Ubuntu Toronto Meeting Processes

C. Martens c.martens at rogers.com
Mon Jan 15 05:31:37 UTC 2007

                I agree with Frank, Evan, and the seeming consensus that only 2-3 open laptops should be allowed during the group meeting, and it definitely is as rude to the person speaking as a cellphone, unwelcoming to new people, etc. This is supposed to be a meeting of a group of people, so the emphasis should be on each other and the common ground: what we're doing as a group to further the spread of ubuntu, linux, and FOSS, in that order. Open laptops are great for a lecture hall, not a round table, and most meetings of people for any purpose have introductions, accepting the agenda (if people want things added they can always look it up beforehand and email Dave, or there's the New Business option at the end), presentations if someone's done a fair amount of work and is reporting on a project, or proposing a project, etc. We want the volunteers' work valued with our mutual time and respect, or we won't get volunteers, and I was very glad to feel that I had
 everyone's attention when we were discussing my web page content.  
  Now having said that, the laptops were open during that web page content meeting, but we were a smaller group, and people needed to see the text to be able to provide feedback. We also had a limited number of paper copies, too, and that's killing trees. It would have been better if we had the screen up as an audio-visual aid (that can focus people's attention in a group fashion, instead of being distracting as when people are all peering down and we don't know if they're surfing or reading private email). Nor should the screen be up constantly, as verbal-only presentations like introductions and brief updates allow eye contact, expressions, memory of the people as people...
  We are a growing group, so I really appreciate  DJP's offer of moving the tables a bit. Perhaps a double row of tables (not a square or u-shape)? Perhaps the presenter of an agenda topic, should stand to gather group attention if it's wandering, and sit down for question period after they are finished to encourage that feedback. There are, after all, these conventions for meetings that didn't arise out of a vacuum, but evolved for valuable reasons.
  Perhaps the social should be at 6:30, the actual agenda part of the meeting should start from 7-8:30 or so, and after 8:30 there could be more social and/or individual support. If they don't want to listen or participate in the agenda, or they want to continue working with the laptops, they can move to the front of the room or off to the side. Again, there are reasons why many movies and other events usually start at 7. Once I move in 2-3 weeks I'll be a 15-minute walk away from the cafe, so 6:30 would be easier for me and I wouldn't mind that social warm-up.  
  Finally, perhaps my main contribution to this thread is to draw people's attention back to our new welcome page: where we put the human interest at the top, and purposely deprecated the tech because we didn't want to continue preaching to the choir of ubuntu/linux techies. We want the people who do use pc's as glorified typewriters, too, and the typical office/winblows worker, and the artsies, and the...and we want them to feel reassured that there is support for them in the community of people. We also want to learn how to better communicate with them, instead of getting lost in the details (yes, I do it too), and making them worry that they're jumping off a cliff into something they don't have a hope in hell of understanding if they try Ubuntu, too. I don't see how we can accomplish those goals if we're not a bit more like any other meeting they're used to going to; Vision, Values, and Mission should be our guide to everything we do, including our meeting processes, and
 when in doubt, refer to the VVM. A maximum of 3-4 tech tools (4 if there's a screen) to support the rest of the human endeavour

  Conventions aren't necessarily hard and fast rules; they are there in almost everything we do as *guides*. If there is more friction at meetings we can always consider codes of conduct/rules of order, etc., but I'd rather not go that formal. Simply modeling good use of conventions that most people know already can go a long way toward  preventing the need for more formality.

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