The Association for Free Software

Minutes of the AFFS AGM 2004

The 2004 AGM was held on 15 May after the AFFS Annual Conference in Birmingham.

Note: these minutes are a draft, subject to amendment and approval by the next general meeting.

  1. Minutes approved

    AGM approved the minutes of the 2003 meeting.

  2. Reports

    Marc introduced the ctte, and told about Expos, etc.

    Ian talked about Education

    Mark gave a short finance talk, told us that there are 95 members.

    Adam talked about the newsletters.

    Richard - workgroups manager - does all sorts. Panel next month at new media event. Public Service central g'vt review - free software article for civil servants.

    Alex - talked about Expo, CDR, FFII-UK Etc.

    Many noted that we needed more helpers!

  3. Accounts

    Have £1937.75 in current account. No current liabilities. More cheque writing for grants! As of 30th April, not including donations / membership. Income 50/50 between donors and members. New donor list going up on the website.

    Paid Aston for last year's conference. £100 stationery supplies. £35ish for full mailshot and membership correspondence. Cost per member is around £4 - lower cost online, so want online membership, cc etc soon.

    Total income just over £2000 last year. Marc noted didn't include corp sponsorship at this event, or the £500 donated by UKFSN today. Also noted event costs are fairly low/break even. Some money is earmarked (donations, etc.) just for software. Money coming from membership is used for Expo expenditure and campaigns in general.

    Floor noted that the constitution wasn't printed on the correct size paper. Marc deferred to point 5.

  4. Free Software Grants

    Marc hoped everyone had read the proposal. Principle - would have been possible to start via committee, but because it involves money we put it to AGM for a vote. It started with a sponsor (UKFSN) doing business passing profit to free software. AFFS charged with distributing the funds. AFFS was happy to take the money and defer the decision on spending. Generated money more quickly than expended. Currently talking about £1100 pounds earmarked, but procedures not in place, so not advertised to potential donors although that would be the plan (to extend the fund). We would like to see a lot more money in the pot to distribute. How to distribute? Easy to create conflict, therefore required an open, fair, transparent system known to all. Should be able to see where the money went, and then judge the success based on that. Was possible to have a free software prize, but didn't want to do that because want to stimulate new software, not just award software that already exists.

    Grant system makes money available to new projects, and then can be directed at important projects. Projects would be prioritised and then funded. Would have been possible to have a board to view proposals and decide on a per proposal basis, but this isn't very transparent. Marc noted he had an academic background, and based his proposal on the methods used by the Research Councils, since those are thought of as being fair and transparent, and we didn't need to re-invent the wheel.

    Basic route: submit a short outline proposal. Proposal goes to a group responsible for running the fund, who would give some feedback to proposer. Needs to be in the furtherance of free software, but not necessarily funding software itself. First feedback is informal, and just about whether or not it meets basic requirements (furthers free software, etc.) and is viable (i.e., we have the money to fund it). Want to avoid long proposals at first. Proposer can then write a full proposal and forward that, detailing the cost breakdown and the summary of the project and the objectives/key outputs. Success measured against reaching objectives. Why is AFFS the correct body? We also don't want to fund projects which could find funding elsewhere; looking to fund most needy and make the biggest impact. Proposal would go to referees, three chosen by each of the proposer and AFFS (making six total for a proposal). Referees give their opinion on whether or not the project could be successful. Applicant can comment on the referee's opinion, in case they oppose the opinion of some referee. Final proposal then goes to the panel, who prioritise the projects. This order is then used by the Treasurer who the funds as many projects as is possible, in the priority given.

    Marc noted we can put this in place quite quickly, but wanted AGM to comment on the suitability of the process. Discussion then took form of a Q&A session. Answers included:

    • Small amounts of money can be funded outside of this process. (<£100 amounts)
    • The referee-based ranking process attempts to avoid personal conflicts and the double blind attempts to choose between projects on an equitible manner. Needs objective comment by other people.
    • Personal details on the project information doesn't get forwarded to avoid breaking the double-blind.
    • Funding is not intended to bootstrap businesses, so it's not thought likely that such applications would get through the process.
    • Referees ought to include the track record of the candidates and their ability to complete the project in their judgement.
    • Sometimes it could be trivial to break the double-blind, but still think it is important to have the possibility there.
    • Some members stated that the key issue is to get *a* process running, could be pros/cons with any proposal
    • Funding would require reports in return, but there is flexibility to have different payment schemes tailored to the different types of projects we might expect. Treasurer and Panel should reach an agreement.
    • Referees can state that a project is unfundable, with an explanation. Applicant can comment on that. Prioritisation Ctte can then exclude the project on that basis if they choose, but the prioritisation has no way to reject on their own basis, however.
    • AFFS can produce specific calls for proposals. So, there is a method to strategically target some areas with ring-fenced money. AFFS Ctte would decide that though.
    • The money is allocated before the call so we don't have to spend all our money.
    • Did not yet specify how referees would be chosen.
    • Some members think there should be an overall panel controlling the proposal. With UKUUG, the Open Source Awards had 7/8 entries for ~£1000 of money. Found it was difficult to get people to apply, even with a simple process. Quality has ranged to extremes, some don't even fulfil the specs. Also difficult to find referees to comment on the proposals.
    • We anticipate four/five figure funds in each round, and don't want to have to keep discussing it. Might seem overkill at the moment, though, but should be able to grow into the system. Agree that it might not last for years, but is a good starting point, and we can review it every year at the AGM. Question is more about whether or not we think this proposal is a useful starting point.
    • Rule of thumb is that no project gets more than 25% of the money, so with £1000 no-one gets more than £250.
    • Target is for projects to further the aims - could be writing software, or other things. Example: CD distros for the OOo project, or a developer needed a cable modem - £70 - to work on. That could be the sort of thing that would be useful, and made a difference since it meant the dev could distribute the ISOs.
    • Proposal says the prioritisation panel should elected, by the membership. Should be nominated, and then voted in, but do need to be AFFS members.
    • The timescale for the proposal is 3 months - 6 months. We need to start the process, and then gain experience from it. Alternative is we go back to the drawing board, and still not starting.

    Amendment: Raise the threshold to more than £1000. Accepted by proposer.

    Vote: deferred.

  5. Amendment to the Constitution

    Floor noted formatting issues, and lack of seconder.

    John Seago produced new proposal as an amendment, seconded by MJ Ray, to delete 6(d) because the 2003 AGM rendered this irrelevant.

    Alex described his proposal and the new proposal to AGM. Alex's proposal was circulated to members before AGM; John's amendment was simply stated verbally at AGM.

    Floor moves for vote. Some discussion.

    Chair calls for vote on John's amendment. Vote not carried.

    Chair calls for vote on Alex's proposal: 12 to 5. Not carried (requires two-thirds majority).

  6. Elections

    Kirsten Naylor & Marc Eberhard withdrew their nominations.

    Noting that there were fewer candidates than posts, chair noted no vote would be taken.

    Brief introductions given by everyone.

    Motion put to AGM to endorse the election of all standing; motion carried.

  7. AOB

    Marc noted he didn't want to get re-elected because of his job and the amount of work.

Alex Hudson and Richard Smedley, 15 May 2004; amended Alex Hudson, 15 May 2004; amended Adam Bower, 9 Feburary 2005; amended MJR, 22 February 2024

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