Abstract: SVLUG's vote for resumed independence was amply justified by erstwhile parent group SBAY's interference in, non-communication with, and deception of SVLUG -- but SBAY principals seem unwilling to just let the matter go, and keep spreading wild stories. This FAQ, and the election flyer / footnotes below it aim to debunk the ongoing and often bizarre rumours.
A 55% majority at SVLUG's March 2006 meeting attendees voted for immediate, resumed independence from the SBAY.org "corporation" [sic]. Rationally, this should have been simply taken as a mundane fact, and people then continue with their volunteer efforts. However, some of us have observed ongoing political fallout. Following are actual, real (if rhetorical) questions that I (Rick Moen) have subsequently heard asked:
Q: I heard that this was all just a smear campaign against SBAY
President Ian Kluft.
A: No. Particular actions taken by him as SBAY president (and head of SVLUG's parent group at the time) were criticised by many persons including me, as being inappropriate for the head of SVLUG's parent group. In my view, if you cannot stand constituents saying "Hey, I think that decision of yours sucked", and can't distinguish between that and a personal assault on you as a human being, maybe you shouldn't aspire to head public organisations.
However, in the final analysis, the vote was an up-or-down referendum on independence, and the voters decided they preferred it. Moreover, since part of the voters' probable reason was being tired of treated like someone's personal property, it's awfully revealing for SVLUG's independence initiative to be seen as purely a personal attack. That does seem to imply regarding SVLUG as runaway personal property, doesn't it?
Q: I heard that it's a lie to claim that Ian had refused to
provide a copy of the svlug.org / svlug.net zonefiles, and that he'd
merely deferred doing so because SVLUG didn't have software ready on its
nameserver. Isn't that true?
A: No. That's Ian's cover story that he invented after the fact. He literally did, absolutely, outright refuse. (See hyperlink, below.)
SVLUG president J. Paul Reed requested the zonefiles on Tue., Feb. 21. Kluft replied the next day, refusing and claiming Reed needed to "re-earn some trust", first. Reed immediately asked clarification that Kluft was actually declining the request. There was no reply.
All of these mails went both to SVLUG's "volunteers" mailing list and to SBAY's private, Kluft-moderated "org" (Board of Directors) mailing list, yet no SBAY Board member saw fit to speak up. SVLUG was thus left to conclude that Kluft really was speaking authoritatively for SBAY in refusing to cooperate concerning SVLUG's domains, and that none of SBAY's other officers objected.
(SBAY's mailing lists are characteristically configured to use strictly private archiving, and keep membership rosters accessible to the listowner only, i.e., unavailable to the subscribers themselves. That way, subscribers can be silently locked out at the whim of the listadmin, out of sight of everyone else, and have no method of seeking redress or protesting to the other subscribers: They can be made to vanish -- and then have no access to the records of that misdeed, nor ability to talk to anyone. Ian Kluft has, in fact, been observed to use exactly that technique, on the Linux Picnic mailing list.)
Further, the readiness of the main svlug.org machine to run a nameserver is irrelevant: SVLUG needed a copy of the zonefiles before it could move nameservice to any replacement nameservers — of which, in fact, we had many at our disposal. (Otherwise, in writing a new zonefile from scratch, we would probably miss some records.)
After the Wednesday, March 1 independence vote, Ian finally did provide a copy of the zonefiles (well, of input to an unspecified script to produce an incomplete subset of the zonefiles' contents) the evening of Thursday, March 2. On Thursday and Friday, Ian observed updates/corrections to his zonefiles being posted to the Volunteers list, including a list of five functional and ready nameservers (not counting the main SVLUG host), leading up to my Thursday, 3 PM post summarising steps required to safely upgrade the main SVLUG host's software to run BIND9, and volunteering my weekend to do that work. The next day, on Friday, Ian suddenly announced impending DNS shutoff at midnight, just before the weekend work could occur. This was despite his still being in sole control of SVLUG's domains. I.e., he was going to forcibly shut us down completely.
