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Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Is "Open Source" Now Completely Meaningless?

I'm deep into building the OSCON schedule. I've found some very strange companies claiming to be open source. For example, Vyatta makes an "open source router". Their web site talks big about open source and community, but it turns out they're not talking about developers. In fact, the only download I could find was a live .iso of their "community edition". No CVS, no subversion, no trac. It appears that their business model is to charge for the updates you'd get for free if there was CVS. They might give away the source on the .iso (I haven't checked) but without the live source tree exposed it seems quite hollow. (update: Vyatta source is in git, though in my defense you can't find this out from their downloads page only the wiki. Their entire product is GPL, so they're as open source as they come. I apologize for misfiring)

Then there's this IT Management piece on 10 hot open source companies. I naturally rifled through it hoping to find goodies for OSCON. What did I find? ZenOSS is like Hyperic, which we featured last year. Simula Labs CoRE Network smells like a clone of SpikeSource which is several years old. SugarCRM is at the centre of the badgeware melodrama (they have a questionably modified OSI-approved license, perhaps only 2/3 of their code is actually downloadable), and rPath and Montavista sell software that works on Linux but the software itself isn't actually open source. (I'm not the only one to rip on this top 10--see Chris DiBona's contempt too)

Can you really call yourself open source if you haven't opened the source? I don't think so. There's a flood of "open source" companies selling things that work on open source but which aren't open source themselves. I think these are proprietary products, not open source. That's been the attitude that helped me select talks for OSCON--I only want open source products talked about. My rule of thumb is that the audience should be able to download, compile, and use the software that is talked about.

Tim disagrees with me. He says, "There are lots of interesting hacks on open source that don't provide all the source. Is EnterpriseDB an open source company? (Allison and I just had a great call with Andy Astor.)They don't actually provide their source, though they do give back a lot to the postgres community. But more importantly, they are *using* open source in a really creative way. They are building a layer on top of postgres to make it user compatible with Oracle, so it's really easy to switch and interoperate. That's a cool strategy for open source, and so worth featuring even if the company's software isn't open source."

I think EnterpriseDB is a tricky boundary case. They've got software that helps bring people directly to OSS from closed source. That's surely worthy of exposure at OSCON--it'll help attendees convince their bosses to use more open source. But on the other hand, it fails my "can people build it?" test. I've had people from Yahoo!, Google, and Ticketmaster at OSCON before so that they could talk about their experiences as alpha consumers of open source and because I felt it was important to show high profile success stories of open source consumption so that attendees can use them as they agitate for more open source at their work. It's the vendor presentations that really make me nervous--I find it hard to justify turning away a good open source project to feature a closed source project, regardless of whether it runs on open source or not.

What do you think OSCON should do in the future? Should we have talks on proprietary products that work on open source? Or should we keep the "if you're selling a closed source product, you don't belong at the Open Source Convention" policy we've had so far? How would something like EnterpriseDB fit in this? Leave your opinion in the comments, and mention whether you've been to OSCON before or not. I want to know what you think.

(Update: comments closed Aug 1 2007 due to spam)

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Comments: 55

Allan Leinwand   [02.24.07 12:50 PM]

Hi Nat,

Thanks for the comments on Vyatta and our OFR. We have had our source code repository available since our inception and have a link to it on our public wiki here. The community that has been using this source code has mailing list that can be found here.

We encourage folks to build our product from source code and to modify it as they desire. For those that want to use the OFR but don't need to modify the source or compile from scratch, we do offer a .iso, as you point out, at this URL.

Admittedly, we could make the link to the source code more visible on our site - you do have to go to the Community section and then into the wiki - so thanks for the feedback.

Sam Minnee   [02.24.07 12:53 PM]

When those companies say "we're an open source company" what they really mean is "we're a company that will help you make the switch to open source in your company".

The question of how to get business to adopt more open-source software *is* an interesting one for the attendees of the conference, I think. These quasi-open companies *might* have some interesting things to say in that department. So maybe they could speak.

However, I think you'd need to be careful not to help turn
Speaking at OSCON could ultimately be seen as a sort of "open source community seal of approval" to these companies, and what would send the wrong message.

The other question you could ask of these companies is "how open *are* you?". There's a continuum of possibilities, including which license you release your code under. At SilverStripe, when releasing our open source CMS, we had many lengthy debates on which license to choose, before finally settling on BSD. The relative merits of each option on this continuum - both to the companies open-sourcing, and to the open-source community - are complex issues and could make for an interesting session.

There's an issue of language. As the marketplace around open source grows, there are going to be varied ways in which companies make use of open source in delivering their products. A broader vocabulary than just "we're open source" is needed to describe these companies, and its the technical community who is going to come up with these terms before (hopefully) handing them on to mainstream business.

