Posted by: commonsresource | June 17, 2010

There’s no life like it – on being an open source moderate

As you may have already gathered from my Well, you could say “Dennis” – Open Source is not a Democracy post from April, I am a self-confessed Monty Python fan. As such, Simon Phipp’s “Life of Brian” Played Out In Community post on the ComputerworldUK  Community blog had me at the title!

That being said, Simon’s post itself is every bit as great as his chosen title and I particularly love and relate to the following passage:

I have spent a considerable time trying to understand the outlooks of as many factions as will talk with me, with the result of being considered a (sometimes hated) outsider by all of them!

Simon goes on to capture some of the frustration and the value/promise of the OSS moderate in the following passage:

I’m tired of hearing members of the Popular Front of GNUdea attacking the members of the GNUdean People’s Front, or any of the other factional pogroms that are rehearsed globally. There are several tragic ironies that the satire of Life of Brian also fits so well to the software freedom movement in all its colour. Note especially the amount of religious language in this article…

In my own journey, I’ve chosen the path of celebrating what’s good in both sides of the argument with the insight that when we zoom away from the detail and look on the broad scale they are in fact the same argument.

I, like Simon, have a moth-like attraction to the moderate/middle and strive to embody that spirit in this blog. I really don’t really know where this character flaw/strength comes from. Perhaps it is because I am the youngest in a large and complex family. Maybe it is a result of my technology lawyer training.  Or is it possible that Canada’s rich history as a middle power has been burnt into my psyche?

In any event, I have spent much of my life trying to understand the range of players and positions in all sorts of situation.  In my early days as a lawyer, one brilliant business-centric settlement of a piece of litigation triggered a public declaration  by the lead partner that he wasn’t getting Prowse involved in any more of his files since as soon as he did, they promptly settled.  Later, in my days as a copyright policy analyst, I used to state that I slept best at night when I knew that all interested groups were equally unhappy with me. Perhaps this pattern should have been self-evident from my intervention in a university cafeteria argument that triggered a bitter request to “stop being so damned diplomatic”.

In closing, I once defused an over-heated law school debate on capital punishment by interjecting the rather bizarre declaration that I was a moderate on capital punishment. My moderate “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch” exploded into a surreal calm of befuddlement and bemusement that allowed all of us to push the reset button. In this context, the lead off phrase in my post’s title was intentionally borrowed from a well-known Canadian Armed Forces recruiting campaign. The title captures the reality that the true moderate lives in a war zone of debate in which he of she may often be the enemy of all. Such is the Life of Brian, of Simon, of Thomas… And there’s no life like it!


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