Australian Unix user organization in trouble

AUUG, the Australian users organization for Unix, Linux and open source professionals, is facing one of the toughest challenges in its 30-year history as long-standing members question its relevance.

In a post to the group’s mailing list, AUUG member Greg ‘Groggy’ Lehey, openly questioned whether it was “time to pull the plug” and dissolve the organization.

“It looks to me as if AUUG is dead and just doesn’t know it,” Lehey said. “On the other hand, last time the treasurer presented a report, we had significant funds. Maybe it’s time to do something else with them.”

Lehey was particularly critical of the organization of this year’s AUUG national conference, scheduled for Melbourne next month.

“There are a whole lot of things I haven’t seen,” he said, referring to membership renewal, details of the new AUUG board, conference sponsorship information, the conference program, and conference registration.

“From what I can see from my vantage point, the conference is a nonstarter.”

Lehey then raised a number of questions regarding the future, and possible dissolution, of AUUG.

“Do enough members think that it’s time to dissolve AUUG? How many members do we have? How do we know who the members are?” he said. “If we dissolve AUUG, what do we do with the funds?”

Lehey also postulated a number of possibilities for AUUG, including a merger with Linux Australia.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Linux Australia is conceptually the successor organization,” he said. “The problem I have (and that Linux Australia shares) is that there’s no place there for users of proprietary Unix.”

Any remaining AUUG funds should be donated to the John Lions chair of computer science at the University of New South Wales, Lehey said.

The ‘AUUG is dead’ song has been sung before, but in recent years the organization has experiences a slight resurgence in membership, according to AUUG president David Purdue.

In response to this, Linux Australia (LA) member and software freedom advocate Jeff Waugh commented on his blog that a combined AUUG-LA could even change its name to something that reflects the broader open source interests of the two groups.

“‘Linux’ does not even remotely represent the depth of the organization’s membership or their interests,” Waugh wrote, adding the name Linux Australia is “hideously exclusive”.

“Let’s say what we mean by changing the name of the organization to better reflect our aims. It could be Open Source Australia or Open Source Community Australia to denote our partnership with Open Source Industry Australia.”

This change would better represent some of AUUG’s membership “refugees”, who love open source and free software, but don’t necessarily use the Linux kernel “to do their loving”, according to Waugh.

Waugh believes the potential dissolution of AUUG is an opportunity to further unify and strengthen the voice of open source and free software in Australia, which is in “stark contrast to the Unix wars of previous decades.”