September 19, 2008

Linux Foundation opening doors to individual participation

Author: Nathan Willis

The nonprofit Linux Foundation (LF), which coordinates an assortment of Linux-oriented standardization efforts and employs key developers such as Linux creator Linus Torvalds, has added to its Web site a gateway toward individual -- as opposed to corporate -- membership. Individuals can join through the site by paying yearly dues, and will get a small voice in Foundation matters in exchange -- plus their choice of T-shirts.

Amanda McPherson, LF's vice president of marketing and developer programs, says that although the Web sign-up mechanism is new, individual "affiliate" membership has been in the bylaws since the beginning. "Our individual members are very important to us. The Linux community has grown to encompass individual advocates, companies, end users, and community developers. We're working to accelerate collaboration between all of these groups, and our individual membership class is an important part of that."

The LF was formed in 2007 when the Free Standards Group merged with Open Source Development Labs. LF's stated goal is "fostering the growth of Linux," which is does through standardization efforts, workgroups, and periodic developer summits.

More direct participation in LF has always been available to corporate members, who pay fees ranging from $5,000 to $500,000. In addition to participating the LF's events and workgroups, corporate members also vote on the board of directors. Platinum-level members receive a seat on the LF board outright, while gold-level members vote on an additional three seats, and silver-level members vote on one seat.

An individual affiliate membership costs $49 annually. The details are spelled out in the Individual Membership Agreement. The agreement starts by explaining that individual participation is affiliate membership, not full membership. Affiliates do not gain all of the rights of full membership provided in the LF bylaws, such as the ability to start a workgroup or ammend the bylaws.

Affiliates do have the right to vote as a class for "at-large directors," and to run for at-large seats themselves. The bylaws say that the affiliates may select two such at-large directors, with another chosen by the LF Technical Advisory Board, and up to two more appointed by the board itself.

And, as if that wasn't enough, affiliate members also get access to a quarterly newsletter, and their choice of three different T-shirts.

The foundation currently has eight platinum member, seven gold members, and 29 silver members. Collectively, individual affiliate members may only have a small voice in steering the direction of the LF, but for an organization that heralds the openness of Linux as its strength, it is nice to see it make participation by the community more, well, open.

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