Difference between revisions of "Cautionary Tales"

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These are fictitious stories about Free Geeks gone bad. They are based on real life scenarios with names changed to protect the innocent, guilty, naive, and unlucky.
These are fictitious stories about Free Geeks gone bad. They are based on real life scenarios with names changed to protect the innocent, guilty, naive, and unlucky.

Latest revision as of 17:09, 19 April 2013


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These are fictitious stories about Free Geeks gone bad. They are based on real life scenarios with names changed to protect the innocent, guilty, naive, and unlucky.

They're here to make a point, so details have been simplified to add clarity. They are short pithy tales based on real experience and the reasonable worries of folks that have been there and done that. Please feel free to add as necessary.

Free Geek Lilliput

Gulliver Swift was up late one night drinking and surfing the web. He saw this site about a really cool organization he wanted to start. All buzzed on Jolt Cola, he dutifully read everything and filled out the application form. Man was he excited!

A few weeks later his application was approved, and he set out to actually start organizing. But by then it seemed like too much work. He couldn't find volunteers to do anything. There was a lot of research that needed doing, a lot of paperwork to be filed with the state. And he had no idea where he could rent a space (or get one donated for free).

Pretty soon, he was a Free Geek in name only. He got interested in other things. The web site he set up about it grew stale. Once in a while he'd get an email from someone who was interested, but by then it seemed like a lost cause.

Free Geek Emerald City

Dorothy, Em and Henry Gale got together and decided to start a Free Geek. Dorothy and Em were busy and able to come to meetings. They even could kick in a bit of cash to get things going. Fortunately, Henry had a lot of time on his hands to contribute, so things seemed to start off well.

Unfortunately, Henry couldn't get along with any of the volunteers. He'd yell at them. One time he even kicked a hole in the wall. Well, reasoned Em and Dorothy, we can't do this without him. We don't have the time.

Soon Free Geek Emerald City had a bad reputation around town. Failing to attract volunteers it failed in a short amount of time.

Free Geek Bree or was it Bree Free Geek?

Barliman started a Free Geek in the quaint village Bree after visiting the mothership. He didn't know much about how to start an organization but really like the idea. He recruited a few volunteers to help him get started and things went well for a while. They even got a location in an attic space and were receiving donations and rebuilding computers, but when his term at the university was up, he moved on and decided to leave the organization in the capable hands of his new recruits.

Thorin and Gloin were two of the main volunteers. Thorin had been recruited early on and considered himself an expert about the technical end of things. Gloin had come later on and liked to take charge of the shop floor when he was around. The two would disagree over things fairly frequently, and the other volunteers did their best to steer clear of them when they got into "one of those" situations, because that's when insults would start flying.

After one incident Gloin called a meeting and demanded that Thorin be expelled unless he apologized. Thorin refused and the group decided to expel Thorin just to get the ongoing problem behind them. The other volunteers reasoned that both of these people can't get along with each other, but it's better to have one than watch the group implode.

Angry, Thorin called a separate meeting and some of the volunteers came, saying that Gloin had treated Thorin unfairly. They decided to start another group. Now there were two organizations: "Free Geek Bree" and "Bree Free Geek". They both asked the mothership for recognition, putting the busy folks and the original Free Geek in quite a pickle.

Months later there were no Free Geeks in Bree, even though a lot of energy had been spent on organizing two of them.

Free Geek Neverland

Free Geek Neverland (FGN) was large, successful and busy. They were, however, usually short on cash. When Tiger Lilly Associates offered them an expansion grant, they jumped for joy. There was a catch, however. Tiger Lilly wanted FGN to start a consulting program where they could develop software for other struggling nonprofits. FGN saw no problem with this, since it seemed to dovetail well with their mission. Suddenly lots of interested consultants started showing up, hoping for some work. Now FGN was in the project management business.

The consultants got busy and soon they landed their first big job. This posed a problem for the consultants. If they had volunteers do their computer building work, they didn't feel they could guarantee the reliability of the final product, and it never seemed to happen on a reasonable schedule.

So the consultants began building computers in their own space and the volunteers kept on working in theirs. Neither group really knew what the other was doing.

When the big job started to go south, however, FGN found it hard to pay the consultants, and they started to leave the project. This left the staff stretched, trying to manage a faltering project and all the volunteers. Attempts to integrate the two computer building operations failed. Eventually the commitment to the consulting project overwhelmed the organization and nearly killed it off. Everyone on the board burned out over this fiasco and they all resigned. The only thing that saved the organization financially was severe cutbacks in salaries and programs. Several people were even laid off.