This is my (in)activity log. You might like to visit my employer
Novell which is an amazing company, and also
Dell who in days of yore provided me with a
free laptop for Gnome development / conferences.
Also if you have the time to read this sort of stuff you could enlighten
yourself by going to Unraveling Wittgenstein's net or if
you are feeling objectionable perhaps here.
Stuff Michael Meeks is doing
Babes on holiday - half term; up later, mail chew, wrote up
some analysis. Bus to Cambridge - lots of fun with the Collabora folk
at the Cambridge Beer Festival variously.
A number of people have asked about how I feel about: Mark's latest advocacy for
to-corporate contributor agreements (CCAs). I have a number of thoughts.
I agree - that there is a 'spike-filled canyon'
between proprietary software and open development of Free Software.
However, I don't blame this on ideologues, but on the sheer economics.
If you try to choose some middle ground - where you open up slightly,
and 'harvest IP' into your commercially licensed
products through CCAs there are many dangers. First - others will ship
your product without paying you a cent, but worse - since there is an
asymmetric barrier to entry you struggle to build a community,
certainly fail to get other companies involved and have to do all
the work. Thus you capture the worst of all worlds: no money, and no
co-development - perhaps analogous
to Miguel's comic "Part time vegetarianism". As one of those
supposed ideologues - I want to get companies to choose clearly, not
half-heartedly, and get across the canyon quickly without expending
their initial goodwill and into a place that works well both for both
their business and the wider community.
As someone who has advocated circumspection (not fear), of
companies vs. well governed non-profits - I don't believe that view
is 'childish'. Companies have mixed motives, but they also have
fiduciary duties wielded by those very distant from the
communities they are (not) involved in. These can lead to some
perverse outcomes: of business people over-ruling and ignoring
all the better advice from their technical staff, a trivial example
might be around the questionable wisdom of pushing the use of CCAs
Then we have an extended section pitching a nice vision of
companies owning pieces and layers of the Linux stack, and playing
nicely together. My skepticism of this is
with a nice diagram too. I don't believe it can or will work, and
I've seen it fail severally. The
example with MySQL vs. PostgreSQL is not a great one - the latter is
not a CCA project, with the same (very liberal) license available to all.
Certainly no-one is arguing against corporate contribution,
(I work for a corporation at least), instead they argue against
corporate ownership through CCAs.
It seems that Mark's view is that - the thing holding
back the world from providing him with a desktop that he can achieve
200 million users of Ubuntu with is: other people's bad attitude to
assigning rights to Canonical (and others). It is an interesting
thesis. Personally I have a couple of thoughts on that.
First - the simple point: it is curious to see the organisation
that has set the price-point for preloaded Linux, and enterprise
updates at near to zero is suddenly concerned about the lack of money,
and hence jobs in Free Software. It is a great realisation that the
economics of the ecosystem matter, and that it is important that
the answer to "where can I get a job writing Free Software that
everyone benefits from" needs to include Canonical, as it increasingly
Second - my counter thesis: Collaboration is key. which has many
corollaries such as Diversity of contributors is a strength.
Clearly CCAs result in single companies owning pieces of the stack - Mark
appears to implicitly agree with this, apparently believing that this
sacrifice will allow them to invest, and there is perhaps a grain of truth
there. I believe this single company outcome is just a recognition of business
reality, and not a result of my (and others) pernicious lobbying.
Set against this presumed benefit then, is the inevitable stifling of
collaboration, which creates systemic risk (via unrelated corporate failure),
while breeding conflict.
It is hard enough to get opinionated individuals to work together, and take
the risk of re-using others' code.
That is worse across company and group-think borders, and practically
impossible if one company has to assign rights to another. Take for example
GNOME Shell vs. 'Unity' - the problem (of having two teams of half the size,
tackling twice as many bugs) is ultimately one of collaboration. This seems
transparently obvious (and foolish to me), but is by no means unique - quite
the opposite, it is replicated dozens of times. Though I can well believe the
blame for this instance is quite evenly spread, and complex, the issue of
a single company owning the user experience and strangling collaboration
is quite serious, and something GNOME's guidelines
on CCAs would rightly forbid. Indeed - we all need to work hard to ensure
that we are as diverse, and open to new entrants, ideas and contributors as
possible. Creating more excuses to not-collaborate is not
wise even if they were immaterial (which CCAs are not). Indeed I
had thought that working hard to help people collaborate is/was
a key thrust of Mark's thinking underlying launchpad, bzr, etc.
My concern is that, by making collaboration around CCAs much easier,
it will inevitably create more, and ultimately substantially hinder
the laudable goal of greater diversity and collaboration around each
piece of software. That in turn will multiply duplication, conflict,
and wasteage of resources, which in turn will slow our progress further.
In sum total, despite the bus-load of barbs: immature
understanding, idealogue, childishly afraid,
idea-less (no proposals), uncool, fundamentalist,
radical, factionalists, claptrap, non-generous.
I am mostly just amused - it seems a good sign of the strength of an
argument that such an abundence of patently absurd ad-hominem is
needed to articulate it. Simon Phipps has a nice
the LibreOffice related sillies that will pop out of LWN sometime
Anyhow, despite much diverse contribution to many communities,
discussion, thinking and advocacy on the topic, I would love to debate
the issues with Mark personally, perhaps I'm wrong after-all; and I hope
that he will deign to show up at the scheduled Desktop Summit panel on
CCAs to defend both his ideas and adjectives, if this is indeed
the issue blocking our success, it is a discussion well
In case it's not painfully obvious: the reflections reflected here are my
own; mine, all mine ! and don't reflect the views of Novell, The
Lithuanian Gov't or Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's also important to
realise that I'm not in on the Swedish Conspiracy.
Occasionally people ask for formal photos for conferences,
Michael Meeks (firstname.lastname@example.org)