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Re: Fake award to "the collaborative software community"

All right Bruce, you asked for this one...  Having asked, ye shall
naturally receive!

On Sun, Feb 14, 1999 at 01:10:05PM -0800, Bruce Perens wrote:
> A recent publicity stunt by Infoworld and O'Reilly and Associates was
> an award to "The Collaborative Software Community" for such achievements
> as Linux and Apache. The award was accepted by Tim O'Reilly. Details are
> at http://www.infoworld.com/ . What's wrong with this picture?

>From the outset, nothing appears wrong with it.  Based on this paragraph
alone, not many people are going to have any issues with this.  However,
you do point out a few issues below which are very important issues
indeed.  I think you caught something here that does require the
community's attention and I agree with you that it needs to be addressed.

You and I don't agree often, as I'm sure you're aware.  Or you would be
if you really thought about it much.  Of course the same can be said of
me and a number of people, including Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman. 
Not the same reasons of course, but I don't want you to feel singled out
here considering a portion of this message may be taken in a hostile

> Why is it being called "collaborative software" rather than "free
> software" or "Open Source"? The reason is simple. "collaborative software"
> is free software without the messy community ethics of the people who
> actually wrote the software.

You know, a lot of people are going to say this is your own damned fault,
or at least yours and Eric's.  I would say they are right to a degree. 
You and Eric are responsible for the term "Open Source" gaining
acceptance.  And what is "Open Source" but a way to say "Free Software"
without using that evil "Free" word around a bunch of suits?  If they
don't have to adress the issues surrounding the freedom and often the
lack of cost associated with the software, they can embrace it...

However now many companies have taken "Open Source" as a marketting
checkpoint and they don't really want to really give us anything more
than a little bullet point.  We have companies trying to make it
difficult to get or change the source to their software while still
trying to claim "Open Source"...  We have other companies trying to use
variations on the term or other similar nice-sounding terms in this case
to describe their products.

All of this is the natural result of trying to remove the word "free"
from people's minds.  Congratulations, you were successful.  Open Source
is a hot topic and all the big companies want to cash in on this apparent
new breakthrough in software technology, harnessing the natural power of
the community to make their products better!  What a great idea, why
didn't anyone think of it before!

But of course, that's all they want:  To cash in on this while they can.

Now that I've gone and blamed you and Eric for starting this, it's only
right to point out that if you hadn't started it, someone like Netscape
would have sparked people's interest in this development model that was
sure to be able to keep Micro$oft on their toes.

That's a big issue right now, everyone wants to survive this war with
"The Evil Empire"[1].  They all scream "anticompetitive!" and "unfair
tactics" and a host of other things, but in the end all that's going to
do is turn Bill's eye their direction and they know it.  Now, if they can
embrace a new model that makes the customer feel like they are getting a
real value and extra freedoms to boot!

Netscape would have opened their browser's source anyway I suspect.  They
had no choice really if they wanted to survive and they had droves of
people lining up and offering to help them beat "The Evil Empire".  If
you had not created "Open Source" with such a clear definition and the
legal backing of a certification mark, the picture would be much more
blurry right now.  In essence, you may well have kept things from
becoming a disaster by registering the mark.  But you'd better be ready
to defend it.

Anyway, back to the issues at hand....

> To symbolize this, the award is accepted by Tim O'Reilly, who has never
> written a line of that software, but he sure made a whole lot of money
> out of it!

One more person trying to cash in on our success.  Of course, ORA was
around before Linux made it big and they'll probably be around after
Linux has been replaced with the next generation of operating system,
whatever that turns out to be.  That or considering the trends they'll be
bought by a major publishing house or other media company.  Or possibly
they'll do the buying, who knows.

> If the award were sincere, it would have gone to someone like Linus
> Torvalds or Richard Stallman, who have actually made a contribution to
> the community.

But the award wasn't---it was a chance for InfoWorld to look good giving
an award to "the community" and a bit of free advertising for ORA.  I
doubt there were any sinister motives or anything behind this award.  I
don't think either are trying to derail the Free Software movement in any
way.  They just want to look good and get a little publicity.  Their
actions may have ban consiquences down the line for the community, but
the short term result for them both is profits and that's what matters to
them.  Sure it suchs but that's what you get from corprations.

> What Tim O'Reilly _did_ do was hold a "summit" for free software, at
> which he locked out Richard Stallman. This is hardly a good reason for
> an award. His second summit isn't shaping up to be any better than the
> first one.

Sometimes I wonder if that's necessarily a bad thing[2]...

Now, we know there's an issue here, but the question remains how much of
an issue is it?  Do we need to as a community send a few complaints to
these corporations?  I believe that would be ineffective unless it was a
massive uprising and to be frank I don't think this warrants such a
massive response.  In the end they didn't really DO ANYTHING except try
to generate some publicity for themselves.  A massive response would be
more publicity than the award and would end with the two of them
promising to behave in the future and getting on more people's good sides
for saying they were sorry.  This is not the result you want is it?  It's
not the result I want, that's for sure.

Certainly we're not going to boycott InfoWorld and ORA over this.  I mean
sure boycotting InfoWorld wouldn't be a problem for me as I don't read
their stuff anyway.  They're always a month or two behind the real news
anyway.  However even if this were that serious of a cause for alarm,
boycotting ORA at this time is unreasonable for most of us just as a
boycott of M$ is for most of the world impossible.

Try to imagine learning sendmail without the ORA book to teach you.  ORA
still has the best books on unix security and much of that info applies
directly to Linux.  The book that made me feel I could jump into Linux
and actually succeed at learning to use and maintain it was Running
Linux, another O'Reilly book.  The venerable Linux Network Administration
Guide, considered slightly out of date but essential reading none the
less for anyone running a Linux box that isn't just a dialup PPP
networked machine may be available on the net freely, but the first I saw
of it was the printed form, published by O'Reilly.  (I gave that to a
dear friend of mine because of the difficulty I have with printed books
and because I have the HTML version now)  ORA books are everywhere.  They
are often the best and sometimes the only decent documentation for a
number of things.

Perhaps we are too dependant on one corporation.  RMS has said before
that free software needs free documentation and to a point I agree with
him.  I don't feel confident in many of the more interesting areas I
would like documentation available enough to write it, but if I did I
probably would.  =>  Just don't expect me to learn to write texinfo docs,
I don't like info and you couldn't get me to use emacs if you gave me a
system with twice the resources of this one with which to use it on. 
Well, okay, maybe if you did that I might...  =>

I don't see however what we can actually do about this publicity stunt
other than be aware of it and watch for more red flags to pop up.  Don't
know what we'll be able to do then either to be honest.  This kind of
thing is difficult to prevent and is the natural result of catching the
eyes of the suits.

[1] I believe that any one of them would be happy to take the place of
    Micro$oft and be the next big evil empire at any moment personally. 
    M$ tactics may be ruthless, but capitalist business is in itself
    rutheless and you're never going to get anywhere in a capitalist
    economy unless you're willing to exploit someone or something for a
    profit.  Corporations don't want to make Micro$oft behave, they want
    to push them out of the way and take over.  Witness AOL/Netscape/Sun
    if you don't believe me.

[2] That was a joke Richard  =>

Anticipation is the sweetest form of torture...

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