TUG and You --Together We Can Do It

Michel Goossens, TUG President

15 August 1995

On Sunday July 23rd the new TUG Board (after the spring elections) convened formally for the first time in Saint Petersburg Beach, Florida.

As incoming President I therefore have the pleasure of thanking outgoing President Christina Thiele for her continued dedication and efforts with which, during the last two and a half years, she ran the TEX Users Group. They have not been easy years and several difficult problems had to be faced and resolved. Christina, with the help of members of the outgoing Board, laid the basis for deciding where improvements can be made. I consider it the main task of the new Board for the coming year(s) to build upon the experience and efforts of the past to find better and more efficient ways to serve the TEX user community in general and the TUG membership in particular.

I wish to congratulate Karl Berry, Judy Johnson, and Jiri Zlatuska (new members) and Barbara Beeton (who has been a Board member for many years) for their election by acclamation last spring. To fill vacancies due to resignations and shortfalls of candidates in the elections, I nominated Mimi Jett, Tom Rokicki and Norman Walsh. I welcome all of them to the Board and hope that, together with the remaining members Mimi Burbank, Michael Ferguson, Peter Flynn, George Greenwade, Yannis Haralambous, Jon Radel, and Sebastian Rahtz, we can, by our enthusiasm, dedication, and team-work, make TUG strong and healthy again.

I also want to express thanks to the outgoing Board members Jackie Damrau, Luzia Dietsche, and Nico Poppelier, who all three had to resign for professional reasons, and Michael Doob, whose term came to an end, for all the time they have dedicated to their work relating to TUG.

Next a word about the Special Directors, who joined the TUG Board as representatives of the local TEX User groups in 1989 to increase the awareness of problems non-North American users face when using TEX. Having only five "international" representatives, although historically correct in 1989, no longer reflects the real situation, and in order to allow TUG to find ways of proposing a better representation for all TEX User Groups worldwide, the representatives of DANTE, GUTenberg, NTG, Nordic TUG, and UKTUG resigned so that the title of Special Director could be abolished. I want to thank Joachim Lammarsch, Bernard Gaulle, Johannes Braams, Dag Langmyhr, and Chris Rowley (and their predecessors) for their many valuable contributions, and I sincerely hope that we shall be able to count on the continued support of all these and the other user groups in the future.

At this year's Board meeting, a new Executive Committee was elected: Judy Johnson was elected as Vice-President, Sebastian Rahtz as Secretary and Mimi Jett as Treasurer. I look forward to working with this new team and the Executive Director Patricia Monohon, and hope that the fact that both Judy and Mimi are located on the West Coast will prove a great plus for the Office, which has had to work somewhat in isolation the last year or two since all officers were somewhat remote. At this point it is a pleasure to say thank you to the outgoing Secretary Peter Flynn, who acted as the "TUG scribe" for all these years, and to George Greenwade, as outgoing Treasurer, who gave some extremely valuable input but has been practically unavailable for many months due to an extremely busy professional schedule.

Change in continuity is to be the theme of this new Board. We must find ways to take advantage of new technologies to provide tools that our present-day working environments need. We no longer are using the large and costly mainframes or limited PC's of ten years ago, but many of us now have powerful personal computers with large disks and a CD-ROM reader on our desks at home or at work. We should take this into account, together with the fact that TEX is a "tool" for most people, not an end in itself. Physicists, mathematicians, scientists in all fields, writers of all kind_even I, for my personal letters_want to have the most appropriate and user-friendly tool that gets the job done. Therefore we should look around and live in symbiosis with progress in other text-processing areas that are evolving every day. HTML/SGML, hypertext, Acrobat, multi-media, colour, multilingualism, multi-byte encodings are only a few of the items on the shopping list of every "writer" in a modern environment, and we should be ready to face these issues and come with working extensions that address these questions.

Above I mentioned the issue of a better representation of the various user groups in the workings of TUG. During TUG95 we discussed various scenarios to build an equitable structure giving each User Group that wants to join forces the chance to influence decisions related to TEX. Such a structure should be based on mutual trust and sharing of responsibilities, work and support. TUG should act as catalyst for ideas and should provide a framework to coordinate global developments, to eliminate wasteful duplication of efforts and to concentrate on agreed points of action. But we should be careful not to fall victim to committee-itis. Small technical working groups with complete autonomy and led by one or two dedicated individuals should provide the main thrust of our efforts. TUG's r^ole should be concentrated on coordinating funding and assigning of priorities.

