Matt Asay is Right


This is the text of a comment I made on a blog posting by Matt Asay:

Matt,

Thanks for saying what I would have said. I’ll go a few steps futher:

  1. The OSI nominates people to the board despite their corporate affiliations, not because of them. The idea that the OSI would elect a "Microsoft" board member is as absurd as the idea that we’d elect a "Google" board member or an "IBM" board member. We elect people based on their own merits, not the merits (or demerits) of the companies or organizations they are affiliated with.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, when a company sponsors a project that allows an individual to really shine—to show great open source leadership, vision, communication skills, etc., then we may nominate based on what that individual has done. But never based on the company’s sponsorship of the project.

  2. Moreover, we work hard to avoid even the appearance of corporate favoritism. The industry analysts are now fairly consistent in calling Red Hat the leading open source company, and based on the most recently reported revenue numbers, Red Hat does earn approximately 5x its closest rival. (Disclaimer: I do work for Red Hat, but that affiliation does not color this objective fact.) If the OSI were remotely representative of corporate interests, it would have at least two board members, if not more. But we have made the decision to not nominate some really, really great open source leaders from Red Hat precisely because we do not want to give the appearance of corporate favoritism. Thus, while we require individual, not corporate merit, merit alone is not sufficient.

    I have seriously considered resigning my position in order to give others at Red Hat a chance to serve. And I may yet do that in the future.

  3. In terms of what Bruce Perens has or has not done for open source. He claims to have solved the license proliferation problem by elegant means, which is wonderful to hope for. But when Bruce was invited to participate in our license proliferation process as a member of the public, he refused. He would do no work without special title and recognition. And I don’t have a problem with that–many people won’t even show up to work without a guaranteed salary of over $1M, with options and bonuses that can total hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars if lucky. That’s the free market at work. What I do have a problem with is that the work of the committee in 2005-2006 showed that elegance does not survive politics well, and that all attempts to create an elegant solution were strongly shouted down by influential members of the open source community (and license stewards of significant open source licenses). To make a claim of a great solution without saying what the solution is, and without subjecting that solution to the kind of peer review that is Open Source smacks of the same kind of tactics we see when a company claims to own 235 patents that are infringed by Linux. It’s all assertion and no facts.

    If Bruce had participated in the license proliferation committee and had won the day with his elegant argument, he might well be president of the OSI today. But at this point his claims of solution are no stronger than Eric Raymond’s presumptive claims at the start of the process that there should be only 3-4 licenses and all others should be deprecated.

In my haste to post the comment, I neglected to mention one other salient fact: it was I who suggested to Bruce that he mount a public campaign to join the OSI. It was not I who suggested that he campaign on a platform that is misleading, jingoistic (as Matt Asay says), or otherwise negative in its implications about how the OSI elects is members, sets its agenda, or accomplishes its mission.