O'Reilly are in a good position to act here - the term "web 2.0" had its roots in one of your conferences.

Sam Minnee   [02.24.07 12:55 PM]

Sorry, typo in paragraph 3.

"However, I think you'd need to be careful not to help dilute the meaning of the phase "open source" yourself. Speaking at OSCON could ultimately be seen as a sort of "open source community seal of approval" to these companies, and that would send the wrong message."

Stephen Walli   [02.24.07 01:12 PM]

Don't give in! Your rule-of-thumb is perfect: "the audience should be able to download, compile, and use the software that is talked about." I'd go a step further to argue that they can redistribute as well.

Keep the focus of OSCON laser sharp and continue to attract the people that make a difference pushing the envelop in the industry, both speakers and attendees. If you broaden the message you'll lose first one, then the other.

I've been to the last four OSCON.

dln   [02.24.07 01:31 PM]

I believe these are more or less the exact problems of ambiguity - and weasely marketspeak service greed and greed alone - rms and FSF were pointing out when the term "open source" was coined.

gnat   [02.24.07 01:35 PM]

din: I don't think the name is the problem. Surely if "Free Software" had taken off as the label for Linux and MySQL and other such tools then we'd be asking today whether "Free Software" was meaningless. Business would still have the incentive to treat the source as damage and route around it.

Swashbuckler   [02.24.07 01:42 PM]

Can you really call yourself open source if you haven't opened the source?

Well, anyone can call themselves whatever they want.

Should the rest of us consider them open source? Absolutely not!

I think these are proprietary products, not open source.

As does any honest person.

Should we have talks on proprietary products that work on open source?

Of course not. Is there really any reason to have Oracle come and tell us what a great database they have that runs on Linux?

Or should we keep the "if you're selling a closed source product, you don't belong at the Open Source Convention" policy we've had so far?

Is that REALLY the policy you've had so far? Consider EnterpriseDB and Greenplum: while they use OSS as a basis for their products, they are closed source.

and mention whether you've been to OSCON before or not.

I've been to both OSCON and ETech.

gnat   [02.24.07 02:13 PM]

Allan: thanks for the correction--I've included that information as an update in the post text.

Justin Silverton   [02.24.07 02:18 PM]

"Vyatta makes an "open source router". Their web site talks big about open source and community, but it turns out they're not talking about developers. In fact, the only download I could find was a live .iso of their "community edition". No CVS, no subversion, no trac. It appears that their business model is to charge for the updates you'd get for free if there was CVS. They might give away the source on the .iso (I haven't checked) but without the live source tree exposed it seems quite hollow."

You haven't checked? How can you possibly talk about a company not being open source if you haven't even bothered to check to see if their .ISO contains the source. Open source does not mean you are going to provide CVS or SVN links.

gnat   [02.24.07 02:37 PM]

Justin: Thanks for calling me on that. You're right, I should have checked. I had doubts about whether I was able to deal with Linux images given that the only PC in our house is borked, but that's no reason not to have done my homework.

Regardless of this, though, my central point is that access to the live source tree is very different from the periodic hurling of tarballs (or .isos) over the fence. I remember a meeting Sun had in preparation for OpenSolaris, where every open source practitioner in the room made the point that only emitting tarballs is a huge hit to credibility. There's a hierarchy of openness here, from legal compliance (I will send you the source on CD if you request it) through to full community participation, that isn't reflected in the phrase "an open source company".

Chui Tey   [02.24.07 03:02 PM]

EnterpriseDB is as open source as the Mac operating system. Both as operating on the margins of open source, just like Pluto is on the margins of being a planet. It's time we stop diluting the meaning of open source.

Nathan Powell   [02.24.07 03:25 PM]

I have never been to OSCON. But the question you ask seems silly to me. If there is no source, there is no open source. Those companies shouldn't be featured. Period.

adamsj   [02.24.07 04:36 PM]

Let me throw out a slightly different question that might be productive, or at least provocative:

Suppose there were an application which was completely closed, so far as the source was concerned, yet was distributed without any limitations on its use whatsoever. Further suppose this application made significant progress in providing open data.

Would you want that application featured at OSCON?

adamsj   [02.24.07 04:38 PM]

Now that I think about it, let me ask another question:

How often does a session or a tutorial at OSCON actually deal with the question of working directly with the source code?

Tracy R Reed   [02.24.07 07:05 PM]

I think this sort of behavior is what was forseen by the advocates of Free Software when they denounced the Open Source movement. I have been trying to say "FOSS" lately but things like this make me think maybe I should just stick with Free As In Freedom.