But this is all music for the (near) future. Today we are facing a falling membership (2400 TUG members in 1994, about 1750 so far in 1995) and one of the main problems is the non-appearance of our flagship publication TUGboat, which is now three issues behind schedule. I made it my first task as new President to get TUGboat back onto schedule by the end of this year, promising four issues before Christmas 1995. Since April of this year the TUG Publications Committee has discussed the best way to remedy this situation and have come up with the following detailed plan.

We have set up a core team, and a production environment at SCRI (the Supercomputer Computations Research Institute at Florida State University) is now in place allowing this team to work on the various articles in a coherent and coordinated way. Barbara Beeton remains in charge of the overall process, but with the more practical production tasks she will be assisted by Mimi Burbank, Robin Fairbairs, Sebastian Rahtz, Christina Thiele and myself. All these people are confident that they have free time available during the next year or so and they have shown in the past that they can produce high-quality output in a timely way as proceedings editors or editors of other TEX magazines. At the Business meeting I clearly stated that I take it upon myself to do everything possible, together with this core team, to get four TUGboat's on our member's desks before Chrismas 1995, i.e., these four issues of TUGboat have to go to the printers before the end of each month between August and November. TUGboat#15(4) and TUGboat#16(1), each of about 100 pages, will be regular issues containing articles submitted since mid-1994, TUGboat#16(2), with Malcolm Clark as editor, will be a theme-issue, contain articles related to electronic documents, in particular SGML, HTML, hypertext, and Acrobat, while TUGboat#16(3), the proceedings issue, edited by Robin Fairbairns, will contain not yet published papers presented at the conference, including all prize-winning articles mentioned in my report on the TUG95 Conference. Because of these tight deadlines, it is practically impossible to include additional volunteers at this moment into the core team.

However, on a longer time scale, we will have to break the various tasks down into smaller assignments, with very detailed and clear instructions. This will take some time and coordination, and Barbara Beeton has already circulated to those who stepped forward at St. Petersburg an outline of TUGboat production procedures. At the same time, I would like to repeat what Barbara already said, namely, that there are other important tasks that have little to do with editing, correcting or running articles through TEX. We need authors of good specialist, introductory, and tutorial-level articles. So everybody can help us find amongst their colleagues or friends potential writers who can provide material for publishing in TUGboat. I am confident that a lot of developments and experience are still hidden in the grey matter of potential contributors. With a little prompting it can be made to see the daylight, materialize into sentences and drawings, and thus be shared in all its splendour with all TEX users of the world.

Let me now give an overview of some of the major developments of the recent past. As many of you will already know, the TUG Office has moved to San Francisco (the new address is: TeX Users Group, 1850 Union Street, Suite 1637, San Francisco CA 94123, USA. Phone: [+1] 415 982 8449, fax: [+1] 415 982 8559. The email address remains unchanged as tug@tug.org). There were many reasons for this move, the main ones being that our lease was coming to an end in December 1995 and the owners offered to pay the complete moving expenses if we moved before the end of June. So we gracefully took on the offer (knowing that in any case the lease would not be renewed after 1995). Moreover, San Francisco, being a much larger town than Santa Barbara, offers vastly improved connectivity to the Internet, has cheaper rates for telephone, rent, personnel charges, and, with all the universities in the vicinity, it will be much easier to find teachers and rooms for organizing courses or volunteer effort for other TUG activities. Let me take this occasion to congratulate the Office staff for the perfect planning and efficiency with which they have handled this major enterprise.

To make the Office more visible to the outside world and hence to promote TEX, and to provide better service to TUG members, I have asked our Executive Director to take the necessary steps to work closely together with the PR-Committee consisting of Jon Radel, Tom Rokicki and others, to define actions (via the Internet, direct mailing, publishing in magazines, targeting specific groups, like math teachers, etc.) to increase the awareness of TEX among the public. The Office will also be responsible for running courses, selling TEX related material (like books, diskettes, CD-ROMs), provide infrastructure, act as liaison and otherwise support in any possible way the organizers of the yearly TUG Conference, plus other topical ones, if a need is felt. With the active participation of Board members, in particular Norman Walsh, Jon Radel, the Secretary and myself, the Office should take part in running mail servers for various TUG-related discussion lists and updating and maintaining the TUG WWW pages on the Web. All in all the operations in the Office will be streamlined so that it can respond better to the needs of TEX users of the middle nineties.

A joint membership arrangement with the Dutch (NTG) and British (UKTUG) TEX user groups allows their members to also become TUG members with a discount of 10%_and the reverse is also true. This possibility is greatly appreciated, since bank transfers between Europe and the States are not always efficient and can, moreover, be quite expensive. We hope to continue this arrangement and extend it to other user groups if there is interest.

