From the Board

Tom Callaway rants about licensing...justifiably so!

Tom Callaway is the Fedora Engineering Manager, at Red Hat, and he's one of the key people keeping watch over the many and sundry licensing issues that crop up when thousands of software packages come together to make a Linux distribution. Love them or hate them, Tom was and is one of the key architects of Fedora's legal policies.

And now he's mad.

Netbook Insights from The Economist

As a rule, I really enjoy reading the Economist. I find its articles to be well researched and its editorial positions to be well-reasoned. I also have a soft spot for it, as the Economist was the first "mainstream" business magazine to treat the topic of open source software with any degree of seriousness. (WIRED magazine was not exactly mainstream when it first treated the subject and most of the business weekies were stuck in the "if these crazy kids have their way, Bill Gates will be standing in the soup line before long" meme--not exactly credible.) The article Small Is Beautiful brings to light one of the most important trends of personal computing: the netbook.

Open Source Data and an associated Open Source Data Definition

Andrew J. Turner ( suggested to me that we need a term for user-created, user-entered, user-discovered, and user-curated data. Of course, if you change "data" to "code" you have exactly what the Open Source Initiative is already doing for software. We could do the same thing for data. Write an Open Source Data Definition, which puts strictures on the attributes of data that claims to be Open Source Data.

Open Source and Sustainability, Updated

Sam Folk-Williams recently blogged a response to an earlier blog posting I had written about Open Source and Sustainability. Over the past few months I've been having more and more discussions about this topic with IT executives, and I have been meaning to write and update on the latest. Sam's posting provides the perfect prompt and background.

Open Source -- Can It Innovate?

There's an argument commonly heard these days that open-source software is all very well for infrastructure or commodity software where the requirements are well-established, but that it can't really innovate. I laugh when I hear this, because I remember when the common wisdom was exactly the opposite -- that we hackers were great for exploratory, cutting-edge stuff but couldn't deliver reliable product.

How quickly people forget. We built the World Wide Web, fer cripessakes! The original browser and the original webservers were built by a hacker at CERN, not in some closed-door corporate shop. Before that, years before we got Linux and our own T-shirts, people who would later identify their own behavior correctly as open-source hacking built the Internet.

The practical problem with software patents

Venkatesh Hariharan recently wrote an article titled The practical problem with software patents, a subject near and dear to my heart. He draws on the same research that I have cited in the past, the book "Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk," by Boston University professors, James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, but I confess that he shows both greater insights and certainly a better sense of humor than I do when I write abou the subject.

Knight Foundation News Challenge Update

Nearly 2,000 applications were filed for the Knight Foundation 2009 News Challenge. As you may recall, the Knight Foundation has committed to fund $25M over five years to projects that:

  1. Use or create digital, open-source technology as the code base
  2. Serve the public interest
  3. Benefit one or more specific geographic communities

That is a lot of money supporting the development of open source software and citizen activism!

In the course of this process I have decided to sign on as an advisor to one such project, should it's $500,000 funding request and $500,000 matching grant be approved.

Barack Obama proves the power of Open Source

It would be a bit of a stretch to claim that Barack Obama won the 2008 election because his website ran open source software while John McCain's ran on proprietary software. But what is not a stretch at all is that Barack Obama's campaign built a powerful synergy between grass-roots politics and grass-roots technology, while presenting what many consider to be the most disciplined campaign of any candidate in modern history.


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