2015 Forest Biometrics Research Institute Annual Meeting. Why you should be there…

The next FBRI Annual meeting is scheduled for November 10, 2015 from 10am to 3pm at the Portland DoubleTree Lloyd Center.  This year proves to be one of the most interesting annual meetings ever…

While Free State Drivers has tried to stay out of things it is time for some words to be said.  Let us start off with some background. (AKA why should we listen to you)

Free State Drivers has had a long relationship with FBRI in some form.  In the beginning (before FSD) the owner of FSD was one of the initial employees.  Possibly employee one (1) but that could be a toss up with a few select amazing motivated people and really isn’t that important.  FSD has seen a minimum of three (3) reboots of FBRI. (2006, 2010, 2014, 2015) FSD provided technical support for FBRI.  Through much of this time that has allowed the owner of FSD see both the inner and outer workings of the organization.  So if around eight (8) years of first hand experience isn’t enough for you might I suggest pictures of cats.  After all that is what the internet was created for right?

Now of course most of this will be written off as “Oh it’s just Chuck” or “You’re just bitter” and nothing can be farther from the truth.  Those of you that have interacted with me know I have given my blood, sweat and life to FBRI.  I believe in the founding reason for the creation and need for FBRI.  I have supported FBRI no matter how poorly FBRI may have supported FSD or myself.

Speaking of history let’s talk about that.  most of the FBRI history gets rewritten at each reboot and much of the previous revision and work are made to disappear.  So there is much that people may not remember.

FBRI was founded in 2002 at the University of Montana, Missoula by Dr. Kelsey Milner and Dr. James Arney.  This was spurred by a meeting in Wilsonville, OR that both Dr. Milner and Dr. Arney had attended with the basic framework and need already in the back of there heads for FBRI.  After this meeting, as the story goes, the two (2) began talking to key industry people with similar needs and thoughts for support.  It was at this time it was suggested that two (2) types of payment to fund FBRI should be used.  The first being a yearly contribution and the second being a lifetime single contribution endowment.  The thought was that in a few years the endowment would be built up by grants and contributions that slowly the yearly payments could stop and FBRI services would be free to everyone.  Well it is 2015 and where are we?  The endowment fund has been switched to a rainy day fund.  No grants have been received (or possibly applied for).  And FBRI is going to try and switch endowment people to a yearly plan (per the last board letter) and raise annual fees.  This is not to say that FBRI doesn’t need more money to continue moving forward but why haven’t we seen the application and rejection letters to these grants?  Where is the money going? Based on the past 2 – 3 long term plans FBRI should have a lot of funding available.

Now let’s visit the free to everyone part.  FBRI has hinged its existence on supporting The Forest Projection and Planning System software.  FPS is to be the FBRI flagship product providing best scientific and biometric practices and principles.  With the transfer of the FPS source code in full to the FBRI board everyone breathed a sigh of relief for the possibility of a long term future of the software.  However, now a security code will be implemented to use FPS?? (per the last board letter) This doesn’t seem to be moving in a free to all direction.  How much time was invested in developing pass codes for organizations and not addressing the bugs in FPS that have already been documented?  These problems range from 10-meter site through the harvest scheduler.  What happens when FBRI may be late providing what would seem to need to be a yearly code?  Will the software stop working?  FPS used to have a 10 year expiration will this affect that?  At one point a system for all contributors to have a unique password for access to FBRI resources was provided and was then immediately removed as it was deemed to be inappropriate.  What has changed?  If this is an attempt to prevent sharing of the software that has been mentioned several times how will this change things?  Will internet access be needed to run the software for authentication? Although this may not be a problem as contributing organizations have been promised new software and libraries for the past year.

Having the best scientifically and biometric model out there is a phenomenal goal.  But it has to be calibrated.  Where is the data?  FBRI can validate the data used right?  After all all certified libraries are to go through a best biometrics review and that review is to be sent to the board for review where they will approve or deny certification of an FBRI library.  Has this happened?  Can the contribution organizations get an assurance that the data has been transferred to FBRI as something to back the library?  When last FSD was in the know this effort was stopped.  So all current calibrations are based on a proprietary closed set of data provided by a 3rd party.  Interesting precedent.  Also all libraries have been approved by the board right?  Not exactly.  They have been reviewed by the same person that calibrated them and the stamp of approval was applied with no independent review or direct board involvement (as of Jan 2015).

