Council 2005 02

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  • Date: February 16, 2005
  • Facilitator: Rev Phil
  • Scribe: Pete Forsyth
  • Previous Meeting Minutes

At the outset, Richard pointed out that because so many key people were sick or otherwise unable to attend, we should regard this meeting as relatively informal, and we should not make any (major) decisions, but rather take the opportunity to discuss ongoing issues somewhat less formally than usually. All present seemed to agree.


Facilitator: Rev Phil, Scribe: Pete Forsyth, Richard Seymour (staff), Missy, Martin (staff), Jeff, Lou, Matteo, Clout (staff), Michael Richman, Rick (staff), Marlin (staff)


Board of Directors

Oso was to invite MNR and Dennis (the remaining active Free Geek board members) to this meeting, to discuss the future of the Board of Directors. None of these three are present.


COMMITMENT: Martin will discuss with Oso whether this will happen at next meeting, and report back to the list.

Tantalum research

carry over. Martin will make a Wiki page so that other people can help out.

  • Lou: what the heck is tantalum? what is this issue?
  • Martin: How to recycle this metal. It's in cell phones, wireless cards, laptops. Mining it is damaging to the environment, so it would be good to recover it for reuse if possible. We don't yet know if there is money to be made by recycling it, but the recycling is a worthwhile end in itself if feasible. This is a LOGISTICAL commitment.


COMMITMENTS: Michael will assist with research. Martin will post to council list.


Can we get Flexcar to donate use of a vehicle for occasional pickup of large hardware donations?

  • Pete: I have a pretty final draft of a letter to send them. I'm not sure if I'm the best person to send it, I might not be their most popular customer right now.



Pete will post draft to list for any feedback, and allow 1-2 business days before it's sent out. Phil will send the letter (and appoint himself as their primary contact for any followup?) Oso has expressed skepticism that they would be interested (and Pete pretty much agrees), so our expectations here shouldn't be too high.

  • Clout: I have a van I'd be willing to give to FreeGeek.
  • Martin: thanks, but the liability, the cost of gas and maintenance...
  • Clout: yeah, that's pretty much why I don't want it.

program for blind/visually impaired adopters

Wesley (Tallwes) was the one developing this proposal, and he's not here.

  • Phil: I talked to Wes, he will be sending out an email to the list. He has maybe found one application that will help the visually impaired. It may go into the standard freekbox installation.


Wiki - see later, future of collab.

how big- also see later

(actually we never discussed this, ran out of time.)

Envata (spelling?)

This ISP is interested in getting referrals from FreeGeek, and may be (?) able to provide tech support on Freek Boxes. We currently have a "preferred" ISP, Whiz to Coho. They have made a commitment to understanding and supporting Freek Box distro, and so we have a good basis for recommending them.

  • Phil: They will give us $4 for every person who signs up via Free Geek. (Some confusion about whether this is $4 per user, or $4 per user per month.)
  • Richard: Can Envata match the level of tech support we're currently getting from whiz to coho (an ISP we already have an arrangement with)? How do we go about assessing this? If so, we should treat this as an equal alternative as far as what ISP we recommend.
  • Pete: We all seem to agree that, if Envata wants to give us money for referrals, we can let people know that (so that those inclined to help Free Geek financially may choose to do so) but we should not let it impact our recommendation in any way. (General agreement.)
  • Richard: whether or not we should recommend them should be based entirely on their ability to support our adopters.

CARRY OVER: Michael, Phil, Pete, Shawn. Get clarity on the $ deal

(Phil), assess tech support capabilities (Michael.)

COMMITMENT:Phil will report on $$ deal.

Consensus: tech support will make us recommend them; $$ won't.



  • Richard: HCFA reports: SQL clinic is in production at homestreet. This

week and next, nathan is focused on finishing everything up. it's REALLY close. How will we prevent Homestreet from expecting tech support from

  • Nathan? Should we explore a contract for paid tech support? We will get what little outstanding money there is when the project is complete. All that money is spoken for and will go toward fulfilling debts.
  • Martin: Homestreet's tech support needs will be way beyond current tech support offered to the public; there are only 6 or 7 people at FG/Collab who really know the software. (Martin, Nathan, Dennis and some others.)
  • Jeff: Tech support was not in the original contract.
  • Richard: there may be a way to set up ongoing tech support for them IF they want us to do it, but it will not be a trivial task.
  • Clout: can we help them find another contractor if they want us to?
  • Richard: they will probably need an ongoing arrangement; they will need somebody on call.
  • Lou: is there a list of what remains to be done before completion, and is there agreement between HS and FG about what is on the list?
  • Richard: yes, and yes. Nathan is now the project manager and is the steward of that list. Nathan is confident everything will be wrapped up in a week.


