Candidacy of Hartmut Pilch for president of FFII at GA 2005-11-29
What Hartmut would do in a further term as president of FFII.
We need to get our act together, not to change labels
I'm not planning to be president of FFII as a profession for life. Having founded and led for 6 years an organisation which other people are now bidding to take over is in itself a success, and a certain level of turmoil in such takeover struggles is perhaps unavoidable. Yet both the circumstances of the current struggle and the plans proposed by the counter-candidacy don't make it seem advisable for me to agree to such a succession. Rather I would prefer to work closely with a newly elected board in overcoming the impasses and get FFII on its feet, so that we can effectively do our work, which has lost none of its reasons of existence.
Reasons for existence of FFII
Many organisations exist which have goals similar to FFII.
There are various, partially somewhat conflicting reasons, why FFII is of particular value and needs to continue to exist.
- Software patents are still being granted en masse and systematically by the European Patent Office, and efforts to impose this practise have not faded away. FFII is a center of competence on this issue.
- Many organisations have tried to provide a counter-lobby to balance the "intellectual property lobbies" that have captured much of the legislative process in the EU. FFII has, more than any other organisation, succeded in organising such a counter-lobby, particularly in the European Parliament.
- The FFII represents both civil society and enterprises, as expressed in the term "economic majority for a free information infrastructure". The need to maintain alliance could determine the scope of activities of FFII.
- We have a large base of 90000 registered supporters and 800 (nominally) paying members, constituting a network in all European countries.
- There are quite a few individuals in and around FFII who provide good political and legal analysis and form part of a larger academic community which has conducted some conferences in Brussels and elsewhere.
Weaknesses in basic functions coming to the foreground
- Basic administrative work, such as communication with our member and supporter base and fundraising, has been neglected. A servant-president is facing service requests from 90,000 supporters. Holger Blasum, who previously filled the most urgent gaps in this area, dropped out in July, and voluntary replacement is not to be expected. Now that there is no clearly visible imminent threat, this work has become more important than before.
- Media work has been unsatisfactory. During certain periods a few individuals were able to churn out press releases that were quoted by the IT media. The media could however not rely on FFII to provide quick reactions to ongoing developments. We were not able to assure that anyone was responsible for FFII media work on a regular basis, even by taking weekly turns. Florian Mueller outperformed us by far as a single person. Now, as media attention is no longer focussing on Brussels, media work has become even more important than before.
The association is not presenting itself well in the web. Hopefully Antonios Christofides will change this soon with his proposed website http://en.ffii.org/
The following is brain-storming, ultimately the board must decide together.
First of all, we need a paid administrator to fulfill the missing basic administrative function. The administrator would be someone who is interested mainly in building an organisational machinery, but also with knowledge of basic communication conventions needed to interoperate with FFII (e.g. working in a Unix shell and with sql commands). For this it is necessary to specify this function and to conduct a public tender, first of all among our activists and supporters. It might not be all that difficult to find an attractive offer. Typical administration tasks include the following
- cleaning up the member database, ascertaining the validity of the data
- answering and forwarding support questions which come in at mail aliases such as info, buero, president et al
- answering the phone for the FFII
- writing personally to members, ensuring that they have entered their data as intended and suggesting how they can further engage
- providing support to corporate sponsors
- keeping track of which members have paid fees
- handling and digitising incoming snailmail
- making sure leaflets and other supportive materials are available and sent to groups of people who volunteer to participate in events
- reserving beds for events
- ... (a better and more detailed list has been worked out by Geork Jakob recently, I'll post it here ASAP)
Hopefully this will also enable us to soon assure payment of Peter Gerwinski for maintenance of http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/ and basic media work and a sum not too far away from the 4000 eur/month demanded by Erik, who has been leading the Brussels network.
Structure: do the work instead of creating new organisational entities
Erik's plan is to set up three entities: FFII Board, Economic Majority as a separate legal entity which pays FFII and a "Workgroup" led by me which provides analysis for the man in Brussels.
I think FFII is already a trustworthy label, and setting up extra entities brings more confusion than benefit. Companies are quite willing to support FFII directly, if addressed in a proper way. Since July 7th we have not addressed our corporate supporters at all, so how can we expect anything from them. If we explain nicely why these corporate supporters need to finance our work and why their "golden corporate membership in FFII" or whatever we set up makes a difference, I'm quite sure we'll get significant support. We can be ESA and Greenpeace at the same time.
A title of "leader of FFII working group" does not lend any additional authority to whoever owns it. Rather, various informal working groups will appear, and some of them may adopt more or less formalised structures, possibly with leaders and boards like the FFII itself, and they may be appointed to some functions within FFII by means of FFII board decisions any time. I'll be happy to refrain from personal interference in such groups.
In the future I'll be using the instrument of submitting resolutions to the board regularly. This instrument is new to FFII. The board became aware of its role only in a situation of crisis in September 2005. Later I learned to use the instrument and found that it can greatly strengthen the cohesion of an organisation.
On his candidacy page, Jonas claims that I'm interfering in all kinds of details of other people's works. I myself often see it the other way around: people want to decide about private details of my work, such as what software I should use for pages and systems on which nobody but I myself work. I have usually been very happy to fork out some spheres to other people and to leave other people completely alone in their spheres. Examples are the work of Peter Gerwinski and Stephan Uhlmann. I told Antonios Christofides a month ago that his wonderful project http://en.ffii.org/ should completely replace the current http://www.ffii.org/ and that I completely trust him to be the responsible editor for this area. But he didn't respond and declined calls for irc meetings. Maybe precisely this is one of the case where an agreement between Antonios and the board could have helped move things forward more quickly. I failed to push for this, but I didn't block other people's initiatives either. I think I'm quite flexible and much of the current talk about my shortcomings is not constructive but rather driven by a campaign about persons which seems to have become an end in itself.
What I'd do if not reelected
I don't consider myself as competent to lead FFII work on all "R&D issues". E.g. I can't provide much competent input to data retention or IPR Enforcement. If relieved of my duties as president, I would keep up a certain level of commitment as a board member, so as to help smooth transition, as far as this is desired, but apart from that I'd take the opportunity for regeneration, so as to be ready at special times when I may be needed in the future.