1. 2020 Board Statement
2020, already? Looking back at my statement from 2018 I think we accomplished a lot: my primary goal was to switch to less expensive (and more powerful!) hosting, which was accomplished and has put the coop on solid financial footing for the first time in quite a long time. I've also managed to achieve much of my secondary goal of making myself obsolete on the board.
We still have the issue of me being the sole person with bank account access, and the reconciling of our accounts that has been put off for too long left to tackle. As such, I'm running for board again with the intent to continue as the treasurer and get those dealt with this year. First, by finally entering old expenses that weren't input to the register and reconciling the account, and second by starting a discussion on locating a bank or credit union more suited to our nature as a geographically dispersed organization (also, Wells Fargo is pretty evil so ditching them would be nice in general). Switching banks to one that doesn't require getting two people to the same bank branch to add or remove authorized signers should make transitioning between treasurers much simpler.
I'm also not nearly as burned out as I was in 2018, and will continue improving the coop's technical infrastructure and hope to start making changes to help make us more relevant again going forward. We're already close to being able to start upgrading servers to Debian Buster thanks to investing time in re-implementing our entire setup with Puppet during the migration from physical hardware to virtual servers. Once this is done I'll be free to finally start tackling the wishlist items we really should have added years ago (proper letsencrypt integration, a more modern ejabberd setup, saner email defaults like making spam filtering opt-out instead of opt-in, better vmail and virtual xmpp accounts, etc.). Using Puppet has also made it easier for the other admins to contribute changes without any assistance from me, since our entire setup is now strictly managed by Puppet and domtool, so it's much clearer how to make changes.
For this board term, my plan is to continue working toward making myself obsolete as a board member: delegating everything I can (except for treasurer tasks), documenting anything else that hasn't already been added to the wiki, and ensuring the credentials for things like our registered agent / dns registrar / hosting provider are accessible to others on the board.
2. 2018 Board Statement
Well, it's 2018 already... for this term, if elected, I have a few straightforward goals, mostly carried over from 2016:
- Transition to lower cost hosting in order to financially stabilize the coop, and give us more flexibility in the future
- Remove myself as a failure point for the coop
- Create formal procedures for granting access to essential resources after each election (bank, registered agent, dns registrar, etc.)
- Get a new treasurer up to speed, and make their duties easier to perform consistently, mainly:
- Implement a command line tool to import bills, allow recurring stable bills to be done automatically
- Finish automating payments from all providers (Paypal is still completely manual, Stripe is automated except for clicking a button)
I was not as productive as I ought to have been for the last couple of years, which (along with I think times changing, with vps hosting even cheaper than the coop and giving you more resources) has led to us not doing too well. At our current membership levels, we are unable to afford our current hosting arrangements...
As a result, my primary focus will be on ditching our failing hardware setup and expensive, underutilized colo setup onto virtualized hardware. This does not close us off from returning to physical hardware in the future if we regrew to membership levels where we can truly afford it -- we really haven't been able to for years, having no budget for replacement hardware.
After that is accomplished (ideally within 60 days of the election), my intent would be to focus on transitioning away from board responsibilities. The last few years have been quite busy, and I've flirted with burnout, leaving the structure of the coop neglected. We've gotten off to a slow start, but I think the goal of making me redundant within a year, and able to leave the board entirely to others in two, is finally achievable.
Aside from that, I want to focus on non-board duties. We sorely need to make our infrastructure more accessible to new users and new admins. The migration to libvirt on fritz a few years ago got us half way there for admins, and this migration should allow us to get pretty close to all the way (e.g. ditching uncommon solutions like ConfigPackages for more commonly known ones like Puppet). There has already been some success in the last year with transitioning daily sysadmin duties away from me.
For new members, there are a ton of small polish projects I'd love to focus on, e.g. letsencrypt support, better default mail filtering (everyone gets a spam folder that empties itself by default), improved vmail support, new semi-managed services for less technical users (nextcloud, automated wordpress management, ...). Being able to offer more storage and having more available bandwidth, along with the ability to expand server resources on the fly thanks to virtual hosting, will I hope position us better to offer services that liberate people from proprietary cloud services.
3. 2016 Board Statement
If elected, my primary goals for this board term are to finish automating away treasurer duties, finally import the missing expenses from the bank into the portal (we still have records, but in csv), acquire new hardware and clean the server rack up, and begin work on shifting more responsibilities to others. I would like this to be my last term as an officer, and (if elected another time) sit on the board simply as a regular member for one more term before "retiring" from the board. It seems after all these years my life is finally busy enough that I can no longer give the coop the attention it needs and really need to focus on getting others involved and up to speed more than anything else so that it can thrive without me.
4. 2014 Board Statement
4.1. 2012/2013 Successes
2012 was a pretty quiet year for the coop: services were reasonably stable (if out-of-date), we successfully transitioned to a new treasurer, and stability seemed restored. We even survived AdamChlipala departing from the board. Member attrition unfortunately continued, but behind the scenes much effort was put into making our infrastructure maintainable again.
During 2013, the previous year of work was realized and our infrastructure was finally modernized. We are down to only one obsolete machine (deleuze), and all member facing services are running on reasonably modern Debian. Our AutomatedSystemInstall and our custom software are ready for an upgrade to Debian Wheezy already. With a RAM upgrade for fritz, the member shell/daemon VM and web serving VM are operating comfortably. The shared services offered by the coop (especially MoinMoin!) are finally managed in an easy to update manner, and we've actually been keeping them up to date!
