Motion 2019.1 inclusions

Motion 2019.1 refers to a letter from Jonathan Fine and a response by Robin Laakso. They are appended.

From Jonathan Fine:

Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2019 19:50:39 +0100
From: Jonathan Fine
To: members@tug.org
Cc: TUG Board <board@tug.org>
Subject: [members@tug.org] On the usefulness, relevance and future of TUG

Dear fellow TUG member

I joined the TeX Users Group almost thirty years ago. It was then a
thriving organisation, in a world without the web pages, PDF or mobile
phones. TUG now has obvious and serious problems.

Our website displays scant knowledge or love of web typography. There's no
clear and helpful route for new users to follow. The tug.org/help page is
about the visitor helping TUG (and TeX developers). It's not about TUG
helping TeX Users, which surely is TUG's main purpose. The
tug.org/twg/accessibility page is similar.

In 1989 the basic development of TeX was mostly complete, and energy
shifted to acquiring and supporting new users, such as myself. I remember
picking up a PC implementation of TeX, through my university, on a stack of
360Kb floppy discs. However, it seems to me that today TUG is still mostly
focused on TeX development. And offers little to new users, such as PhD
students.

Financially, TUG is also in a mess. The 2017 Accounts show an income of
$93,000 and payroll expenses of $63,000. TUG made a loss that year of
$15,000. The 2018 budget planned a loss of $22,000. The 2019 budget plans a
loss of $15,000. TUG is about five years from exhausting its financial
reserves ($131,500 at the end of 2017).

I've previously served on the TUG Board (2009 to 2013). Being outside the
Board perhaps gives me less power, but is better for me, and gives me more
freedom of action, to serve the TeX community. So, despite the impending
crisis, I've not stood for the Board this year.

If the Board cannot squarely admit the website, financial and other
problems, and does not ask for and obtain help from members and other
friends of TUG to resolve them, then sadly the organisation I proudly
joined so long ago will I fear in a few years be reduced to an empty and
irrelevant shell.

with best wishes

Jonathan

Response from Robin Laakso:

Date: Sat, 6 Apr 2019 14:42:16 -0700
From: TUG office <office@tug.org>
To: Jonathan Fine, members@tug.org
Cc: TUG Board <board@tug.org>
Subject: Re: [members@tug.org] On the usefulness, relevance and future of TUG

Hi Jonathan, TUG members, TUG board,

Let me first say that I am going rogue here. I have not spoken with
anyone about writing to this list. I just wanted to take a minute to
relay some comments.

I first met you, Jonathan, at TUG2000, Oxford. Even though I was brand
new to TUG, and it was my first TUG meeting (and quite well attended,
over 100 participants I think) you stood out, so I remember you very
well. Do you know why I remember you so well? It's because you were the
proverbial squeaky wheel. You picked apart topics, disagreed with
presenters, challenged various during talks, and criticized TUG the
organization. This was the year 2000 mind you, almost 19 years ago,
before high speed cable internet was common, and TUG was quite healthy.
Members looked forward to receiving not only the TeX Live software but
also a frozen image of CTAN, as well as four (!) journals per year. In
spite of all the good news and important developments, in spite of the
amazing conference organizer and resulting stellar conference and
setting, you managed to draw attention to what appeared to me to be
unsupported negatives, and to yourself.

I can't remember the last time I received negative comments about the
TUG website. Members send comments to the office regularly, almost 100%
express thanks and gratitude for the hard work and efforts of the
organization, hardly ever a complaint, certainly nothing
about the website. I used to refer people to the "getting started"
page quite often (http://tug.org/begin.html) for exactly the help that
Jonathan claims is unavailable. Those inquiries have tapered off,
presumably because savvy new users find the page on their own nowadays.

This board, as well as past board members, work very hard in-between
their daily responsibilities to further the mission and efforts of this
beautiful organization. Indeed the TUG board of directors has had an
ongoing discussion to foster the health and well being of TeX and TUG,
on more than one mailing list, for many years! TUG would not be as vital
or relevant or as highly regarded were it not for the enormous efforts
of the TUG board of directors, past and present.

The actual 2017 loss Jonathan refers to is correct but without
explanation. That's probably because he ignored the reasons or doesn't
know them. In 2017, in an effort to spur new/renewing membership, the
electronic-only option was doubled from -20 to -40. TUG annual dues
dropped about $300 from 2016 to 2017, however the electronic-only
deduction nearly tripled from -$5085 to -$13,580, which accounted for
most of the loss in 2017. In 2018 the electronic-only option was changed
again from -40 to -35, which equaled -$10,820 last year. While budgets
typically forecast a conservative outlook (-$22K for 2018 as Jonathan
mentions below) the actual loss was around -$10,500 last year.

Last year TUG members increased by 36, compared to 2017, probably mostly
due to another new board-generated idea: trial memberships. The TUG
board has been analyzing costs/benefits of that new category of
membership, and is speculating about fine-tuning it in 2020.

Contrary to the dismal outlook Jonathan describes, there are many
happenings and initiatives on the horizon, which obviously TUG
president, Boris Veytsman, writes about in his newsletters regularly.

Finally, I am a real person and not a payroll expense, so I think it
would be helpful to know the details behind the payroll number cited.

I am the only paid TUG employee. For context, my monthly wages per year:

1999: hourly
2000: $2666 then $3500/mo
2001: $3500/mo
2002-2005: $4000/mo
2006: $4080/mo
2007: $4180/mo
2008: $4285/mo
2009-present: $4371/mo

I take home a bit shy of $3000/mo after taxes and an IRA deduction. In
addition to my wages, TUG contributes $220/month to my IRA and pays
$300/month towards my health insurance. So if you add the
4371+220+300/month x 12 plus another $4500/year or so for employer
taxes, the total is around $63K.

I am infinitely aware that I am a financial burden on this organization.
There is no-one that understands that better than me. But your constant
need to criticize, to tarnish and devalue TUG, the board, and me,
Jonathan, isn't helping matters. It's just more of the same from you for
a very long time now, and anyone reading your passive-aggressive
diatribe needs to know that.

Robin
TUG office

$Date: 2019/07/08 17:53:10 $;
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