Posted by: commonsresource | August 25, 2010

What’s in a name? Pt. 2 – Open Source & Horseless Carriages

If you can please pardon me for not posting for a while, I would like to take you back to my post entitled What’s in a name? In that very early post, I both commended Red Hat for its initiative and critiqued Red Hat and others for their confusing use of terms like the “open source way”.  While these terms may have helped in the early days when the open source software model was “being viewed as a model for collaboration beyond software”, these transitional terms are now the modern equivalent of the “horseless carriage”!

While some people (like my “horsey” daughter) may continue to be fond of describing the modern automobile as a horseless carriage, there is much more at stake than quaintness. The continued use of the term is more than merely confusing it actually misleads us into thoughts about horses and carriages that have no real place or connection with my Honda Civic.

In the same way, the continued use of terms like the “open source way” may mislead us into thoughts about “open” and “source” that have no real place or connection with the underlying instance of “commons sourcing”.  Or as Matt Asay points out as part of his Can Open Source Be Saved From Itself? post on GigaOM, “Open-source licensing never deserved the single-minded devotion so many of us paid to it. It’s a starting point — a means — but not the end goal.”  The most interesting things that are happening in this space may, in fact, not be “open” or “source” or “licensing”.

It is time for all of us to set aside our “horseless carriage” language of the past and embrace powerful and descriptive terms like “commons sourcing”.  And by the way, my original offer to contribute my domain: to the cause still stands!

At this point in August, I am being bombarded by back to school promotions (although my daughter is still managing to exercise a healthy degree of denial!)  So it is a rather odd time to also be coming across a number of Open Source Software “report cards” for the enterprise.  These include the Accenture report discussed in my He shoots, he scores! – open source, “entersource” & hockey blog post from last week and the latest one from Zenoss discussed in Dave Rosenberg’s Survey: 98 percent of enterprises using open source post on CNET’s Software, Interrupted blog.

The Zenoss report, which was based on “A nearly 4-year-long survey of open-source systems management usage …. showed that 98 percent of the respondents said they used open-source software in their enterprises.”  I encourage you to review Dave’s excellent summary of the report as well as the report and downloadable survey itself.  It seems to me that open source software is well on its way to the top of the class in the enterprise and I am expecting that entersource will be picking up a lot of the awards this year.  And while some of the commercial software vendors may be day-dreaming in the same summer denial as my daughter, the bell for the first day of school will surely ring soon.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I will be giving a CommonsKnowledge™ talk at Saturday’s Open Source Technology showcase – SC2010.  In addition, I will be participating in what will no doubt be an interesting session on intellectual property and open source software that afternoon.   I will be asserting the rather moderate often stated position of my blog that intellectual property is both the very foundation of the open source software movement and a potentially significant threat to the movement itself that needs to be addressed.  As I said in my The double-edged sword of enforcement post back in February:

I do find it curious that many individuals are simultaneously celebrating the triumph of the copyright regime in the Jacobsen case and rueing the “apparently” successful assertion of patents against Linux.  Since the OSS movement is, at its core, a creative licensing initiative with intellectual property as its very foundation, it is time for the community to adopt a more consistent approach.  While I am well aware of the many challenges that software patents bring to the OSS movement, it is time for the OSS community to come together to unleash its awesome creativity to address and overcome these challenges in a constructive and healthy manner that respects the double-edged sword of enforcement.

Or as I said in my subsequent Codecs, Codecs, everywhere post

the open source software world in general, and its codecs in particular, need to pay attention to the patent landscape. I continue to believe that the open source community should move beyond denial, anger, and depression and channel its creativity and energy into acceptance and even bargaining in this space.

I strongly believe that these words ring even more true in this post-Bilski era for the reasons set out in my Post-Bilski Buzz- next round in patents v. open source software post.

Since my frequent quip that “software patents are the only things that keep the open source software movement awake at night” is based on a spirited lunchtime address at Columbia University by law professor Eben Moglen from several years ago, I was intrigued to see him featured in the OSS and software patents: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em post by Ryan Paul on Ars Technica’s Open Ended blog which gives the following summary of his talk:

The stalled efforts at legislative reform and the lack of clarity from the courts have made it increasingly clear that the patent system isn’t going to be fixed any time in the near future. Moglen contends that the free software community’s only recourse is to find innovative solutions that will work within the boundaries of the existing patent system. The outcome of the Bilski case suggests that fighting the patent system won’t lead to victory, but the system can potentially be adapted to serve open source interests—in much the same way that copyleft licenses rely on copyright law in order to function.

While I strongly encourage you to read the entirety of Ryan’s post (including his excellent analysis of the limits of Moglen’s prescribed Open Innovation Network-like patent pool solution), I confess that I am pretty shocked to find myself so closely aligned with Professor Moglen! And while Professor Moglen’s prescription may not be complete, I entirely agree with him that  “the free software community must not become complacent, because the problem will only be solved if people care and look for solutions”. I remain confident that this is truly the time for the “OSS community to come together to unleash its awesome creativity to address and overcome these challenges in a constructive and healthy manner”. By working together, we will be able to overcome the fear of software patents to arrive at a patently clear prescription for a pretty good night’s sleep!