A resulting outage in our DNS service was averted mainly by kind action by SBAY Board member Brian Litzinger, who at 5 PM said he would not follow suit in disabling his authoritative DNS for the domains at midnight. After that (8:30 PM, Friday), Kluft finally edited the domain records to list three of our nameservers, with no access to domain records for SVLUG's elected leadership -- a situation that persisted until his handover to Heather Stern.
Q: I heard that you (Rick Moen) had vehemently objected to Bay
Area FreeBSD User Group remaining in SBAY, before this SVLUG vote,
singlehandedly preventing that group from remaining under the SBAY
corporate umbrella. Is that true?
A: No. Despite this claim being frequently repeated in various places Kluft (apparently) thinks I would not notice, such as SBAY's private "org" mailing list and in SBAY's corporate records, that is a flagrant invention.
In a November 2005 thread on BAFUG's main (public) "chat" mailing list, a proposal to resume meetings drew a proposed meeting venue suggestion from Julian Elischer, which was one missing ingredient, the other being speakers w/meeting topics. Ian Kluft immediately interjected with his view that choosing a "coordinator" (to be SBAY's liaison) was the most vital next step. Speaking in my capacity as BAFUG's webmaster and listadmin, I responded that I had absolutely no objection if someone really thinks that's the most vital task, but personally intended to continue with nailing down meeting details (dates, speakers, topics), and personally considered that to take precedence.
Kluft took great personal offence, and unilaterally declared BAFUG no longer an SBAY SIG, citing its "inactivity" (which he'd just acknowledged no longer existed, if it had ever).
Not only had I absolutely no objection to BAFUG remaining in SBAY, and repeatedly mentioned that fact lest it be misunderstood, but also could not have possibly prevented anyone from being the "coordinator" had someone wanted that post — a fact that I likewise pointed out.
I nonetheless fully expected Kluft to spin the encounter behind my back in a manner 100% contrary to the facts, even though those facts are publicly documented, and have not been disappointed.
However, this seems a good occasion to re-raise the question: What corporate umbrella? Both Reed and I had separately, on numerous occasions, asked what SBAY's exact corporate name or corporate registration number is, at the California Secretary of State's office — detailing our and others' lengthy but unsuccessful efforts to find any sign of them having actually filed incorporation papers. All of our queries were ignored. All.
This, too, was a recurring theme in the SVLUG/SBAY confrontation: SVLUG members would ask key, important questions and get no substantive reply. This included:
- zonefile copy
- SBAY corporate name or number (as noted below, this is now explained as of 2006-03-22 by the fact that SBAY was not, actually, incorporated)
- transfer ownership of our domains back to us
- insurance details
- What happened to Ian's "regretting" SVLUG being in SBAY?
- What was this "plenty of notice" SVLUG members had of the original vote to join SBAY, since there was nothing of the sort in the svlug or svlug-announce mailing list archives?
- Why do SBAY representatives keep claiming that Silicon Valley Computer Society (the prior corporate umbrella SBAY replaced) had ceased to exist, after it had been proven to them that this is untrue? (note corp. registration)
In each case, SVLUG members received silence or evasive non-replies. It seems a small step to infer that the intended message was that SVLUG was just SBAY property, and not entitled to answers.
Q: I heard that the election was manipulated by Paul Reed, who
propagandised people and played to their emotions. Is that true?
A: No. Reed in fact showed remarkable restraint throughout this affair, and consistently insisted on focussing on real institutional issues rather than personalities. In sharp contrast, Kluft posted at 9:40 PM, the evening before the election, a link to an "opinion" Web page that attempted to spin the situation as purely a J. Paul Reed-caused problem, appealed for sympathy on grounds of deaths in Kluft's family, and also included — of all things — a thinly veiled threat to lobby among SVLUG members for Reed's removal from office.
Some days after the vote, Kluft replaced the page with a blank HTML page, and mirrors of the real page are unavailable either at either Google's cache or the Internet Archive. However, having anticipated this move, I made an archive copy in advance.
