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2002 Election for Board of Directors


Jon "maddog" Hall

In 1975 USENIX was formed. Computers cost millions of dollars, and the bulk of the research and development for computer systems was done in research universities or research departments in corporations. Networking was just beginning to get off the ground, and for UNIX systems UUCP was king. Even ten years later you could still describe how to communicate to your system by the number of "hops" away you were from ucbvax, decvax, or some other large UUCP hub. Developments in computers took years to research and even longer to deploy. System administration was a black art, usually done by the same people who built and programmed the computers--the "Gurus."

Today things are different. Computers are in many homes, and the World Wide Web brings new developments every day. People no longer have to travel to conferences to discuss ideas and events. People who before could not afford to participate in the development of computer science now find it within their means. Now system administration has turned into a livelihood, often separate but no less important than the building and programming of the machines.

I mention system administration specifically because of the recent issues around SAGE and the USENIX Board. Various members of the SAGE Board wish to move boldly ahead and offer new programs and benefits, but feel there are constraints placed upon them by the USENIX Board. This has led to a call for separation of the two groups, which is felt by many to be the only way forward.

I do not feel that separation of SAGE from USENIX is necessarily the best way to go, but neither will I vote against separation if it is shown to me to be necessary, fiscally sustainable, and governmentally sound (i.e., a clear charter, vision statement, business plan, etc.).

There are people in USENIX who feel that for the most part the format of USENIX should stay as it always has been, with each conference built around some successful hands-on tutorials, a set of refereed papers developed around a nine-month time frame, a set of invited talks, and a set of BoFs. They feel that it is all right for the USENIX name to be known only to a few academics.

On the other hand, there are people who believe that we should move forward and experiment with distance learning, CD-ROM-based courses, Web-based broadcasts of our conferences, Wiki sites for members' discussions, and other utilizations of the resources that we have to serve as broad an audience as we can. There are people who are concerned that only a small percentage of software engineers in any company know what USENIX is, or for what it stands. I fall into this latter group.

I believe that we should move forward to be more of an educational organization rather than just a showcase for research. We should make many more liaisons with universities, not only as outlets for our own fine tutorials and classes, but as a brokerage house for theirs. We have started to do this, but we need to do more of it.

We have to recognize that there are other groups of people out there doing computer science research that do not necessarily fit into the USENIX style, and even if they did would not want to visit our traditional conferences every year. We need to find ways of making USENIX relevant for them.

We need to have more corporate sponsors, not so much for the money they pay as dues (although money is nice), but to have them be more active with sending their engineers and researchers to our events, both as conference attendees and as presenters.

There are people who are afraid that if we reach out to the less research-oriented people, somehow we will taint the USENIX name and the reputation that goes along with that name. I feel that we can overcome this by the proper use of branding, retaining the brand of "USENIX" for the research-oriented conferences and meetings and applying a different brand to the other events and conferences.

We do have to make sure that we are fiscally sound. The recent downturn in the economy and the (hopefully) temporary fall-off in conference attendance has shown us that fiscal responsibility is necessary. But there is no reason why new events and programs cannot be at least self-sustaining.

My background is not as research-oriented as some other people's. I have been a programmer, systems analyst, system administrator, product manager, technical marketing manager, and educator. Therefore I sometimes take a different stance on an issue than others may. But I do listen, and try to make the best decision I can. In the past I have:

  • Helped organize first "USELinux" conference for USENIX
  • Served as Program Chair of the first FREENIX conference
  • Brought together the Atlanta Linux Showcase and USENIX staff and been active as a liaison, helping to stage several ALS events
  • Served as Invited Talks Chair of ALS 2001
  • Generated a link between SAGE Certification and the Linux Professional Institute which has been useful to both groups
  • Facilitated getting Linux Kernel developers for USENIX-sponsored POSIX revisions
  • Become the first Individual Founding Patron of SAGE Certification

Currently I am chartered with coming up with a strategy for USENIX to address the Linux community.

I believe in diversity and in giving respect to all people who deserve it regardless of race, color, sex, creed, or sexual orientation.

A lot of people know me as "The Linux Guy," but I also believe in diversity of operating systems. As the program chair of the first FREENIX I tried to bring together the BSD and Linux communities. I asked for and received the right to second the proposal that USENIX embrace BSDCon, yielding the floor to Kirk McKusick to make the original motion.

I respect the office staff, with everything they have to do, both as contributing members of an organization and as individual people.

I believe in listening to proposals, giving calm, critical analysis of them, then voting on them the way I feel the people that I represent, the members, would want me to vote.

The next few years will be both the most stressful and the most dynamic of USENIX's history. I wish to help the entire USENIX community, the traditional developer/technical community, the system administration community, and the emerging Open Source development community meet their goals.

Biography: Jon "maddog" Hall is the Executive Director of Linux International. Previous to that position, he worked for sixteen years for Digital Equipment Corporation (now Compaq) in their UNIX operating system division. There he was a serviceability engineer, product manager, and technical marketing manager. It was during this time that he discovered what is now called "Open Source" and became a vocal advocate of its use.

Before that Jon worked as a system administrator for Bell Laboratories, was department head of data processing at Hartford State Technical College, and served as a programmer for Aetna Insurance Company.

maddog (as he likes to be called) has his B.S. in Commerce and Engineering from Drexel University in 1973, and his M.S.C.S. from RPI in 1977.

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Last changed: 20 Feb. 2002 jr