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With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

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BCS EGM: It's Time To Vote For Transparency

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At the risk of repeating myself, the British Computer Society (BCS) Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) is coming up on July 1st and if you're a Member or Fellow your vote is now needed. My apologies if you're not a member; sadly there's no other way to make the point than to blog about it.

Despite the unbalanced presentation on the official BCS web site (where there is no attempt to represent the views of the loyal and senior members who felt compelled to call the meeting as a last resort - their case is on their own site), the issues the EGM raises are serious and reflect a widespread disquiet among active BCS members. The webcast by the BCS President and CEO on June 10 didn't make things any better, attacking the messengers further rather than responding to the message, and today I'm left with the same unease as I had when I first saw the EGM was happening.

Unlike the BCS leadership I'm not going to recommend how to vote on the six vague no-confidence motions which seem to get us nowhere. But I will reiterate my view on the final measure on the ballot. By targeting the messengers and the meeting itself as the focus of their response, the Trustees, the President and the CEO betray the trust of ordinary BCS members. It's important to keep them accountable, and to do that we must reject the Special Resolution.

The dispute the BCS faces is clearly complex, and if the general reader was able to see the various firewalled discussions of the issues it would be obvious there is plenty of nuanced truth and blame available for deployment. By attacking the members who called the EGM, and attacking the future ability of members to realistically call for an EGM, the opportunity to put in place effective, transparent and democratic mechanisms to ensure true, open, accountable leadership is lost and the issue itself is forever sidelined.

If you have a vote, I believe it's vital that you use it, as the ballot is designed to ensure that don't-care voters count towards the removal of the EGM safety-valve without a valid replacement mechanism. I voted against the special resolution to raise the threshold for calling an EGM to 2% of the membership, and until there's a realistic alternative safety-valve for dissent I recommend you do too. Voting against that measure tells the leadership that their members are unhappy about the whole situation.

If you already voted and now want to change your vote (especially on that last measure), you can do so if you follow the guidance issued by the Electoral Reform Society, or by attending the meeting on July 1st in person (as I intend to do). But please don't waste your vote, either by ignoring it or by using the "quick vote" box without reflection on the consequences.

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