I read that article about the 10 hot open source companies and ZenOSS was the only one that really made an impression mostly because it really is open source and I like zope/python and need such a system in my company. The rest didn't impress me that much.

Pupeno   [02.24.07 09:23 PM]

If you see the definition of Open Source, you'll see that it is about being open as long as it makes sense, and being proprietary otherwise. So, Microsoft is on Open Source company that just finds it makes more sense to have everything proprietary (ok, there's some things really free there, in a sf project, it doesn't really count).
That's why I believe there's no such a thing as an Open Source company and prefer to judge each project in its own.
Is TrollTech an Open Source company? they make some free/open source software, and then some not. What about MySQL AB, same as Trolltech. If we move the line a bit, what about IBM... sooner or latter you'll see it stops making sense to talk about Open Source companies.
Personally I've seen companies with a commitment to Free Software, releasing everything. Companies that try to be nice to the Free Software movement, releasing as much as possible. Etc.

Robert O'Callahan   [02.25.07 12:40 AM]

"the audience should be able to download, compile, and use the software that is talked about." (I assume you meant to add the traditional "freedom to redistribute" in there too.)

There's another step required before I think of a project as being *really* open source, and that's opening up the development process. Some projects just throw a tarball over a wall every so often saying "there's your source!" --- e.g., Zimbra, Safari up to a couple of years ago. That's better than nothing but it's very different from most projects you think of as open source (Linux, Mozilla, Apache, ...) where it's actually possible for anyone to get involved in day-to-day leading-edge development. This distinction does not register on the RMesque freedom scale but it's incredibly important.

Matthew Langham   [02.25.07 01:18 AM]

Nat, first off I think OSCON has been directly responsible for the very problems you're now seeing. The rise in the awareness of Open Source in corporations (both as users and vendors) has changed the playing-field that was oh-so-clear back in the "good old days".

While Open Source would seem to have reached a different level, I still see a great need for just the topics OSCON has been bringing out over the last few years. We may tend to think that everyone has adopted Open Source already and so "the basics" aren't interesting any longer. But that's just not the case!

I've been doing a talk on "Open Source for managers" - explaining the basics of Open Source and the various business aspects - over here for several years and it is still as relevant as it was when I started in Open Source six years ago. I alway recommend managers at least attend an event like OSCON or ApacheCon at least once before going to an Open Source business conference - so they understand the importance of the community and open development aspects. (Try finding the hallway-track at a business conference)

OSCON should stick to its roots but also provide room for new developments in Open Source. And those can of course include companies who now display the Open Source banner.

In the long run I guess OSCON will have to reflect the changes we're seeing in the market-place - but be wary of turning OSCON into (just) another OSBC.

Luiz Rocha   [02.25.07 04:58 AM]

How would something like EnterpriseDB fit in this?

How would you fit IBM? Big Blue invests in open source a lot. With money and developers. But Websphere, for instance, is not open. Even the community edition of the Websphere Application Server comes with source.

EnterpriseDB is a open-source-friendly company. It uses open-source software "in a really creative way". They give some back, by helping PostgreSQL folks. But they are not an open-source company.

EnterpriseDB is an closed-source company that "gets it".

Geoff   [02.25.07 06:01 PM]

I'm not exactly sure which year it was, but I recall your weta digial friend mentioning about how he would like to create open source projects around all the commodity-like software each of the cgi firms uses - that way they could concentrate on the proprietary stuff to get ahead yet also benefit from advancing the basics they all use.

ticketmaster, I think, has a similar ideology: there are many things about how we operate that are proprietary and considered IP, but we also believe in using, working with, and giving back to open source projects for pretty much the same reason your friend mentioned - some software is stuff you use in any shop (database, web server, perl, profiling and testing tools, etc) and open source generally produces these tools far better than other software models. so, for example, ticketmaster benefits if apache rocks. we could just be leeches and let it end there, but if we can make apache rock better by giving back it's _still_ better for us, so there's just no reason not to enter the community.

I'm actually very interested in hearing about companies like EnterpriseDB because I think that's really where the future is headed: companies mixing open source tools and contributions with proprietary technologies for fun and profit.

Sean   [02.26.07 01:09 AM]

Hi Nat,

Will OSCON 2007 have a larger Java track than OSCON 2006?


Robert O'Callahan   [02.26.07 02:58 AM]

Oops, I failed to notice Nat making my exact point before I did. Oh well.

