talk him down. In addition to the previous arguments, he started trying to act analytical and told me why I was doing things. It was bizarre to have to tell him more than once not to try to tell me what I'm thinking.

While I thought I was still trying to answer his questions and talk him down, I let that go longer than I should have. When I intended to call the faux-analytical behavior annoying, I actually used wording that called him annoying, which didn't help things at all. That erupted into complaints from Paul that sbay.org wasn't treating its SIG coordinators with adequate respect, and started complaints about sbay.org. He said he wanted SVLUG to leave sbay.org. I said that neither he nor I could make that decision unilaterally, and it would require a poll of SVLUG's members. In my frustration over the situation, I suggested that might be a good idea.

By this point, we weren't calling on the phone any more, because he wasn't letting me talk anyway. And I was only responding to a few points from book-sized e-mails I was receiving from him. It was time to stop. No, actually, it was way past time to stop and I had failed to realize that early enough.

One thing I did at that point was unsubscribe from the SVLUG Officers list. I had not wanted to be on it after Paul consolidated all the mail lists down to the volunteers and officers list, and kicked all the former officers off the officers list. I had stayed only at his request at the time. And with this argument, I saw no need to remain. It pretty much only gets spam anyway, which I can do without. Everything is happenning on the volunteers list, as was intended.

Though I can't read minds and Paul isn't taking my questions right now, I think that unsubscribing from officers might have been taken more symbolically than I had intended. I have seen a lot of times that Paul questioned long-time SVLUG participants, "Why aren't you on the volunteers list?" like they didn't have special status with him unless they were subscribed. He seemed not to be tolerant of people who wanted to stay away from a mail list and still consider themselves an SVLUG volunteer or member, even if their only reason was they didn't currently have time. In hindsight, I'd guess he may have applied such special status to the officers list too, and might then have taken particular offense from my unsubscription.

We didn't hear from Paul again for 3 weeks. I was again hoping he'd have time to calm down.

How did you first hear about the upcoming poll?

It was sprung on us by surprise.

On Jan 29, he sent me an e-mail telling me I had four hours to send comments before he announced a poll for the Feb 1 SVLUG meeting. I immediately shared that with the board and called sbay.org VP Heather Stern (who was on I-5 driving back from a wedding in Los Angeles.) Paul threatened to post private e-mails from our earlier argument and make statements on behalf of sbay.org claiming that we wanted SVLUG out of the organization.

This was the first of a recurring cycle where it has become obvious Paul has been using a strategy of baiting us to react to him at each step. His cycle starts on a smaller mail list, begins some new conflict, makes procedures or demands we can't accept, makes up new rules to claim that we broke them, and then goes to the SVLUG list to complain how bad we've been.

I made the predictable reaction of responding to Paul's threat with a conditional threat to have him removed if he made unauthorized statements on behalf of sbay.org. That was the point that rule was originally intended for. He had been told that before so he had to know that was coming.

In the end, he did speak for himself in his 40-minute ramble at the Feb 1 SVLUG meeting. So since he didn't make good on his threat, the conditions for ours was not met.

But he later went complaining on the SVLUG mail list about how I threatened to use rules in sbay.org's By-Laws to remove him. As usual, every step of the way he never says what he did to provoke the reactions that he complains about.

Since he's been doing this baiting-and-complaining cycle, it's impossible to hold a constructive discussion. So responses have been kept to a minimum to prevent making his flamefest on the mail list worse.

This is no way for a volunteer organization to work together. But as long as he's baiting us to create conflict, he doesn't leave us any possibility to work with him. Of course, his aim in this is to cast a negative light on us so that he can be left solely in command after his poll. The problem with that strategy is people can see through it - it can easily backfire on him.

One thing I am certain, after this whole thing is over we'll all wish it never happenned, no matter what the result. That's why I've been minimizing my posts to the list, to answer some questions but avoid making it any worse than it already is.

What was the issue with SVLUG's domains?

