OSCON: Open Source, Open World. What should we discuss there?


In one week the open source community will meet at OSCON. I’ll be part of a panel – Open Source, Open World – that will discuss the success and challenges for open source worldwide. Danese Cooper, that is hosting the panel, asked the participants to list a few questions that we should discuss on the panel.

Nnenna Nwakanma has proposed some issues. I also have lots of questions… I don’t think all of them are pertinent to the panel, but I think they are relevant to what is happening at OSCON. My main problem is that I’m never able to write something short, so, I’m not sure how many questions I’ll be able to write until OSCON starts. But I need to start from somewhere. So, here is my first question.

The Open Source Initiative, OSI: is it relevant worldwide? How?

The OSI was created to certify Open Source Licenses, in order to protect developers from the many ways a license could be created to restrict the software’s freedom of access and forking. Although licensing is the main service OSI does for the developer community, the organization also serves as hub around the fundamental work of evangelizing developers – and specially non-developers – on the importance and benefits of open source.

Once the term “open source” became well established by the early work of OSI and others, and when companies, lawyers and governments started to adopt it, it gained a strength of its own. It is not rare to find those that use and even promote open source, and does not know who the OSI is. Worst yet, even those that know OSI have doubts of the role it plays on the open source community.

So, when you expand this to other countries, how is OSI relevant? There is no OSI approved license in Portuguese, Spanish, Indonesian, Hindi or Mandarin. Or rather, in any other language but English. So, one should ask about OSI’s most important role – licensing: does the lack of a discussion of licenses in other languages affects the importance of OSI worldwide? What does that means when the discussion leaves the developer and goes to other spheres like Governments and Justice systems? Or when you need to include open source related requirements in national or state laws or international standards? Can you legally refer to OSI’s approved list of licenses?

The other fundamental role is a bit less fuzzy: it is clear that OSI’s open source evangelism work is very relevant worldwide. The large number of open source user groups and events happening around the globe attest to that. Even when people do not relate to OSI, the term open source is widely known, and used. It is even widely used regardless of the local language (some times translated, but not always). So the question becomes: what else can, or maybe should, OSI do to increase its importance, and to deepen and strengthen the open source movement worldwide? What do developers expect? What could OSI do to help them be more effective in their open source efforts and evangelism? What else could OSI provide?

So, this is the first question I’ll take to the panel. Although I do think OSI is very relevant both on the licensing and on the evangelism discussions, I will offer my take there. Here, I’d like to know, how would you answer that? What do you expect from OSI in terms of worldwide work and activities?