In any event, isn't it interesting that following SVLUG's exercise of its democratic tradition in a fair contest, SBAY advocates' only interpretation is that Reed "manipulated" voters? Is it not conceivable (and simpler, and less condescending) to infer that our members voted their conscience? SBAY's advocate spoke for 21 minutes (having been allowed 7), Reed spoke for 11 minutes (having been allowed 7), and then the voters spoke, quite clearly. Suggestion: It's called "reality". Learn to deal with it.
Q: Well, I heard that the supposed "threat" to remove Reed from
office was understandable, having been prompted by Reed's announcement
that he planned to reveal the contents of a private e-mail in public,
which he probably knew was one of Kluft's "hot buttons".
Is that true?
A: No. First, the contents of the e-mail were extremely well known and widely discussed — among SBAY's private and Kluft-moderated "org" mailing list. It was a statement Kluft had made in his capacity as SBAY president that if Reed wanted SVLUG to consider going independent, he should hold a poll of SVLUG members, and SBAY would honour the result. Reed was citing this mail because of Kluft reversing position 24 days later, now claiming that conducting such a poll would be an offence for which he would be "expect[ed] to step down".
Second, since — obviously — Kluft's "hold a poll" mail was one he had issued in his official capacity as head of SVLUG's parent group, Kluft cannot reasonably complain about it being revealed to SVLUG — regardless of how inconvenient it would be to show Kluft's arbitrary shifting of requirements less than one month later. Consider the irony: The only people from whom the mail was actually "private" were the group affected — and Reed's "provocation" was announcing his desire to inform them.
Third, it's enormously hypocritical for Ian Kluft to even pretend to outrage over revealing of private e-mail in public: It's a ploy he himself has used over and over, for years, abusing other people's private e-mail for temporary advantage. The handiest example I can cite concerns, yes, me: It was part of Kluft's long-running campaign to establish (as truth) the outrageous falsehood that I drive new Linux users away from Linux user groups — and, rather typically, was his posting of my unmistakably private mail onto a public mailing list 3000 miles away from both of us, one that he probably imagined I would never notice.
Q: I heard that this was all just a testosterone match in
private e-mail that unfortunately through immaturity was allowed to
spill over into public, when it should have just been resolved
privately. Is that true?
A: No. First, it's not just "private mail" when the head of a public organisation threatens in writing — twice — to remove another from office. That automatically is the business of the constituents, and not a private quarrel — especially when the matters under dispute include the continued joining of the two groups.
Second, this conversation didn't occur solely, and didn't solely concern, those two individuals (Kluft and Reed), but rather was carried on on SBAY's private and Kluft-moderated "org" mailing list. As noted above, the only people not informed of the matter were the affected SVLUG members.
Q: I heard that you (Rick Moen) sneakily sprung your SVLUG
independence flyer suddenly on attendees at the election meeting, with
no advance notice or opportunity to respond from SBAY proponents. Is
A: No. Immediately following Kluft's pre-election "opinion" post, some hours later the following morning, I posted to the main SVLUG discussion list a very explicit disclosure of the flyer and this supporting Web page, linking directly to both of them.
Q: I heard that you (Rick Moen) also attempted to vilify Kluft
immediately before the election with a false smear about him supposedly
having added himself (Thunder.Net Communications), complete with
graphical logo, as a "major sponsor" to SVLUG's sponsors.php page and
front page, attempting to rig public opinion in an effort to manipulate
the election, and making a blatant move to eradicate all mention of the
man from SVLUG's Web page. Is that true?
A: No. J. Paul Reed and I did make an honest error at 2 PM the day of the (evening) election. We noticed that Thunder.Net Communications was included on those pages for "providing secondary nameservice" (i.e., adding 8 lines of one-time boilerplate to named.conf, and HUPing BIND), in the same space as the four major corporate sponsors who'd (in sharp contrast) given major financial support and long-term monthly meeting space to SVLUG. This seemed suspicious, and further supported by RCS logs showing that he, not a Web Team member, had made the edit to sponsors.php (which at that time, FYI, was sponsors.shtml). Based on those suspicions, Reed directed me to remove the sponsor listing as clearly inappropriate and believed to be unauthorised, and I posted our belief as fact (and detailed the corrective action) .
