[wplug-plan] Well wishes and found memories of WPLUG

Beth Lynn Eicher bethlynn at wplug.org
Thu Jul 28 18:36:05 EDT 2011

Dear WPLUG folks,

It has been an excellent pleasure serving the Western Pennsylvania
Linux User Group and the extended Free Software community here in
Pittsburgh since 1999. I hereby announce as I had at the General
Users' Meeting on July 9th that I will not seek re-election for board
service for the nominations season this Fall. I encourage all
interested parties in board service to secure membership in good
standing to participate in the election process.

As some of you know, I am moving to Chicago this Fall as my employment
with Wellspring Worldwide has me going that direction. With this new
opportunity, I am the Information Technology Director. I started work
with them via the Pittsburgh office in June and I am excited to be
working with an innovative company. And, for what it is worth, bug one
is resolved here.

Leaving Pittsburgh was not an easy one to make as it was here that I
grew up, went to the University of Pittsbugh, made a home with my
husband William, and started an awesome Free Software career. Much of
my personal and professional success would not be possible if it were
not for the love and support of my friends here at WPLUG.

It was during my internship at Pittsburgh Supercomputing in 1999 that
I first encountered WPLUG. I needed assistance installing a browser on
my Red Hat Linux desktop on the ALPHA processor. The Mozilla source
was just released and I tried, unsuccessfully, to build it for the
ALPHA. I asked for help on the then named "Open Projects IRC Network"
#wplug channel for help. It was there I met James O'Kane who had
dreams of building a zero-cost Linux Beowulf. I agreed to help.

James and I never did finish the beowulf cluster. In reflection, I am
not sure what the problem was. Did we setup the job scheduler
incorrectly? Maybe we had the wrong version of MPI installed? Could it
have been hardware failure of the 386/486-class systems in James'
non-air-conditioned apartment? In the end, I learned a lot and felt
welcomed by the WPLUG community.

Also, at the time of my WPLUG arrival in 1999, the founding members of
WPLUG were Jeremy Dinsel, Jennifer Landefeld, and Alex Landefeld were
leaving Pittsburgh. Jeremy had moved to Seattle and the Landefelds had
moved to the California bay area. There was a moment of uncertainty,
not only for the leadership of the organization, but the meeting place
of WPLUG was in question. Jennifer, being a departing Carnegie Mellon
employee in 1999 was reserving the room on campus for us. It was then
that Jonathan Billings stepped in by reserving the room and being an
organizational leader.

Others had stepped forward to help Jonathan lead WPLUG minus the
founders: Rob Dale, Zach Paine, Evan DiBiase, and James O'Kane. Rob
and James made sure that there was a talk for each meeting, even if
they had to give it themselves. Zach made sure the meetings were
announced and took the lead on many PR initiatives. Evan put countless
hours into the website. Jonathan made sure that people felt welcome at
the meetings. This collective had continued the WPLUG tradition
without any formal written bylaws for about a year.

It was my controversial opinion at the time that WPLUG needed to have
bylaws. Even though I liked and respected all of the leadership, I was
concerned for the succession planning and overall survivability of an
organization without basic structure. I kicked up a fuss and David
Tessitor, a Pittsburgh independent political and non-profit
consultant, stepped in. David wrote and proposed a document which
represents the characteristics of the organization as it was. This
document was adopted and became the first bylaws of WPLUG. These words
are readable today at http://www.wplug.org/wiki/OldBylaws

I was grateful that WPLUG had a set of bylaws and I continue to hold
everyone I have mentioned so far in the highest regards. There were
some unfortunate characteristics of this document that I would not
wish of any Free Software community:
1. Any board member could veto any initiative. Abstention caused an
initiative to die. Only unanimous affirmation would do.
2. The membership of the organization was limited to the board.
3. Board term was perpetual until the person quit.
4. Due to 1, 2, and 3, changes to WPLUG's board was only by unanimous approval.
5. There was no facility for handling member conflict.

