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Yes! Open Source Is As Relevant As Ever!

There's an idea that's becoming increasingly popular here in Chapel Hill, and it's expressed by one of two bumper stickers. The first is:

Ignore Your Rights And They'll Go Away

The second is:

No, You Can't Have My Rights, I'm Still Using Them

These apply equally well to the definition of Open Source software. For quite some time, we've faced opposition from those who want nothing more than to spread ignorance--to tell people it's OK to ignore what rights may or may not convey with the software they buy. They believe that if enough people simply ignore Open Source, it will go away.

Alfresco shifts to the GPL

Three cheers for Alfresco for changing their license to the GPL.

The first cheer is because they are shifting away from a license which, as a modified version of an OSI-approved license, was not, technically, Open Source as the OSI defines it.

We all remember the days when high-flying technology companies reported "pro-forma" financials instead of pure GAAP financials. The logic was that GAAP was the standard upon which their model was based, but they just wanted to make a few tweaks to better reflect the true value of their company. The liberties some companies took with GAAP created a slippery slope for both the companies and their investors, leading to massive discrepancies between reports and reality. Starting with an OSI-approved open source license and then making some discretionary changes without getting the new license approved can (and has) led to similar problems with respect to the spirit and the letter of the OSD. By stepping away from a modified Mozilla license and embracing an OSI-approved license, Alfresco makes their intentions clear to all--they are an Open Source business.

Long on Words, Short on Understanding

The Open Source Initiative is not the only organization with ideas about how to better understand, and thus develop and exploit software. At the opposite end of the spectrum seems to be The Progress and Freedom Foundation, and their Senior Fellow, James DeLong, who has just posted a new and thoroughly confusing article that appears to praise Open Source and the OSI, but for no valid reasons.

The article I read just prior to DeLong's piece (and to which I will return momentarily) was this piece from another respected journal: The Onion. Please read Experts call for restrictions on childhood imagination and then come back. It finishes with the quote:

2007 and beyond

2006 was a pivotal year for Open Source. 2007 should be a banner year.

In 2006, the OSI's agenda was focused on the problem of license proliferation (defining it, addressing it, and solving it), the harmonization of the definitions of open standards and open source software, and the launch of the new, version 3.0 website, which now serves this content. Of course the OSI also managed the day-to-day business of discussing and approving licenses, fund raising, answering frequently asked questions, and acting as faithful stewards of the Open Source Definition.

With approximately 60 licenses approved by the OSI since 1998, many open source stakeholders agreed that while choice was a Good Thing, too much choice was Too Much of a Good Thing. The License Proliferation Committee brought together a wide variety of stakeholders (license authors and license users, software developers and corporate attorneys) to discuss and recommend how to best remain inclusive and innovative while diminishing the risk of the open source community fragmenting into too many separate, incompatible licensing factions. Their discussions and recommendations resulting in a categorization that has helped simplify the understanding of the many open source licenses that exist, the development of software tools to help licensors choose appropriate licenses, and has precipitated the voluntary retirement of several licenses.

Crafter Manifesto

Dale Dougherty is giving his Make: presentation. Clearly, FOSS hackers are Make:rs. He referenced one of my favorite documents, the Crafter Manifesto, which can be found at http://ullamaaria.typepad.com/hobbyprincess/2005/03/draft_craft_man.html

While craft and play may seem as far from technology as one can get, as human endeavors (and we /are/ human) I believe they are intimately related.

Hello, World!

Greetings from Brussels, where EuroOSCON 2006 is in progress. Top of my OSI agenda is getting the new website launched. Progress on this task has been sporadic over the year, largely frustrated by the fact that it takes a certain amount of coordinate effort up front to make it possible to accumulate asynchronous effort later. We are finally reaching that point where we can have a Wiki-enabled site that will permit such asynchronous and cumulative contribution. Yea!

lp

The License Proliferation Committee is an ad-hoc advisory committee to the board. Many people are concerned that there are too many licenses of limited value. Yet other people ar concerned that policy concerns will cause open source licenses to be disapproved. The committee's work has resulted in a recommendation to be published in draft form to the community at OSCON2006.

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