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DPRG: Austin Chapter of DPRG :-)

Subject: DPRG: Austin Chapter of DPRG :-)
From: Robert Singleton slugmusk at alias.flash.net
Date: Tue Feb 9 16:09:59 CST 1999

Roger Arrick wrote:
> 
> Robert Singleton wrote:
> >re:Austin group
> >> I say we rekindle that sucker.
> 
> So, does the existing austin group still have money,
> office, secretary?  Did the "arts community" bail on
> them?  So, the robot builders are still in austin, but
> they abandoned the "group" because the group got in
> the way?  That's what could happen to dprg if the
> success is used to create an empire.

Thus, APRG rather than the Austin office of the Hill Country chapter of
the Southwestern Region of Robots, Inc.

:)

(Robots, Inc is a hopefully fictional corporation; no offense intended
if someone  indeed owns that name....)

Roger also is attributed with:
>> Middle ground?  I believe what I said strongly.  I would have to
>> compromise my belief system to accept what I think is wrong.  If 
>> you agree with me, you should call this "Principled", if you 
>> disagree, you should call this "mean spiritedness", "stubborn", 
>> "rigid", "uncompromising".

I must admit, Roger, that back a month or two ago when I first noticed
that you first seemed to run counter to the general flow of the
organization, I was of the mind that DPRG would benefit from the kind of
growth that you seemed opposed to.  I did see your doggedness to that
idea as stubborn and rigid. 

In seeing the discussion on it and comparing it to another (rather
large) group of enthusiasts,the SCA http://www.sca.org and the attendant
internal politics of such organizations, I now understand, appreciate
and largely share what I believe to be your point of view on this.

Paragraph two of Section 1.2 of DPRG's bylaws says:

	The Robotics Group is formed to unite into a common organization 
	those individuals who are user/builders of and those who share a 
	common interest in any brand/homebrew robot and associated
	peripherals or software: to provide the membership with a forum 
	for the exchange of information of interest and for the benefit 
	of the membership: to render services designed to meet the needs 
	and interests that will lead to the more efficient utilization of 
	the membership's equipment.

The first two parts of that rather long sentence are, in my opinion, the
core of the DPRG: to unite interested parties and provide a forum for
information exchange.  The third part is where the trouble begins.

The phrase "to render services" implies to me specific services and
specific parties to provide those services. This is the dangerous phrase
that makes it so easy to fall into the non-profit organization trap that
leads to a permanent staff, bureaucracy and "the empire" that almost
_must_ someday fall.

I think that the bylaws are necessary to help keep us just this side of
anarchy, not because anarchy isn't fun :) but because a certain MINIMUM
amount of organization is desirable to help us maintain the focus on why
we are really here, that is, things robotic.

Section 1.3 of the bylaws lists 6 objectives supporting the purpose of
the group. In my opinion, only one of those objectives might require
non-profit status or a bank account.  Objective 4, "Educate the general
public concerning the present and future capabilites of personal
robotics."  Anything that deals with the "general public" can expose the
group to legal action and that legal action should not be directed at an
individual, especially if that individual may not have perpetrated the
attendant action.  As I understand it now, either Jim Brown or Clay
Timmons (or maybe both) _is_ DPRG from a legal point of view, so if my
new Linux 'bot runs through a retaining wall at next year's Pepsi Kid
Around and someone trips over it and is injured, Jim or Clay might be
named in the civil suit to follow.

I don't know the solution to this particular problem and I don't want to
suggest that this weasel of a legal problem should justify the formation
of an empire, but I also know that I don't want Jim to have go to court
because we were trying to share our enthusiasm for robotics with the
general public.

The remaining sections of the bylaws describe the details of the
organization and is such of trivial detail and importance to the purpose
of the group.

I would be remiss to note the problems without forwarding a suggestion. 
Unfortunately, my solution is vaporware, but follows:  A niche industry
that someone of a certain persuasion could establish is management
services specific to non-profit clubs.  This hypothetical service bureau
would collect dues, maintain insurance, non-profit status, the bank
account, inventory and possibly possesion of material assets, etc under
guidelines formulated and voted on by the populous of the club and
financially supported by a percentage of membership dues and any
monetary donations or sale of materials.  Certain members would be given
purchasing power, again along popular guidelines, for the services
rendered to the club, i.e. technical library, distributing tech notices,
printed newsletters, group discount purchases, etc.  With such a company
formed, the membership can stay focused on the purpose of the club,
robotics.

If anyone knows a retired accountant or lawyer who would like to take on
these kinds of duties on a part time basis, this would be the
opportunity...

Robert Singleton

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