With this flagship software training is needed and some might even say it is guaranteed at some level by FBRI.  In 2014 FSD provided the first non FBRI training on FPS.  In FBRI circles there was some blowback to this move but the training happened any way.  This training was well liked by all that attended and was quite full of interested people (~15).  FSD had planned to do the same in 2015 by popular demand.  All attempts to do this were halted because FBRI was going to do a training in September 2015 and the desire that they not conflict with each other was requested.  Well it is November and i am getting emails from contributors wanting to know where all the training is that FBRI should be providing.  Why is FSD getting blowback about this?  Once it gets to that level there is an outcry for training.  We will see what the coming year holds.  It has been suggested that 3 – 4 trainings will be held by FBRI (per the last board letter).  Most of these trainings are not in areas that contributors are asking for training but it is a step IF they happen.

Support… FBRI will live or die by the support that it provides.  I welcome Northwest Management to the FBRI family.  ALL of my dealings with Northwest Management have been stellar.  They are a truly great organization to work with in all the dealings I have had in the past.  I believe that they are an excellent addition and resource.  A wide set of skillsets that will benefit all that work with them.  Would be interesting to know who the other two (2) applicants were for the support position.  We may never know.

The new 5 year plan.  Provided in the last board report was the latest 5 year plan.  Why will it work this time?  Some form of this plan has been provided since 2003 or so with the years incremented to be current.  Everyone agrees support should be #1.  But looking at the rest of the schedule how can it be more successful than past plans?  If memory serves the software and biometrics review provided years back suggest that it would take 3 – 5 years (based on my memory perhaps incorrect but these documents are not available to contributing organizations) for a programmer analyst / biometrician to get fully on board with the software.  That alone provides that the plan may fail.  Why has FBRI had the number of reboots it has had?  There have been at least two (2) people that were to mentor and help move forward FBRI.  Each reboot has forgotten them and FBRI then started over.

Calibration.  So far one (1) calibration project has been attempted by a 3rd party.  The tools and documentation were deemed not production ready.  Will contributing organizations ever see these tools?  Likely not.  This is seen by some as the potential to lose some serious funding capabilities.  After all if you give away all that power then what is the need for FBRI right.  That seems to be a poor excuse.  Contributing organizations have been promised the calibration tools for years at no cost and to dangle these tools in front of contributing organizations then say well never mind just doesn’t work.

Lastly I believe everyone should attend the FBRI meeting because of the opportunity to participate in the “mock” board meeting before lunch.  In that hour I am sure that all of the major comments and concerns of all FBRI contributing organizations can be heard.  This is an interesting topic in general because FBRI says that board meetings are closed.  Well that isn’t technically 100% true.  As a 501c3 nonprofit the board meetings I believe can not be closed.  The board need not provide time for public comment and those that attend can only be observers but for all non confidential matters these board meetings should be able to be observed.  For that matter all notes from these meetings should be available to contributing organizations in my opinion.  Some confidential materials may need to be redacted but the majority should be public information.  After all if there is nothing to hide…

Now what do we expect from the FBRI annual meeting?

  • We are good we are great.  You couldn’t do this without us.
  • Look at all the great things we have done and haven’t given you.
  • We value your comments.
  • This has been a hard year because of the unexpected loss of tech support.  (Notice was provided in 2013 guarantees were made for changes.  Then 6 month notice was provided in 2015 where 17 days was provided by FBRI)
  • We are running a little behind and will get this to you later.
  • EXCELLENT Lunch!!!

Shouldn’t contributing organizations expect more.  FBRI has what may be one of the best Board of Directors possible for this organization.  Some of the brightest and most forward thinking people I know in the industry.  But we are stuck with more questions than answers or products or anything.

Hope to see EVERYONE at the meeting!!!