As I was preparing for my CommonsKnowledge™ talk for Saturday’s Open Source Technology showcase – SC2010, I was very pleased to see my TweetDeck buzzing about Joab Jackson’s Computerworld post entitled  Linux Foundation offers open source compliance checklist. The Open Compliance Program is a “new, mostly free, assistance program just launched by the non-profit Linux Foundation….[which] includes an assessment checklist, training programs and software tools to monitor open source software usage.”

While the announced offering will not go as far as n2one inc.’s “mostly not free!”  service offering, it is yet another sign of the growing importance of open source software, entersource, and the commons sourcing movement. In particular, it illustrates that challenge of delivering reliable information and guidance to the diverse and growing open source software user base.  As Jim Zemlin (executive director of The Linux Foundation) points out

Managing open source license compliance is complicated….What we were looking for is [a way] to solve this complexity and to prevent needless lawsuits [since] our community has the exact same goal that the industry has, to make using open source as low-cost and as easy as possible.

I applaud the Linux Foundation for its initiative and thank “Adobe, Advanced Micro Devices, Cisco Systems, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Novell, Samsung, the Software Freedom Law Center and Sony Electronics” for endorsing this program.  I look forward to complementing its program with my upcoming CommonsKnowledge™ Open Source Software Edition™ offering by Bringing clarity to the complexity of open source software licensing™ .

Posted by: commonsresource | August 10, 2010

Bursting Bubbles Pt. 2 & the co-existing stages of open source

While reflecting on my Bursting Bubbles & the “golden age of open source?”  post from yesterday, I  came across Simon Phipps’ tweet for his links for 2010-08-10  which included his following  description of Matthew Aslett’s The golden age of open source? post:

Matthew Aslett describes what I called “the open source bubble” as open source 3.0 and agrees it’s ending in favour of what he calls “open source 4.0” or company-dominated (but not controlled) collaborative communities. He notes he’s adjusting his predictions in the light of the involvement of entities such as NASA who are not directly software vendors and describes this as the coming “golden age of open source”, citing examples. Certainly worth reading, and bound to stimulate conversations – “the King is dead, long live the King”.

While I am supportive of Matthew’s and Simon’s analysis, I believe that the claim that open source 3.0 is “ending in favour of” open source 4.0 is inaccurate.  The various stages of open source software are not sequential chapters where one chapter must end before the next chapter begins.  The four stages put forward by Matthew should really be seen as quadrants that will and should co-exist. 

While I accept Simon’s following analysis from his initial post:

The anomaly is not that projects like Hadoop or OpenStack lack a company “monetising” them – it’s that we believe open source projects ought to have such a company. The past decade has been something of an “open source bubble”, with many people believing there is a fortune to be made if only they can find the right business model to pack around open source.

 it is important to realize that open source 3.0 is simply becoming a smaller bubble that is at most endangered and certainly not extinct.  While the emphasis on quadrants will shift over time, the “kings” will coexist and the world of open source software will be stronger from this diversity.

One farm boy lesson I learned from  many hours spent weeding our gardens, is that “nature abhors a mono-culture”. This is equally true of open source software and commons sourcing and the world is a better place because of it.

Posted by: commonsresource | August 9, 2010

Bursting Bubbles & the “golden age of open source?”

Earlier this month, Simon Phipps posted another great piece entitled Is the “Open Source Bubble” Over? on his Wild Webmink blog. Simon points us back to Eric Raymond’s seminal The Cathedral and The Bazaar and reminds us that “the model behind open source is clear; an open community gathered around a free software commons, with each participant ‘scratching their own itch’”.

Simon asserts that the core of the open source software movement has always been collaboration around a commons (the very essence of the commons sourcing itself) and claim the “anomalous decade” of the open source software “commercial bubble”

is just about over. The new projects on the block are once again collaborative, seeded by companies whose business does not depend on selling the software or its direct derivatives. They involve synchronizing fragments of the interests of many, diverse participants rather than having the whole of a single party’s interests at their core. Every participant comes to them paying their own way rather than expecting the project to pay them.

While Simon sees this trend as the bursting of the bubble, Matthew Aslett’s post on the 451 CAOS Theory blog sees it as The golden age of open source? Matthew’s post begins with a reference to Simon’s post (and Stephen O’Grady’s The State of Open Source: Startup, Growth, Maturity or Decline? post which Simon also discussed) and comes to the conclusion that we are witnessing “the arrival of the fourth stage of commercial open source.”

While I would encourage you to read all of these posts, I would like to point out Matthew’s claim that “various complementary strategies” will “be the dominant revenue strategies of open source 4.0”.   Furthermore, he states that

While these companies remain reliant on closed source software to generate revenue the fact that they do not attempt to generate revenue from open source software directly enables them to engage in collaborative development projects in which all participants are able to benefit mutually from their collective efforts.