In one round of the recurring conflict-creation, Paul ordered us to have SVLUG's server made the primary nameserver, and it had to be done immediately. Since he's baiting us with everything he says right now, I told him to wait until the results of his poll.

When former SVLUG President and former keeper of the nameservers Marc Merlin was brought into the discussion, I replied to him offline. I told Marc that the wishes of SVLUG's members will be respected. But while Paul is making himself impossible to work with, we're not going to jump to handle this request.

However, an offer had been made to update any A/CNAME/etc records. No requests at all were received. So that's apparently not the issue. He's just trying to create a conflict because we didn't act on the arbitrary timetable he set.

If the SVLUG members vote to split away, the domains will be handed over to Paul. If SVLUG votes to stay in sbay.org, the primary nameserver should go on SVLUG's server anyway. But before that happens, they'll have to set up a nameserver on the machine.

Why did sbay.org's incorporation take 3 years?

Actually, it got dropped entirely for several years. A few people have questioned why things took so long between the decision to merge/incorporate and the actual recent activity making it happen. Mainly it didn't become really necessary until late 2005, when Stratofox made the first phase of installation of an amateur radio repeater and SVWUX made the first phase of installation of a WiFi repeater, both located at private radio facilities.

I can tell you exactly what happenned that got the whole effort thrown onto the backburner. Everything in the records of discussion about it ended at the beginning of February 2003. And I know why. It was a series of events that not everyone can recover from at all. So it should be understandable that it took me some time.

2003 was a year that didn't give me much chance to recover... I tried to actively move along my recovery after that. A trip for a friend's wedding in Loveland CO was lengthened to a week vacation. (He was an sbay.org, SVLUG and Stratofox participant before moving back to Denver.) I helped put on a big party with some friends where we reserved a theater for the midnight opening showing of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In 2004, I didn't miss any chances to go on a rocket-related trip, and ended up leading the Stratofox team that recovered the first amateur rocket launched to space. I also witnessed all of SpaceShipOne's space flights in Mojave.

2004 had some setbacks. 2 weeks after the amateur space flight, my aunt (father's sister) from the Netherlands died. (That was the 6th loss of family or friends in 14 months.) It isn't as difficult when you know it's coming. Her condition had deteriorated a lot since losing her husband and daughter in 2003. My father attended the funeral. By then I had gotten a lot of practice dealing with grief, though it's never easy. I knew not to take the situation alone, and after a time to get over the initial shock to then try to seek some activities with friends, as well as some adventure to help my recovery along.

In 2005, the SBAY Wireless Project was renamed SVWUX and got the new WiFi repeater up on the mountain. Also, equipment donations and expertise of newly-recruited members in Stratofox made it possible to establish the new amateur radio repeater at the Black Rock Desert. Both of those happenned in October 2005. So that was when we became committed to resume and complete the incorporation process of sbay.org.

If SVLUG members vote to split away, will you honor it?

Yes. A vote marks a final decision in our society.

My objection is with Paul's uncooperative (err... in-your-face) approach. But it may as well go ahead to settle the question of what the members want. If they agree with the vision of having organizations with similar technical interests and many members in common work together, then we will. If they don't agree, that will be respected.

When SVLUG and sbay.org decided to merge in 2002, we agreed that the plan for how to move forward would be, until SVLUG had a charter recording its way of doing things, we'd use the presidential appointment power granted in the By-Laws to make official the results of votes by SVLUG's members. It's an agreement I have upheld - and I'll continue to do so.

Does SVLUG have a procedure to remove its officers?

SVLUG doesn't have any written procedures. But sbay.org does. If the SVLUG members vote to stay in sbay.org on March 1, then we'll continue under the existing agreement to make official the results of SVLUG members' votes. If SVLUG members show the initiative to vote to remove an officer, that will be honored too.

Consistent with traditional officer-removal procedures in most clubs, that would be expected to be by a 2/3 majority.