It was some time around 2001, I was taking a more active role in the
organization. At the time, I too was working with Jonathan at Carnegie
Mellon along with another individual named Brian Sammon. Jonathan,
Brian, and I took turns making sure the rooms were reserved for WPLUG.
After a few times serving as room host, I asked the board to vote me
on and they did. I would setup the room with coffee and snacks and
introduce the guest speaker. Brian would help new users get started at
installfests. James and Jonathan would make sure we had good talks
pre-arranged. Zack and Evan would still show up and record themselves
talking about Free Software in a pre-podcast-era stream called
"wplug-radio." Rob would show up at meetings sporadically due to his
job but he did an excellent at maintaining the web server at site.
Somewhere along the line, the board added Mark Dalrymple, an OpenACS
web guru, who also ran the website.

While on the board, I witnessed folks go as their personal lives
changed. Rob joined the Army. Zack and Evan became college students
and found other interests. James moved to California to go work for
Google. Jonathan followed his heart and left the state. I looked up
and we were a board of two: Mark and me.

Mark and I knew that the comings and goings of the regular attenders
and WPLUG board demanded new bylaws to insure for a survivable
organization. WPLUG needed to be a member-own, member-run community.
Vance Kochenderfer agreed to chair a committee who wrote the current
bylaws. These were adopted by the board, Mark and me, on in September
2005. These are the bylaws that govern this organization today:

I have served on most boards of WPLUG since 2005 and had the pleasure
to serve with many outstanding people. It is due to their outstanding
dedication to community, and not due to any technical knowledge, has
kept WPLUG operational, relevant, and thriving in a post-desktop era.
It is up to you, the local Free Software community, to continue this
legacy. If ever in doubt, look to the organizational purpose:

The purpose of WPLUG is to provide:

*    a forum for the discussion and exploration of Linux-related issues;
*    technical assistance to participants by participants;
*    education about, advocacy for, and development of open source
software, standards, and protocols; and
*    opportunities for socializing among WPLUG participants and/or
other Linux/open source users or advocates.

My advice based on WPLUG's purpose is:

Do what advances Free Software. Don't do things that distract from that.

I will be forever grateful that this community has made me the leader
that I am today.  If it were not for this organization, I would not
have the background to be involved in the Ohio LinuxFest. It is my
hope that WPLUG will continue to have a strong presence there and that
we will continue to see each other annually then.

It is my turn to leave this organization as others had, with much love
and respect for it, for my own personal live-changing reasons. Long
live WPLUG!

And now, without further a-do, some Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What will happen to WPLUG?

WPLUG is a member-run organization. A new board will be elected in the
Fall. They will have many assets of the organization such as a
projector,  a great working relationship with the frequent venue, the
Wilkins School Community Center, and a modest yet sufficient treasury
to sustain the internet presence. I will be available online or by
phone to provide any tacit knowledge or wisdom I hold. While my advice
is complimentary, it will not be in an official capacity. WPLUG, it is
your time to soar.

I have faith in you.

2. What are you going to do about the Ohio LinuxFest?

I will continue to serve the Ohio LinuxFest as my work has always been remote.

3. What happened to your blog/prediction at whatwillweuse.com ?

I will be tabulating the results of Microsoft's market share as of
June 30, 2011 as-per MSFT FY2011 financial reports. The results will
be delivered at a party this Fall at a yet to be determined Pittsburgh
venue, date, and time. Nick will be present to certify said report.
WPLUG will be welcome spectators. Please stay tuned for further

4. What is your moving schedule in relationship to WPLUG?

I am having a yard sale this Saturday July 30, 2011 from 8 A.M. to 2
P.M. at 4841 Flamingo Drive 15236. All are welcome to stop by, pick up
*FREE* old computer stuff, and hang out. I am selling as much of my
stuff as possible including my home and car. Those that stay after 2
P.M. may make ridiculously offers. In return, I would like help
donating the rest to charities that I specify and hauling stuff to the

On August 21, we will have our annual picnic. I will be there but I
will be transferring many WPLUG assets such as the grill and the
official WPLUG Tux to those who the board deems responsible for
storage duties. This may be the last time we are holding is at Snyder
Park unless another responsible Whitehall Boro resident steps forward.
Please sign up on the wiki:

On August 31 there will be an evening special event. Details are in
the works. I will be present.

The weekend of September 9-11 I will attend the Ohio LinuxFest as usual.

October 8 and November 12 will be the WPLUG nominations and elections
meetings respectfully. Due to my upcoming move, I can not guarantee my
physical presence.

All of the Best,

Beth Lynn Eicher

Western PA Linux User Group Chair

Phone: 412 512 5761
Chat: bethlynn on freenode

More information about the wplug-plan mailing list