The new website design from LaurenMcNees seems to have succeeded in making us look less dead to outsiders, and we've been slowly increasing membership (about one member every month, after accounting for members departing... even with the treasurer going AWOL again and losing several potential members during the fall).
A few members are also becoming pretty active, with an HcoopVolunteerDay recently starting. We've got two folks instead of zero with access to the data center, and it looks like we've got at least one other system administrator.
4.2. 2013 failures
The treasury has fallen into disrepair: our treasurer suffered some life events that led to us effectively operating without one a treasurer for several months. It took me far too long to admit that someone else needed to take over, and as a result we lost several potential new members and still have residual problems (bills have not been entered since last August).
This did not help with achieving the goal of 150-200 members; instead we have only modestly increased membership over the past year, and a slight decline over two years ago (however, much of that decline occurred in 2012 and was reversed in 2013).
4.3. Platform for 2014
I don't mind being President, but I think someone else could be more effective in that role. The duties of the treasurer this year will be complicated by needing to enter previous bills, perform the first audit in far too long, and attempt to raise funds for new hardware. As such, I think the burden should fall upon me. Already being forced to perform treasurer duties has resulted in improvements to the portal.
My goals for this term:
- Organize raising funds for new hardware so that we can fully realize the benefit of the last two years of sysadmin work
Finally acquire SSL certificates signed by a trusted third party (StartSSL looks like an affordable option)
- Fix our books by entering expenses back to August 2013
- Make the audit interface usable, and work with the secretary to actually perform an audit
- Improve the financial interface in the portal to make the task of future treasurers easier
- Publish a budget and ensure that our public information on recurring expenses is accurate
- Improve the sign up process
- One improvement is ready to go live: we have the ability now to allow a potential member to pre-authorize a Paypal payment, and could support pre-authorized Stripe payments as well (but don't yet, until we work out the identity verification implications).
- Trusted SSL certs should also help
- Allocate more time to documenting and automating myself out of being a single point of failure for the coop
5. 2012 Board Statement
This last year HCoop has been pretty inactive. We're really doing worse than we could; I'm effectively the primary sysadmin (and I suck at it!) and cat herder (I suck at that too). It appears that AdamChlipala is leaving the board so we're at a crossroads -- we've made it about a decade in one form or another; can we keep going?
This year, hopefully with fresh board members, we can actually accomplish some of the goals I've mused about over the last three years. The first step will be to get a new members server on atop fritz (modern Debian!) and get LaurenMcNees's excellent redesign of hcoop.net online. From there our first priority has to be attracting more members in the hopes that we find a few more self-starting volunteers to enhance our infrastructure.
6. 2010 Board Statement
We have procured a new machine and, after some delays, are near to having it online as our primary file and database server. This will allow us to handle our (finally) growing membership gracefully.
My primary hardware goal for 2010 is to make our central services redundant. At the very least allowing mail delivery, databases, and read-only AFS volumes for all users to continue functioning in case of the failure of one machine.
6.2. System Administration
A year ago DavorOcelic was more or less our only admin, and I knew next to nothing about our setup and could perform only menial tasks under his supervision.
After a year I have become competent enough with the software HCoop uses to provide actual assistance to Davor, thus giving us two primary admins. RichardDarst has also joined the admin team and has been quite helpful with physical hardware visits and is now in our sysadmin group.
This puts us in a tolerable situation, but this is still less than ideal. Currently we are without a maintainer for DomTool or the portal as AdamChlipala (after many years of volunteering) has decided to step down from software maintenance.
Over the next year we will need to bring at least one more person onto the admin team and find a new maintainer for our custom software.
This year I was able to convince the board that $7/month dues were reasonable, and we've managed to bring HCoop to a reasonably stable financial position. We are within 20 members of being able to phase out of the dues system (intended as a temporary measure, but relied upon for far too long to keep us afloat).
My goal of expanding membership to ~300 was unrealistic last year, but now that services have stabilized and our sysadmin situation is better we have been slowly increasing membership month to month. Expanding to 200 members in 2010 would be reasonable without much effort; if we attempted to attract new members we might well hit 300 (and we have the infrastructure in place now to handle this many).
With even 200 members we will be in a position to replace our aging hardware and thus expand the available services to all members.
7. 2009 Board Election
We should take stock of our current hardware, get hopper online soon, and see if it is worthwhile getting xanadu online for shell access.
Right now our financial situation is untenable; we have 134 members with base expenses of over $750 per month and are only able to operate because of members with multiple pledges. The active members of the coop should attempt to get a friend or two to join, and we should address any issues that would prevent someone familiar with UNIX from joining.
A goal of expanding membership to around 300 by next year seems reasonable given the hardware we own, and would put us in a position to explore things like having a part-time paid sysadmin and expanding a bit more aggressively six months to a year from now.
7.3. System Administration
The main volunteer system administrator pool should be expanded from three to four in order to replace mwolson and remove some task burden from docelic. If no one else wishes to volunteer, I should be able to assist, but it has been quite a while since I've done any system adminstration for anything other than my personal machine.
Setting up a firewall and user limits similar to what we used on fyodor is essential to expanding beyond our current membership; right now we have resources to spare and ports a plenty, but I suspect that with 300 or so members we'll be close enough to our hardware limits on at least mire that we'll need to prevent the occasional runaway process from interrupting service for other users.