  • Lou: What is Collab?
  • Pete: Collaberative Technologies is a program that was founded with the intent of expanding the kind of assistance Free Geek offers to other organizations beyond the existing (and successful) Hardware Grants program. The central idea is to provide larger-scale, software-based solutions, and to charge money for this service. The program was founded around the Homestreet project (database system for mental hospital); this first project was very big, is near completion. There is consensus that a lot went wrong, and we are trying to take the opportunity to rethink how the program is envisioned (and avoid making similar mistakes) before we take on more projects.
  • Richard: yes, that covers the uncontroversial parts.
  • Jeff: What is controversial is what went wrong, and why it went wrong.
  • Richard: Many things went wrong, and while there may be disagreement about some of the specifics, there is also a lot in common in what mistakes the participants see.
  • Lou: If Free Geek delivered the product we said we would, we should fundamentally regard this as a SUCCESS.
  • Richard: yes but, it has affected FG deeply - even to the extent that we might need to lay off staff.
  • Martin: the positivity of Lou's comment is important, it's something that should be present in how we present ourselves in the future when applying for grants and such like.

topics for discussion:

  • change name of Collab?
  • start small, build on existing programs?
  • pay attention to how NP's interface with FG, and make sure that's a smooth process.
  • What, beyond hardward, can/should Free Geek offer? tech support? education? (place to volunteer?)
  • short, medium, long range plans
  • Martin - extensive intro/overview:

clean up interface between FG and nonprofits

Most important goal is to CLEAN UP THE INTERFACE between FG and NonProfits. Package ourselves better. Make it easier for a NP to understand what FG can and cannot do. (short term.) medium term: more education, tech support for more apps. Needs Assessment/Needs Analysis. part time staff coordinator? integrate into HW grants group.

Nonprofit Assistance should be separate from Hardware Grants

Separate Non-Profit Assistance Group. Be a cleaner interface. Brad is in charge of refining or denying requests. Process is "sloppy," many of the right things are done but there is little agreement/formality to the process. So maybe some formalization is a good first step.

Preferred contractor list

(Be able to refer tech support that's beyond FG's capabilities to contractors we trust to do a good job.)

long term goals: needs analysis more thorough (to include custom applications. custom programming still farmed out to contractors.) both full and part time staff (as supportable by income stream.)

general discussion

  • Jeff: The medium- and long-range plans should continually be reassessed as things develop. (I think both Richard and Jeff made this point.)

Richard printed out the proposals for Future of Collab and NonProfit Assistance Program from the wiki and handed them out.

distinguishing features of these two proposals:

FUTURE OF COLLAB is more detailed than NAP

NAP would start with reorganizing HW grants program

Contractor List proposal - related to both proposals, but a separate topic (how to create/maintain it. We won't discuss that tonight.)

  • Richard: Tonight's group is too small to make any decisions on this. Too many interested parties absent.
  • Martin: let's try to make sure key players are at next council meeting so we can make a decision.
  • Richard: dave, resolution committee, martin, nathan, oso, richard, jeff

should be involved.

COMMITMENT: Martin will contacting those folks and urge them to be at next month's meeting so we can reach a decision.

