[Geowanking] Measuring Open Source Citenzenship - A Twist

Arnulf Christl arnulf.christl at wheregroup.com
Mon Apr 23 10:38:07 PDT 2007


Hey,
maybe I can submit some more information to build on, my 7 ct. I am in the lucky position to both fill out the role of the heart felt Free Software advocate[1] *and* competitive business manager. Yes, people can be both at the same time (no schism required). We (the company WhereGroup, a well defined entity that can have an opinion) have a fully commercial business interest in making sure that people know how FOSS business models work. We are also pretty sure (though always humble and capable of learning) that "the Open Source community" appreciates what we do as technically (for some ethically) correct usage of FOSS models. We try to be aware of what has to be taken into account with respect to creating, using and making software and business around FOSS from every which way you look at it. As individuals we are also part of different aspects of the Open Source community as developers, users, project workers and also suits. I am sure that we did not a good job of this but at
 least we have have tried hard. And people even sometimes pay us to tell them about it (it is actually my most best paid for job).

We compiled management summaries of this information on our company web site capturing what we think matters in a commercial business/client relationship. 

Landon Blake wrote:
[...]
> talk about what a company can do right and what they might want to
> avoid.

http://www.wheregroup.com/en/business_models

I am shy of putting up some of the points to avoid because they will not generate revenue.

> What if the title/theme of my article became "Going Open Source - Tips
> For Business On Successful Community Building"? The article could
> provide information for businesses that want to become involved in open
> source, and perhaps even release some of their code under open source,
> and are looking for some advice on how to manage that type or release in
> a way that will encourage the growth of a healthy user and developer
> community.

I would expect most of this to be covered in the excellent book by Carl Fogel producingoss online at http://producingoss.com/ I would really love to add a few pages about FOSS business but I don't dare ask him, he really knows. Somebody suggested to ask RMS. I did and got some cool answers. He definitely is of the weirdo type. 

> P.S. - I think there are still some issues here that deserve some more
> discussion. For example, the idea that "any open source code is good
> code" troubles me a little bit. 

http://www.wheregroup.com/en/faq number 0)

> Are we saying as a wider community that
> we don't care what a companies motives for releasing code is, as long as
> that code is released under an open source license?

The notion that "we" as a "wider community" can say anything without ending up in a cacophony of points of views is pretty impossible. We are on geowanking. If you believe some trusted place should host information to this respect then you might start to build an interest group in the OSGeo that addresses the issue and comes up with a Wiki or web page. I am currently trying to start an advocacy list and subcommittee of VisCom (which is becoming WebCom right now). See, all the bureaucracy you want to shy people away who only talk and the required strong framework to build something that you can take and hit others who do not understand over the head. We need people to find this information easily so they don't get hurt (to their own security). What I want to say is that we need education on the topics. Am I starting to rant? If not here, where could I?

> I wonder if there are still 2 "camps" in our open source world. 

Yes there are. There are businesses and individuals that develop Open Source Software and do not impose licenses usage fees upon them. They make business with services around FOSS (see above).

Others businesses (additionally, partly or almost fully) rely on selling proprietary license usage rights. This might be ethically wrong or right. Whichever - it is not possible to switch this business model to Open Source just like that. If you need to feed several thousand people and make anything above 25% of your revenue with selling software usage license fees and you drop that you are done. Do not do that except you are suicidal (do you hear me Jack!). BUT. You might consider how to deal with the "problem" that software service business models impose on purely proprietary (COTS[2] vendor) business models in the future of your business (as ESRI or as  Frank Warmerdam). (Some Yes a training can also be termed a "product", etc.).

All of this is perfectly legal and I would have a hard time argumenting on one being more ethical than the other. 

"Ethics": It is much easier to get unfunded work done if the license usage cost is null. Correct. A lot of "ethically rewarding" work is done by low and unfunded work. So from this perspective there might be something to it but surely there would be good examples where proprietary license vendors have donated large numbers of copies to help the poor. No good point to make here from a business perspective. Just drop it, nobody with money will listen. If you do FOSS and those poor profit from it - so much the better. Its a bonus you get for doing FOSS. You are one of the really good one. To me this is cool and yes it is an incentive. But no more. :-)

> There
> are some that approach open source from a very practical,
> business-oriented perspective. Then there are others that believe "open
> source" is part of a wider ideology based on cooperation, mutual
> respect, and similar ideas. I wonder if some behavior would be
> acceptable to the first group, but not at all acceptable to the second
> group. I also wonder which group I find myself in.

Best regards, 
Schism. 

[1] Other terms might be zealot, communist, egocentric, Wizard of OS, weirdo, hacker, long heired bomb layer (didn't hear those last ones too often lately). All of these make up the above "we" btw.

[2] I am sorry but I must say that in German "COTS" sounds exactly like "Kotz" which translates into "to puke" (first person imperative). Mind me, I do not make this up. Maybe it explains my growing aversion to it. 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: geowanking-bounces at lists.burri.to
> [mailto:geowanking-bounces at lists.burri.to] On Behalf Of Dan Brickley
> Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2007 3:48 AM
> To: geowanking at lists.burri.to
> Subject: Re: [Geowanking] Measuring Open Source Citenzenship -
> Reconsidering
> 
> Regarding "I'm not saying that what these companies are doing is wrong, 
> but I think it is obvious that some companies are better open source 
> partners than others."
> 
> 1. it's far from obvious to me that there is a single simple ranking
> 
> A company could be a fabulously good citizen in opensource terms, 
> pouring millions into community, openness or whatever, ... yet have 
> chosen to boost opensource for entirely competitive reasons, eg. to 
> damage a rival in the marketplace, support a file-format that they've 
> other investments in, or whatever.
> 
> You mention that this might be considered "unethical". Others might 
> consider it business as usual.
> 
> How such scenarios are ranked is so subjective, that it becomes 
> painfully simplistic to claim "betterness" is in the general case 
> obvious. Of course there are some cases which are going to be obvious: 
> If my company Semantic Web Vapourware Ltd releases my 1982 ZX81 classic
> 
> 	10 PRINT "DANBRI IS COOL"
> 	20 GOTO 10
> 
> Under GPL (share & enjoy!) perhaps I'm being a lesser opensource citizen
> 
> than say IBM; 50% of the lines in my public codebase are probably 
> considered harmless, after all. And they may not be entirely original, 
> either. But what practical purpose does such a ranking achieve? Is a 
> company that ships the above code under GPL a "better" or "worse" 
> opensource citizen than Microsoft? *who cares* :)
> 
> 2. Why pick on companies?
> 
> Same issues crop up with individuals and non-profit organizations such 
> as universities. Some are better or worse at various aspects of ceding 
> and sharing control, at communicating, at following through on promises,
> 
> on balancing vanity and leadership, ... at making themselves understood.
> 
> 
> I really don't see much merit in pursuing quite this line of 
> investigation. Sure, list some factors that work well or don't, in 
> various contexts. But don't try to turn them into a single ranking, ... 
>   and note that many of those factors work just same for individuals who
> 
> are opensourcing their personal works...
> 
> cheers,
> 
> Dan
> 
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