Late in the meeting that followed, around 9 PM, Web Team member Heather Stern approached me and told me that, despite appearances, the Web Team of the day had in fact authorised Kluft's addition of his Thunder.Net Communications DBA to the SVLUG sponsors page. I drove at my earliest opportunity to a friend's house, to post a correction at 11:30 PM. (Technically, what Heather actually told me was that the Web Team had added the Thunder.Net logo to the SVLUG front page, which is is not at all what Reed and I were commenting on, and does not contradict what I said. However, I decided to overlook that point and assume in public, despite the rather damning evidence of the RCS logs, that the Web Team had authorised Kluft's edit to the sponsors.php page, too -- which objectively seems extremely farfetched.)
Calling this erroneous inference from suspicious facts a smear campaign, when I corrected the claim as soon as I had evidence, and when SBAY itself did not bother to produce a statement from Web Team alumnae until after the election, seems a bit much.
Further, the assertion that I have at any time sought to eradicate mention of Kluft from the group's Web pages is ludicrous: For example, the site front page's prominent "SVLUG News" column starts with two news items concerning Ian Kluft, both of them initiated, written, and inserted by me. I've manually resurrected quite a number of Kluft's editorials and pages, as part of site cleanup. Further, entirely on my own initiative, I followed up on the "sponsors" matter by asking Reed's permission to add an explicit thank-you to Thunder.Net Communications and all other parties who've done our DNS service or domain administration. That now can be seen on the Sponsors page.
Q: Isn't the main legacy of the election campaign the fact that
a number of people were left feeling deeply hurt, damaging the Bay Area
Linux community badly?
A: No. Or, at least, this assertion seems to be reiterated continually, months after the fact, by a very small and rather inbred circle of SBAY people with a seeming taste for gratuituous melodrama.
Here's the rather more prosaic truth: Other people moved on, and pretty much mostly forgot the entire affair in about a week. Everyone has other things to do.
And "hurt"? Please. It was a vote to decide whether one group would continue to be part of another. That's ultimately a matter of bureaucracy in the strict sense of the term. SBAY people who go around months later talking about how "hurt" they are manage only to look like drama-queen adolescents, and further support the suspicion that they'd been regarding SVLUG as their personal property, rather than an autonomous group of which they'd been an umbrella sponsor.
Although I personally think that the SBAY-originated backroom politicking and non-communication both before and since the vote amply justify independence, independence itself is the one important fact in this affair — and it's not an affront to anyone. It's the membership taking back their group and its assets. It's not manipulation, it's not a smear campaign, it's not propaganda, it's not emotional blackmail. It's just an everyday, inoffensive fact.
We certainly hope and expect to participate in supporting joint efforts such as the SBAY Speakers Bureau and Linux Picnic.
 As of April, it appears that SBAY silently ended the Speakers Bureau; we belatedly realised that our hyperlinks to speakers.sbay.org now reached a redirect to www.sbay.org. The Bureau will be missed; it was a significant asset to Bay Area technical groups.
 2006 update: Alas, SBAY immediately following the 2006 picnic used Ian Kluft's personal custody of the linuxpicnic.org domain, after he acquired it from Drew Bertola, to seize control of all picnic operations, which had during all prior years been run as a collective effort among Bay Area Linux groups, with none of them individually empowered to overrule the others. This is, again, a considerable loss.
2012 update: It appears that SBAY has shut down the picnic without offering to hand it back to the Linux user groups. Ian Kluft continues to hold onto personal ownership of the Internet domain.
