Cricket Sound – My Attempt At Revitalizing Plug

This is my attempt at writing my experience at trying to revitalize the Philippine Linux User’s Group in the early to mid 2000s. I am writing this for posterity’s sake, so as to help the current generation trying to do same today, and also for myself to remember details before I get senile.

My first interaction with PLUG, after being in the mailing list for some time of course, was as a speaker at one of their events held at Asia Pacific College along Magallanes. This was 2006. I even got a nice keychain and plaque for my efforts which I still have until now.

I was busy with my webdev work and writing for PDI and other publications so some time passed since then. At some point I started wondering what happened to PLUG, and so I asked this at the mailing list (it’s in the archives). This snowballed and people started to wonder aloud as well, finally leading to everyone wanting to start the group again. At this point I was still assuming that there was still an org in place, but after a meeting we had which I fortunately blogged about here it started to dawn on me that the people involved in PLUG were either just gone or have become disinterested in it. Not only were they disinterested but after another meeting we had at Cubao I realized there was some hostility being held by previous members toward each other.

Needless to say this surprised me but I realized that I was not interested to learn the details because it was their issue and I did not want to meddle. From what I gathered though, it had something to do with stickers or t-shirts not being delivered and money not being accounted for or something like that.

At any rate I realized that PLUG was effectively dead, and if we wanted to have a PLUG it was necessary to start from scratch. Everything about the previous PLUG was not interesting to me because if the previous people involved in PLUG didn’t want anything to do with it, I felt we shouldn’t either. We should just start anew.

This also made me realize that from merely asking what the status of PLUG was, I was now being thrust into the position of being the one responsible to start it again. There was a lot of talk about SEC Registration and looking for funding and even setting up an office, all of which I knew were way over my head. I had no experience doing this and my priorities were to try and make my hosting and web dev business work at the time. I couldn’t stand the idea of failure because I got too involved in something I did not want to ‘lead’ to begin with.

Despite that I still dreamt of having an organized functional Linux User’s Group to represent the country. I was and still am hardcore about open source and will remain an advocate till death. I wanted it to have a voice, especially during National issues, such as computerizing the elections or during the ZTE Scam which was hot topic at the time. Some of its members are some of the most qualified in the country and their opinions would have helped. I had ideas of distributing Linux CDs to computer distributors and dealers in lieu of them offering Windows, which I knew they would embrace as it lowered prices of their in house computers and laptops. Tagging them as supported by PLUG would give them stature and help the org as well.

Plus I didn’t want to let the people who wanted to revive PLUG down.  So I decided to meet the challenge halfway. I declared on the mailing list that there was no need for SEC Registration basically since we didn’t have a ‘purpose’ ie., a proper Mission / Vision. The Mission / Vision is basically the short answer to the question “Who are you and what are you doing?” and defined the parameters as to who we are, what we were and what we want to do. I felt this was important in order to course a direction into the future. The problem was again, I couldn’t get a consensus, which I’ll talk about later.

I decided to run it’s online operations instead. The current mailing list administrator is doing a great job running it so I didn’t touch that, and besides he wasn’t replying to my emails anyway. So I asked the very generous and patient Ian Sison for the rights to host which he allowed.

I had big plans for around 2009-10. I ran my favorite CMS, Drupal on it, and I wanted it to become the ‘repository for all the open source activities in the Philippines’. It started ok and I managed to build up a database, but I was doing most of the work by myself. I asked volunteers who submitted their share, but in the long run most of the work still fell on to me. I tried to talk some of the other open source groups into helping out, even visiting them at their events. All I needed was their profile to put on the site. They lent an ear but I could sense the lack of interest pretty much. Besides they were aligning with Microsoft for their events which I found terribly short sighted of them.

My idea was to make the website indicate the state of open source in the Philippines and become its ‘hub’ of sorts, so as to convince visitors that it is alive and well and therefore worth taking up. I wanted articles about its adoption in schools, government, etc., and a directory of events. I still believe in the idea although again, my time and resources are limited, and I just don’t want to do this alone.

At some point in 2011-12 I moved my VPS to a new host (I was trying out several at the time), and many of my sites’ IP changed rendering them down, including I kept putting it at the backburner but not only did I not have the time, it didn’t seem to alarm anyone as well. Seeing that the site’s disappearance hardly caused a ripple, and with little traffic to justify it I kept it at that.

Flash forward to today, PLUG has a new FB page, some of whose members were probably in high school when the above was going on. They are again starting to clamor for its revival. As someone who has had the opportunity to give it a try I consider it important to explain what I have gone through and offer some advice to whoever is willing to listen. Here they are:

Agree on a clear Mission / Vision: I can’t emphasize this enough. Dapat malinaw. And you can’t go wrong with “To promote Linux and Open Source in the Philippines.” It’s crystal clear and easy to explain to anyone who asks. It is also a strong guiding light so as to compare all activities against. For example, if the org is debating on an activity, all you have to do is ask ‘will it promote Linux and Open Source in the Philippines?’. This in itself can resolve a lot of debate. Once you have that statement in place, you can work on the planning and execution on an annual basis.

Don’t Geek Out: Running an org and discussing linux and open source are two different things. Activities that involve both should be separate. Also avoid having to ‘technologize’ everything, such as discussions and meetings. Have simple meetings with an agenda and consensus as the goal. Whether it be via chat, google, messenger, etc. offline, or carrier pigeon, choose the simplest archivable option. It does not matter.

Forget The Past: Other than the right to say ‘been around since 1994’ I do not see any advantage to connecting with the past PLUG. If you need proof, all you have to ask is where are those guys now? They don’t seem to be interested in it anymore, so let’s just start anew. A new Mission, a new logo, new rules, new board etc. That way we don’t have to wonder ‘what would the older members think?’. They don’t care. If they did they would have spoken up.

Speak up: Nothing will be resolved if everyone just keeps to themselves. All the people in the mailing list and now on FB share one common trait – a love for open source. This makes me trust them regardless of where they are and what they do. I felt alone running the website because no one shared any thoughts, any comments, anything with me. It was like talking to an empty room where the only response was the sound of crickets (hence the title of this post). If you have issue let’s talk it over and if it deserves merit then it will get due attention. Otherwise keeping it to yourself will accomplish zero.

I don’t know if this new resurgence in wanting to run PLUG will result in anything but I continue to be hopeful. I wrote this in as complete and as honest a manner as possible so as to allow everyone the full picture, but I was juggling quite a few things at the time both work and personal, so a few details may have slipped here and there. In any case I welcome inputs and hope this helps.

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