It has been decided that the publications of most user groups will be published on CD-ROM in the near future. NTG volunteered to coordinate this effort.

As further evidence that TUG takes its international role seriously it was decided to hold the TUG 1996 annual meeting in Dubna, Russia, where we shall be the guests of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, an international Laboratory where scientists of many countries have been doing basic research for many decades. Dubna is a small town on the Volga river some 100 miles north of Moscow. The proposed dates are July 28th to August 1st. This will be a unique opportunity not only to meet TEX users from several less-well known countries, to exchange ideas and discuss local developments, but also to visit a few of the treasures of Russian art and civilization, and to get to know the famous Russian hospitality. More details will be available in the Autumn.

Since the beginning of the year our magazine TEX and TUG News (TTN for the initiated) has a new editor: Peter Flynn succeeds Christina Thiele. Since June 1991, when TTN number 0 came out, Christina has made sure that all TUG members could read at regular three-month intervals news, short non-technical articles, announcements, book reviews, all nicely complementary to TUGboat's more academic style. Many thanks Christina, for the hard work. I am confident that Peter will do his best to make TTN as interesting and fun to read as before, at the same time adding his own typographic style and experience to give TTN his own personal touch.

A TUG membership directory has been prepared and a printed copy can be obtained by contacting the Office. It is anticipated that this information will be made available to members in an electronic way on the Internet probably via a password-protected mechanism.

The year 1994 had a balanced budget, essentially thanks to supplementary income from courses and the sale of books, and the membership fees of 2400 members.

For 1995 we foresee a shortfall of between $20,000 and $30,000, essentially due to the fall of the membership numbers by more than 600 units. Most non-renewers state that they will only renew when we get TUGboat on schedule again. So, with the actions relating to the publication of TUGboat outlined above, plus a publicity campaign planned for the end of this year, we hope to get back most of the members we have lost since 1994 and also get new ones. Therefore we proposed a balanced budget for 1996. Of course we hope to do better, since an efficient organization is one with some funds to spend on interesting developments or for sponsoring conferences or other activities.

But attracting new members is not merely a matter of printing TUGboat on time; we must also offer other services that TEX users want and cannot find easily somewhere else. Therefore we should try and involve as many TEX users as possible with TUG, and that is why it is so important to set up a new structure for TUG, that would allow all members of the other TEX user groups to fully participate in and benefit from TUG activities. This way we can probably double our membership, and approach again the number of 4000 members or so that TUG had in 1989-1990. By using the expertise and availability of all those potential contributors we can all together develop plug-and-play CD-ROMs for Unix, Mac, and other platforms, publish manuals about interesting software, sponsor new developments like e-TEX, Omega, and NTS (see my report on TUG95, or the TUG94 or EuroTEX94 proceedings).

As I stated in my program statement accompanying the ballots, I consider it my main goal to make TUG into the real international home for all TEX users in the world, an organization that can help new groups form, advise existing groups or individuals about where they can find help, coordinate common developments in the area of text processing in its widest sense, represent the interest of TEX in the (ISO, ANSI, ...) standards groups, foster ideas and bring people together by making them aware of one another's existence.

But this ambitious program can only succeed when I have the full support of everybody. Therefore, I shall go and talk to the representatives of the various user groups, to find out which is the best way to work together, and to determine possible scenarios to form the basis of a formal collaboration. Once we have worked out such a scheme, it will be presented to the TUG membership at large, so that you will be able to express your agreement or otherwise with the proposed changes. I anticipate that a referendum could possibly be held together with the Board elections next year. If accepted, this would then allow the beginning of the new structure to be into place by 1996.

I hope that I have convinced you that it is in the interest of all of us, TEX users of the world, to unite, and work together harmoniously to transform TEX, METAFONT and friends, graciously offered to humanity by Knuth, into even better performing tools for the 21st century. We must not sin by conservatism nor overzealous revolutionary actions, but we must take into account that the world around us is continuously changing, and that we should use these changes to our advantage by including useful extensions into TEX, LATEX or other programs.

All that does not move is dead, and the last thing we want is that TEX dies. All living things evolve and so must TEX. Together, in a well-determined and agreed way, we should define how much change is needed, desirable and implementable. Then we can assign the necessary resources and get the job done, once, everybody working in unison. That is important, since we do not want a cacophony of rival versions. Therefore a world-wide collaboration in a global forum is so important, and it is my sincere conviction that only TUG can offer it. I count on your continued support to make it all happen.

If you have comments, suggestions, or just want to say hello, I can most easily be reached by email at president@tug.org.

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