  • Richard: My preference is to keep all good ideas growing in the Future of Collab proposal, so we can reach consensus as we go along and be able to make a unanimous decision after it's been properly refined.
  • Jeff: I am happier now with the Collab proposal, it's more detailed and addresses some of my concerns, and am happy to withdraw the NAP proposal.
  • Jeff: Do we really want to change the name? Maybe not. Public perception may not be as bad as we thought. The name may be more of an asset than a liability. If we change the name, we create the question in the public's mind of why we did so.
  • Missy: Are the same mistakes from Homestreet project being repeated here? too many assumptions about developing revenue streams without specifics. short term goals: education: how will we afford this? this needs to be more specific in numerous ways about dollars and revenue streams.
  • Richard: separating headings in the proposal leads to some confusion. We NEED to be vague about money until assessment of options has been done. This is a general guideline, and is not intended to govern the future. Implied contingencies. It's a work in progress; short- and long-range goals must be adjusted as we learn in the short term, but it's good to have general guidelines.
  • Richard and Missy agree that it would help if some of the implicit contingencies be spelled out better in the proposal.
  • Richard: We're starting to do some of the groundwork that might support the medium and long term goals, without making (yet) firm decisions about the medium and long term. Name change may be appropriate if mission of the program changes significantly.
  • Jeff: plausibility. I disagree that specificity is necessary. We can prevent a similar problem by addressing specifics when they become relevant. Recommendation to grow slowly as opposed to taking on a huge project will be helpful. Also requiring frequent reports to Council, specifically on funding.
  • Missy: name change. Likes NAP name better because it's descriptive of a motion. defines a mission.
  • Martin: he likes the separate proposal because Grants group already does some little bit of needs analysis. Building on that to meet needs of Collab would be worthwhile. NAP proposal covers that better. We should look to FORMALIZE and/or LIMIT what grants group does, so they can do their job better and Council/Collab can better understand what Grants group doesn't cover itself. If NAP is successful, Grants group will become irrelevant.
  • Jeff: There was lots of confusion about why both Collab and Grants exist. There is some value to having separate programs for quick/simple tasks and big tasks.
  • Lou: let the process work; don't try to dictate whether Grants will or will not survive, or what its role will be. Assess that as things evolve.
  • Rick: pay for tech support...similar issue. establish pay-in-advance. (Rick: please clarify, I'm not sure I got all of what you said in here. -Pete)
  • Rev Phil (in his Most Shining Moment): Hey Pete, why don't you read back the discussion, so we can all agree on what has been said.

(General agreement on the points made.)

  • Richard: In light of that, are there still significant problems with the Future of Collab proposal? What are they, and who will take responsibility for making sure they're addressed before the next meeting?
  • Jeff: clarity of communication lines.
  • Missy: funding plan.
  • Richard: commitment to refine for decision next month. He'll check in with nathan as well as Jeff and Missy.
  • Jeff: we need to discuss the contractor question.

COMMITMENT: Richard, Jeff, and Missy will attempt to address these issues in the proposal before next month.



Village Building Convergence 5 (this May) event hosted by City Repair.

  • Rev Phil: Are we or aren't we going to pursue something for VBC to improve the feel of the Free Geek space?

Clarifying from last month, Clout, Pete, Martin, Rick say we decided to make an effort for NEXT year (VBC6.) Too late for this year.

  • Jeff: let's see a proposal for next year or related projects before we discuss or make a decision.
  • Richard: maybe we should create a committee to come up with a proposal.

Phil, Shawn, Nathan are a group. They are open to more people joining up.

DECISION: committee will develop a proposal, we will discuss it in council after a proposal has been made.


  • Jeff: is there a way we can accept monitors without the fee? (There's been some email discussion.) We're running out of time tonight; let's continue to discuss offline.
  • Rick: in past, we said if the monitor is good we won't charge you. We found if we do this, lots of people say their monitor is good; it becomes difficult to administer.
  • Richard: roughly 60-85% of monitors we receive get recycled. Sold monitors average $17. That's 8%. Big cost is recycling. After disposal fees for recycled monitors, we make $5.45/monitor received. But we have to pay staff and infrastructure which is difficult to quantify. Of potential donators, there are 3 kinds of people, some don't care, some like us and have money, some like us and can't afford to give unrequired money. Third kind is majority, that $10 is given but wouldn't be if they have wiggle room. Bottom line: we can't afford to divert any of FG's revenue stream, or staff time for administration, to covering monitor donation costs.
  • Jeff: agrees with all of that. But can we all agree: if we can get the same $$ per monitor into FG, but make it more possible for people to donate monitors, that would be good. We recycle more monitors, bring in more net dollars. Maybe the specifics are not in place, but this is a worthy goal and worth pursuing.
  • Missy: Maybe this goal could be accomplished by getting a grant from an organization (different from corporate grant.)
  • Rick: Let's get in touch with Metro and get them to stop taking monitors for free at curbside or whatever. If we partner with Metro we may be able to accomplish more.

Decision to brainstorm.

next meeting

  • Date: March 16
  • Facilitator: Matteo
  • Scribe: Pete Forsyth
  • Agenda:
    • blind guy distro
    • board of directors
    • the meta-question