The 2006-03-01 SVLUG Independence Flyer: flyer.sxw
Following is documentation for / footnotes, referenced from the flyer:
1. Benefits to SVLUG from corporate-SIG status with SBAY
A. Insurance: Partly because of the extremely irregular way in which SVLUG came under SBAY's umbrella (sudden voice vote of those present at a monthly meeting, with no prior announcement on any mailing list), it's a bit difficult to get exact confirmation, but several people (1, 2) recall that being pretty much the sole tangible benefit cited as an advantage. Two other SBAY SIGs are said to need insurance, but it's unstated what type or amounts.
SBAY has apparently not succeeded in getting insurance quotations in its entire 4-year history to date. I did get several estimates from insurance brokers for $1M in general liability coverage for a small non-profit volunteer group's monthly meetings and occasional special events (requiring only a few short telephone calls): The general run of annual premiums was around $800.
B. Corporate legal liability shield: I pointed out, as did ex-president Marc Merlin, that a corporation offers certain protection for participating individuals against being held individually responsible for the corporation's debts and legal liabilities (tort lawsuit judgements). Unfortunately for SVLUG and similar volunteer groups, that protection extends only to people acting in a supervised, defined group-representative capacity essentially like a paying job. Typical SVLUG volunteer activity would simply not qualify. I illustrated the reasons why using hypothetical examples at a Linux Picnic (1, 2, 3) and an installfest. Jennifer Davis, then-president of the IRS 501(c)(6)-certified non-profit corporation BayLISA, agreed with my assessment.
Disturbingly, SBAY has ignored SVLUG president J. Paul Reed's request for the date of incorporation, and I cannot find SBAY's alleged corporate records in the California Secretary of State office's records. Is it possible that the group still hasn't filed its incorporation records, after four years of trying to organise?
(2006-03-22 update: Direct inquiry reveals that incorporation has been applied for but not, in fact, granted at all. SBAY personnel claims about the benefits of us remaining under their corporate liability shield are thus, at best, very misleading — and that's being extremely charitable.)
(2006-04-06 update: Continued monitoring of the Secretary of State's Web site reveals that California finally granted the group corporate status the week of March 27-31, based on an application filed just before the SVLUG election (Feb. 27). Anyhow, the various claims and implications of prior incorporation were a conscious falsehood.
C. Funding: Discussion of possible SBAY benefit included monetary support for SVLUG expenses. Be that as it may, it's academic, because SVLUG's very minor operating expenses (hosting, food at meetings, etc.) are comfortably footed by SVLUG's own volunteers and sponsors, as always.
The only expense SBAY has arguably helped with is (temporarily) footing the domain-registration bill for the svlug.org and svlug.net domains... domains that they then refused to surrender control of! (See below.)
But that, too, is suspect, as the domains were registered personally to SBAY's president, and operated not from SBAY's servers, but rather his own.
D. "Organizational support": This seems to have been a vague and fuzzy notion of summoning up personnel when SVLUG needs help. However, the last two years have shown SVLUG accomplishing all of its initiatives using its own volunteer resources, and names that are cited as "SBAY volunteers" who have helped SVLUG at any time turn out, upon examination, to have already been SVLUG volunteers before that. It's a sort of shell game where SBAY proponents look at a volunteer and say "See that guy? He's one of ours." Which is no doubt true and good for both groups, but raises the obvious suspicion that we already reach volunteers and don't need have special need of SBAY as a talent scout. (That stands to reason; we're probably the best-known Linux user group in the world, whereas even most meeting attendees at the February meeting didn't even know what SBAY was.)
E. "And...": Repeated requests for people to cite specifics have failed to elicit examples of advantages SVLUG gains from SBAY corporate-SIG status that it doesn't already have on its own. Fairness obliges me to concede their possibility, but proponents' inability to cite them seems..., well..., stunning.
F. Also: SVLUG president J. Paul Reed mentioned that SBAY president Ian Kluft had on numerous occasions in various semi-private mailing list discussions expressed continuing "regret" over SVLUG's having joined. (Example: "Last time I had heard from Paul about 3 weeks ago, he expressed unhappiness with SVLUG's place in sbay.org. Granted, I've been saying that for years, but have tried to make it work based on the previous polls that said the members wanted this." Supporting link will be directly accessible only to members of SBAY's private "org" mailing list.)
