Report of the 2000 Annual General Meeting

Although it is appreciated due to the nature of our group the majority of members do not have the opportunity to attend an AGM, it has been customary to use the annual outing when a number of members are assembled to ratify administrative matters that have already been widely discussed and consensus reached by e mail.

The 2000 Annual General Meeting of the Southern E Group was held at the Swanage Railway on Saturday, 16th September.

Group photo

back row left to right:
Ozz Scott, David Mills, John Russsell, Ian Sheldon, Ian Morgan and Dave Harris
front row left to right:
Chris Gardner, Colin Duff, Graeme Pettit and Luke Morgan.

The topics for this year are obvious -

  • of adverts within e mails.
  • of retention of the group's web domain and whether it should carry advertising.
  • of raising finance for the group for such things as removing adverts from e mails, the web domain, purchasing of the web domain and essential running costs of the group's web site.
  • of whether to continue moderated membership to the list or allow unrestricted subscription access via egroups.
  • of the group not being so reliant on any single individual to perform any function on behalf of the group.

We undertook a poll on the first 4 issues above using the egroups. Different numbers of members voted on each question and throughout the period of the poll the numbers of members varied so it is not possible to give a coherent report of the percentage of members taking part in the votes. Suffice it to report then that between 30 to 45 percent of the membership participated in the poll. Whilst this is disappointing it is pretty average for, say, a British election.

The results of the poll:

  • 66.7 percent said they were not prepared to pay for adverts to be removed from e mails.
  • 68.9 percent said they would be prepared to pay towards maintaining the SEmG domain and keeping it free of advertising.
  • 71 percent said they would be prepared to pay up to USD 5 per annum towards group finances for the above.
  • 57 percent said they would prefer membership of the group to be moderated.

In response to the above our decisions, largely already reached by consensus are:

Adverts in emails -

We do not believe we have a mandate to use any group finance to remove adverts. The adverts will remain.

Maintenance of the SEmG domain and keeping it free from adverts -

We believe we have a mandate to renew the group's domain next year and to keep it free from advertising. Having our own domain has advantages as it allows a simple easy to remember URL and also it keeps the group's URL independent of the ISPs used for the website. The domain will be renewed next year and it will not carry advertising.

Raising finance -

We believe we have a mandate to raise finance however it is clear from our previous discussions that levying a membership subscription is unmanageable due to the difficulties of enforcing its payment, of collecting it when we are a worldwide group (different currencies, etc) and the non cost effectiveness of collecting it (the sum required per head of current membership is very small). A number of members came to the same solution, namely to call periodically for voluntary donations for a "trust fund" to be held by a group Treasurer who should be a different individual to those incurring expenditure on behalf of the group, and full accounts should be kept and published. Additionally it should be made clear to those making voluntary donations that doing so buys no privileges save the fact that the Cardinal may if so disposed look kindly on you.

An invitation to become group Treasurer will be the subject of a separate e-mail to the group within the next week or so.

It may be possible to set up several trust funds (with Treasurers) corresponding to countries outside of the UK where we have an appreciable number of members. These funds can be managed in local currency and each fund can be used towards a nominated part of group expenditure. It may prove necessary to identify members who have bank accounts in more than one currency to allow transfers to take place without incurring bank charges. We already know of one who maintains bank accounts in GBP and USD.

Recognising that the majority of members are UK based members attending the Swanage outing/AGM donated GBP 50 towards the start of a sterling fund. This is currently held by Colin Duff who will hand it over without making any expenditure against it to a UK Treasurer when selected. We are not calling for any other contributions until a UK Treasurer is selected nor do we advise any overseas funds to be set up yet.

To put group finances into perspective it has so far cost the group GBP 32.87 to buy the domain and remove advertising from it, both for two years. This was funded by a previous donation but this is the equivalent of less than GBP 0.17 per head per year. The cost of domains without advertising has since dropped and currently looks like less than GBP 0.13 per head per year, though the actual renewal costs next year are obviously unknown. Colin Duff has also previously raised the issue of the costs of maintaining the group's website (e.g. ISP and telephone costs) but as group Webmaster he does not wish to pursue it at the moment. However it is wise for the group to have the resources to fund such things in the future (unless completely free sources which are reliable can be obtained). For the security of the group this places less reliance on a single individual and their ISP arrangements.

Moderation of group membership -

Although the majority for this vote is smaller than the others we believe we have the mandate to moderate group membership. In fact more accurately this should be to re-impose moderation of membership. Until we recently joined egroups the only way to join was via the group's own website and by application to the List Manager. Since we have joined egroups it has also been possible for existing egroups registrants to find the group via a search on egroups and then to subscribe directly. Current moderators have noticed that those joining via this new route rarely stay as long (like only a few hours in some instances) or play as much active part as those who have found us via our website. It is possible within the egroups mechanisms to both require subscription to the list to be approved by a moderator/list manager and also to make ourselves "invisible" to an egroups search. We are going to take this course of action. We need a new List Manager - John Russell (who already does this for another egroups list based in Vienna) has volunteered to do this though we would also like several more volunteers to be Deputy List Managers to cover for the List Manager when on holiday or when busy - this should allow us to respond to applicants promptly. Again for the security of the group this places less reliance on a single individual.

An invitation to become Deputy List Managers will be the subject of a separate e-mail to the group within the next week. The good news is that thanks to egroups mechanisms the subscription process (other than approval) can be automated.

The group not being so reliant upon any individual -

A final topic not previously discussed within the group and only briefly touched upon at the AGM - again along the lines of insulating the group from reliance upon any individual - is protection of the group's website. Colin Duff wishes to formulate proposals to put to the group at a later date, though pro-tem a number of group members are aware of how to gain access to a back-up copy of the website should Colin suddenly become unavailable for any reason.

17th September 2000

All photographs are copyright.

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