Whether it is described a bursting bubble, or a new golden age, it is clear that we are entering into a new era of commons sourcing, “entersource”, and open source software and I am very excited about the important role that n2one inc.‘s subscription based legal information service [profiled in  last week’s He shoots, he scores! – open source, “entersource” & hockey post ] will play in this new “golden age”.

Continuing with yesterday’s sport theme, let’s turn to the The Register post entitled GPL scores historic court compliance victory. Gavin Clarke (San Francisco) reports that

The Software Freedom Conservancy has secured $90,000 in damages for willful infringement of GPLv2, plus nearly $50,000 in costs from Westinghouse Digital Electronics over its illegal distribution of the Unix utility BusyBox. The company has also been ordered to stop shipping product loaded with BusyBox. It’s the first time a US court has awarded an injunction ordering a GPL violator to permanently stop distribution of out-of-compliance GPL’d software.

As Gavin notes, this is one of 14 similar actions by the Software Freedom Conservancy. While it is important to note that  Westinghouse Digital Electronics (currently in California bankruptcy assignment) did not defend itself, the case is significant for both its decision and range of remedies which included “the right to compel Westinghouse to hand over all unsold [HDTV] products loaded with BusyBox for donation to charity”.

This decision about BusyBox is the latest cautionary example of the perils of GPL and other open source software license non-compliance by companies. As noted in the title, it is now perfectly clear that You Can’t Do That on HDTV!

Posted by: commonsresource | August 5, 2010

He shoots, he scores! – open source, “entersource” & hockey

As a proud citizen of the reigning Olympic hockey country, hockey is a topic that is close to my heart. So you should not be surprised that today’s Dana Blankenhorn Accenture hands open source a hockey stick post on ZDNet’s Linux and Open Source blog immediately grabbed my attention.

While I was happy to see a real Wikipedia-sourced hockey stick and puck in his post, I was initially disappointed that Dana was actually writing about “hockey stick graphs”. But any disappointment quickly disappeared when I read that it was a “hockey stick for open source” based on an Accenture “survey of 300 organizations, 69% of which say they’re going to increase open source investment this year and 38% of which say they’re moving mission critical applications to it in the next 12 months.” According to Dana (and the Accenture press release),  “quality and improved reliability [were] cited as key benefits”.

While Dana does go on to point out a legitimate concern about the low level of sharing highlighted in the study [“less than a third (29 percent) are willing to contribute their own solutions back to the community”], I believe that the survey is great news for open source software, “entersource”, and commons sourcing.  In particular, I believe that it bodes very well for the CommonsKnowledge™ service that I will be launching this fall.  This n2one inc. subscription based legal information service [profiled in my April Bringing open source software legal information to the masses post and related news article] will have an initial focus on open source software. I believe that this service will be uniquely positioned to address the developer training and senior management support challenges highlighted in the Accenture study.

While it is early in the game, I  have a clear shot on net.  I will shoot {and hopefully score!) very soon.  I really look forward to having you in the stands (cheering me on?)  and I am definitely open to any coaching and coaching offers!

I’m now back in the land of WordPress and Twitter after spending almost 2 1/2 weeks at the edge of (and largely off of) the network.  This wonderful “unplugged” time surrounded by family, friends, nature, books, and solitude afforded me some time to relax and to reflect on my past social media months and this blog in particular.

When I kicked off my commons re:source blog earlier this year, my goal was to combine a repository of useful links with thoughtful commentary and breaking news on open source software and other commons sourcing trends and developments. While I feel that my efforts have largely advanced that goal, I realize that I have been a bit light on the  “thoughtful commentary” and “useful links” fronts.  I also recognize that I have not done a very good job of asking questions and inviting comments and commentary from my readers.

So as I return to my blogging post, I do so with a renewed commitment to commentary, links, and questions. To start,

  • How am I doing with this blog?
  • What can I do (or not do!) to make it better?

Many thanks,


I was very interested to come across yesterday’s post by Gijs Hillenius on OSOR.EU entitled Kroes on open source in public administrations: “Attitudes are changing”. In some ways, Neelie Kroes’ (Vice-President of the European Commission) sentiments are a natural extension of her stated position on the EC Digital Agenda discussed in my A pony for every child – the politics of open source software post from last month. That being said, I am particularly intrigued by the reported quote from her upcoming video speech to an open source software conference that “We do not yet have a true level playing field, but thankfully attitudes are changing.”

While I will be taking a short break from daily blogging (and giving you a short break from your daily reading!), I do want to let you know that I am working on a couple on initiatives to help achieve this level playing field that I will be announcing on my return.  I also have a number of somewhat controversial thoughts on what this level playing field should look like which I will also be sharing. In the meantime, I look forward to some fun & games on the personal front so that I can return to this blog fresh and refreshed and ready to tackle the fun & games of achieving a level playing field for open source software in public administration at all levels of government.

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