Kluft made no reply to Reed's post raising that incongruity. So, Kluft "regrets" our presence until we show an inclination to leave, and then fights us tooth and nail? This doesn't make a lot of sense.
2. Threats to remove SVLUG's elected leadership from office.
SVLUG president J. Paul Reed disclosed that SBAY's president had threatened twice to remove him:
The first time, for intending to make public SBAY Board discussions on SVLUG's usefulness as an SBAY SIG; Reed was told "if you make ANY statements for sbay.org or any officer or director, that's unauthorized and will be cause for your removal." (Supporting link, as with those immediately below, will be directly accessible only to members of SBAY's private "org" mailing list.)
The second time, for planning to hold a poll of the SVLUG membership as SBAY president Ian Kluft had suggested in a 5 January e-mail (link): "If you want out, the way to do so would be to hold a poll of SVLUG members on whether to renew SVLUG's SIG status as SBAY completes its incorporation." By January 29th, though, Ian had changed his position to: "That means there will [RM: i.e., must] be no major announcement at SVLUG tomorrow, no more than an invitation to participate in a discussion on how to make the SBAY/SVLUG merger work better for both sides. If you accept this, then let's make this all less dramatic and talk about scheduling an in-person meeting of interested parties for this weekend. If you don't accept, then I'll expect you to step down." (link)
I considered this allegation sufficiently bizarre and preposterous that I suspended judgement until SBAY's president confirmed the charge, two days later. I then spent one additional day considering the matter, and then made the case for immediate severance of corporate-SIG status — a reversal of my consistent policy until that point.
3. Refusal to repatriate SVLUG's primary DNS to SVLUG's server.
Because of repeated technical problems needing fixing, and also as a matter of just generally good organisational policy, SVLUG's president asked SBAY to please move primary DNS for SVLUG's "svlug.org" and "svlug.net" domains back onto SVLUG's main server. This request was initially on SVLUG's "Volunteers" mailing list, CCed to SBAY's Board of Directors. SBAY president Ian Kluft refused, the next day, and also claimed that SVLUG's president needed to "re-earn some trust". SVLUG president J. Paul Reed asked confirmation that Kluft/SBAY was actually presuming to refuse that request. Neither Kluft nor any other SBAY official made any reply.
To ensure that the membership knew of this issue, Reed crossposted relevant portions of his request and Kluft's refusal, a few days later. The only comment was from former SVLUG president Marc Merlin who deplored Kluft/SBAY's abuse of SVLUG's domains, and explicitly said it violated his understanding when he entrusted those domains to them.
Subsequently, neither Kluft nor any other SBAY representative was willing to make any comment on their further manipulation of our domains, including adding nameservice from an additional SBAY Board member (Brian Litzinger). Apparently, we were no longer to be even informed of key decisions concerning our domain names, not even after the fact.
Meanwhile, Kluft even refused to give SVLUG a copy of the domains' zonefiles, prerequisite for moving primary nameservice: Zone transfers from his nameservers are forbidden.
After SVLUG's members voted for resumed independence, president J. Paul Reed asked for ownership ("Registrant" title). Kluft insisted that the domains be transferred to a new domain registrar, ignoring SVLUG members who pointed out that this was non-sequitur to SVLUG's request to regain ownership, and utterly failed to address the problem. Exactly as those members predicted, the move to a new registrar did not alter the title in any way: Both domains continued to show Kluft as Registrant (owner).
On July 10, 2006, the new domain registrations were altered to show as owner Heather Stern, SBAY's vice-president and longtime member of SVLUG's Web Team. Heather did in due course arrange access to the domain records, finally fixing the problem -- five months after we asked for our domains back. (Thanks, Heather!)
4. "Graciously allowed"
Per SBAY Board of Directors member Bill Ward: "Ian has graciously allowed SVLUG to choose its presidents for the past three and a half years, and granted them SIG Coordinator status, to preserve continuity with SVLUG's traditions." (link)