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Fresh sparks sought for OpenMPE's flame

There was a time when OpenMPE's logo was fraught with flames. That was back in the fiery days of blue-sky hope for bold action to help HP 3000 homesteaders, the years of 2002-2005 when the group was meeting once every two weeks and more, while talks were active between HP and the group's advocates.

Back in those yesterdays, this stubborn band of volunteers knew about your tomorrows. HP thought the community's migration would be so swift that 2007 would be the year we all looked back on our 3000s. Not even HP could manage to keep up with that schedule. OpenMPE knew there would be more afterlife than expected, because of the unexpected: government regulations, disappointing software, unforeseen audits, budget crunches, failed rewrites.

The list of things that OpenMPE has prepared HP to face goes on and on, like the list of the community members who've served on the group's board since 2002. Now that the final year of HP activity is upon the 3000 market, OpenMPE mounts an election for its board once more, starting next week.

The most important week for the group's leadership is this week, however. You can apply to run in the 2010 election with an e-mail to director Tracy Johnson. Until Thursday night, applications are still open for candidates to fill five board seats. Jack Connor of Abtech and Keith Wadsworth of Orbit Software are in the running so far, along with two incumbents. These contributors of time are often the election winners.

Widely-contested elections for OpenMPE's board seats ended in 2007, unless you count the seven candidates running for six positions in 2008. The 2009 voting became a process to ratify candidates, since the number of slots equaled the number of open seats.

But a serious group of some of the best HP 3000 minds have served on an OpenMPE board. There's been vendor representation of directors from MB Foster, Ecometry, Pivital Solutions, Genesis Total Solutions, Lund Performance Solutions, Strobe Data, Speedware -- even HP, when Jeff Vance held a board seat for a few years. In all, we counted 24 individuals who volunteered their communication skills, programming efforts, Webmaster skills, fundraising and lobbying of Hewlett-Packard since January 2002, when Jon Backus formed the group.

There's also been tech gurus, a former Interex director, seasoned consultants to the community, customers of more than three decades, and even a member who doesn't own or operate an HP 3000. Tony Tibbenham is a current director with a formerly operative 3000 at his UK site. The board has been nothing if not creative in casting its net for help.

The active history of the group, as told by its minutes, is complete only through 2008 at the OpenMPE Web site. Once HP shuttered its labs and ramped down its liaison activities in 2009, meetings became less weighted with impact. And yet, here in the ninth year of OpenMPE activity, there's something at great stake in 2010 for an advocate to direct while serving on the board. An OpenMPE source code license is on the bubble for OpenMPE, the prize the group formed to win once HP announced its departure.

OpenMPE once couldn't see a role for itself if that source code couldn't be modified. In June of 2004, the group considered four levels of license including read-only access, and noted "We could not see that OpenMPE would have any role here" in a read-only scenario. But times have changed along with HP's license terms. OpenMPE is not the only entity to be applying for a read-only copy of the source.

There's one seat certain to be open in this year's election. Donna Garverick Hofmeister, who's served since 2003, resigned her position late last year after six years of intense work for the group. Other than chairman Birket Foster, Hofmeister was the longest-tenured director at OpenMPE.

Other directors whose seats are up for re-election are John Wolff (current co-chair), Matt Perdue (current treasurer), Tracy Johnson (current secretary) and Walter Murray. Johnson posted a note a few weeks ago in seeking candidates that explains you only have to be a member of the group (free) to commit to volunteer for the community:

If you would like to be a candidate, please send an e-mail expressing your desire to seek election along with a brief discussion of your qualifications. There is only one requirement for becoming a BoD member (aside from being a member of OpenMPE) -- a commitment of time. The BoD generally meets bi-weekly and the participation of the entire board is critical.

2010 is going to be the first year that serious funding -- well, five figures' worth -- changes hands under the OpenMPE logo, should the group get a source license. The source code, if it arrives, will be the first tangible asset to share and preserve. If you've been waiting for something material to prompt your involvement, even though HP has dropped its discussions with the board, now looks like the best time yet to share your talents and time.

And if you're wondering who's been leading the group to this point, here's a list of those two dozen hardy advocates whose shoulder has been against the MPE wheel:

Jon Backus, Birket Foster, Christian Lheureux, Ken Sletten, Ted Ashton,  Mark Klein, Jeff Vance, John Marrah, Chris Miller, Steve Suraci, Paul Edwards, Ron Horner, Matt Perdue, Alan Tibbets, John Burke, Chuck Ciesinski, Bill Lancaster, Jennifer Fisher, Tony Tibbenham, Anne Howard, John Wolff, Tracy Johnson, Walter Murray, and Donna Garverick Hofmeister.