About this statement
I'm standing for Chair of the UK TeX Users Group. There are two
candidates. The other is Jay Hammond. Both of us are long-standing
members of committee of UK TUG. Today the candidate statements are
circulated to members. Mine is below. (Jay's is available
If you're a TeX user in the UK, please read my statement. This
election affects you. Maybe not right now, but in a year or two its
consequences will be felt. I wish to reform and revive the UK TeX
Users Group, so that it promotes and supports the use of TeX in the
UK. At present, it does nothing.
Even outside the UK, this election will affect TeX users. The
repositioning LaTeX for the 21st century is important for all TeX
users. Unless done, LaTeX will continue to dominate the same niche
its dominated for the last 30 years. That niche will grow, but will
become relatively smaller.
MathJax allows LaTeX to be used for math on web pages. That's a
really important step, for securing the future of LaTeX for the next
30 years. But we need more. Easy and reliable conversion between
LaTeX and structured documents (XML) is the next step. Sadly, LaTeX
developers aren't working on this.
I hope and believe that this election can give the TeX community the
shake-up it needs. Times have changed. The previous formula for
success no longer works.
Here's the statement. It's as circulated to members, except that I've
added some headings. The links are at the end.
I might be the last Chair of the UK TeX Users Group. This might be the
last Annual General Meeting. Why? Because we have a committee stuck in
a deep rut, disconnected from their purpose. I'm a long-time member of
this committee. Perhaps we don't see our own failings. Why? Because UK
TUG has senior members who wish to dissolve UK TUG and distribute its
assets (about £13,000). Only you can allow or prevent this.
I apologise for the length of this statement. The situation is not
simple. And I need your help, to succeed as Chair.
Here's my contribution this year, that most pleases me. The Committee
now uses a mailing list for some of their work, that you can see and
comment on . You can see us at work. Please visit it. You'll get a
sense of the committee, as a whole and as individuals. We've 8
committee members, not all active. Sadly, the dissolution of UK TUG
occupies much of our time.
In 2006, when I was last Chair of UK TUG, we organised with the London
Mathematical Society a successful one-day LaTeX training meeting
. It was well attended, particularly by graduate students. As
Chair, I'd like to do something similar again. And make it easier to
hold local half-day LaTeX training days.
In 1995, when I had more time and energy, I was the main organiser of
the meeting: Portable Documents, Acrobat, SGML and TeX . This was a
joint meeting with the BCS Electronic Publishing SIG. About 130
delegates heard 7 speakers. We made a profit of £3,500. We still have
our share of this money. It's part of the £13,000, that these senior
members want to distribute.
Malcolm Clark, UK TUG's first chair, was my co-organiser. It's he
that's nominated me for Chair.
The world of typesetting has vastly changed since then. Typesetting is
now part of electronic publishing. Small businesses want websites as
well as brochures. Many learn LaTeX to put math on a web page, using
MathJax. Markdown, not LaTeX, is the most common user-friendly markup
language. And the mobile phone in your pocket is a powerful, always
with you and always on information appliance. (I turn mine off only at
These senior members are moving AGM motions, on dissolving UK TUG. If
passed by the members, they will certainly or probably result in the
dissolution of UK TUG. This is because they destroy hope, that we can
promote and support the use of TeX in the UK. They also place an
immediate, and largely distracting, burden on the incoming committee.
I'm moving a motion on dissolution, that postpones decisions to May or
June next year. This allows the incoming committee to settle and prove
itself first. It allows members, who can decide distribution of funds,
to find friendly UK organisations willing to accept funds, reserved
for the purpose of promoting and supporting the use of TeX in the UK.
If any other substantive motion relating to dissolution is passed at
the AGM, then I'll resign as Chair at the end of the AGM. This is
because I'll be unable to pursue the policies, or provide the
leadership, that I am promising in this statement.
Voting on motions is not enough. We also need a renewed
Committee. Without renewal, dissolution is delayed, but not
avoided. Please consider standing for the Committee. The only real
requirement is that you wish to promote and support the use of TeX in
the UK, the purpose of UK TUG.
You don't have to attend the AGM to join the committee. I think five
or six new committee members would be enough, to start renewal. I hope
we'll get at least three as part of the AGM, and later more from the
wider UK TeX community. Perhaps even LaTeX users who haven't yet heard
of UK TUG.
For renewal, we need a stronger committee, with new members. If the
wider community also repositions LaTeX, in the way MathJax has, I see
a bright future for TeX and UK TUG for the next thirty years. But we
desperately need new committee members.
Why? In September 2018 a major TeX-related organisation offered to
sponsor or attend a UK TUG event. Sadly, nothing happened. A committee
member (not me) reminded us of this in February 2019. Again, nothing
happened. In this, I'm at least as guilty as any other committee
Why? In September 2019 I made a conditional offer, to be Chair until
the AGM. Partly due to misunderstanding, it was not discussed. Sadly,
nothing came of it.
If this renewal does not happen, then over time my position on the
committee will become impossible, and I will resign. My goal is not to
prevent dissolution, but to serve the UK TeX community. Faced with
conflict I cannot reduce, I will retreat to save myself and my energy
for something else.
There we have it. My manifesto. Failing committee. Idle funds. A
future is possible. Vote only for sensible dissolution resolutions, or
I'll have to resign at the AGM. Some of you join me on the committee,
or I'll have to resign later. With your help, a future is possible. In
the meantime, please express your views to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and if you wish ask for them to be shared with the membership.
I look forward to seeing some of you at the AGM. (We've only got a small meeting room.)