Matt Asay   [02.26.07 06:03 AM]

I think it would be a *massive* mistake to relax your standards to let in all sorts of pseudo-open source companies. Within 5 years, people will have gotten over their fear of truly being open source, and will drop all these wasteful hybrid models. So, contrary to Geoff's comments above, the future isn't for the hybrds (some might call them "eunuchs"), but to the pureplays. That's the only disruptive change agent in open source - why dilute it with proprietary history?

OSCON has always been as much about disruption as it has been about source. If you start to muddy those waters, the show will lose its appeal for developers and become just another LinuxWorld. And who cares about that event?

Bill Karpovich   [02.26.07 08:18 AM]


I appreciate your points, your frustration with token open source efforts and some of the press...

Just to make sure the Zenoss story is clear:

(1) Zenoss was developed from the ground up as an open source software product

(2) The Zenoss project was launched on Sourceforge prior to Hyperic's open source epiphany

(2) Zenoss software is 100% GPL.

Thanks, Bill

John Cowan   [02.26.07 10:28 AM]

I want to speak here for the people whose projects are called "only technically open source" above.

TagSoup is published (at under the GPL and the Academic Free License. You can get hold of any version I've ever published at my web site, although there's a link only to the latest one, since I consider all other versions superseded.

Can just anyone contribute code? Sure. Does it go into the next release? Only if I say so. The only two times I have added someone else's patch without rewriting it, I've been sorry. TagSoup is a subtle and complex (though not large) code base, and a patch that's suitable for an individual's needs (and of course I encourage you to make your own patches as needed) isn't necessarily best for the codebase as a whole. There's often a better, more general way to do it. Does it scale? No. The codebase is small enough that it doesn't have to scale -- not everything is a Linux or an Apache.

But is TagSoup open source? You bet.

William McVey   [02.26.07 03:37 PM]

I tried adding a reply to this mesg the day it was posted, but the site kept generating an error.

Zenoss is open source and is downloadable right there from their website (it's the button labeled "Download" right there in their navigation menu). Details of their subversion repository is just one more click away. Of course, if you didn't read the first sentence of the /download page and assumed that registration was required to access the source then I can see where you might have gotten mixed up. But that is hardly their fault.

J Aaron Farr   [02.26.07 04:08 PM]

I think it's critical that OSCON not lower the barriers. This is exactly the issue that was brought up about a year ago over at Apache.

OSCON should not just be about product pitches from companies who latch on to the open source label. I agree with Matthew that sessions for those new to open source and for the business and management folks are important. At the same time, I hope to see plenty of hacker-friendly technical talks.

warner   [02.26.07 09:58 PM]

I think you pretty much have it.

I think an appropriate yardstick is how much does a company or product enrich the FOSS community ecosystem, as opposed to enriching themselves.

This is really the heart of FOSS, what are you giving as opposed to taking.


Michael Tiemann   [02.28.07 10:57 AM]

I posted a response to this article in my new blog at the OSI website. That article is here:

fiona   [02.28.07 10:59 AM]

The license doesn't matter. Every open source project I worked on (all with users in the thousands) was actually run corporately: according to the objectives of the sponsoring company who paid for the key contributors in order to drive that niche their way. Two at least shared governance under the covers with other corporations; in another day that would have been antitrust. Open source is like the idea of freedom to the soldiers who gave their lives in WWII - motivational ideology of superiority.

Russell Nelson   [02.28.07 12:02 PM]

Of course, the "OSI-Certified Open Source" trademark still has a useful meaning. Can't link to it inline, but here's the graphical mark you should look for when you want to identify real open source:

Rob   [02.28.07 12:14 PM]

OSCON Segregation, perhaps? Perhaps instead of making a final judgment on some companies, could OSCON not simply have a special section for "proprietary, but open-source friendly" projects? Could we not caution visitors of the difference without persecuting the projects in the semi-gray areas? The projects that are strictly proprietary would not be included, but ones like EnterpriseDB would be included. They base their product on an open source project, submit changes back to the community, and portray OSS as a viable option in the enterprise, but the project's code itself is proprietary.

Ashleigh Vincent   [02.28.07 12:19 PM]

This is a good example of poor journalism. You obviously decided on the outcome of your article then went away and did some cursory digging to find software that supported you outcome.

Unfortunately it only seemed like cursory digging as it seems a lot of the companies you chastise are actually providing source code access.

A better angle to concentrate on might have been why did the IT Management piece you mention come up with such a bunch of lemons when looking for 10 hot open source companies but that is another story.

Ron Minnich   [02.28.07 12:57 PM]

Make part of the talk submission process be a requirement that speakers submit a URL for the source, and a *simple* script that will automatically yank down the source, build it, and run a standard regression test on it. I.e., if you have a talk at OSCON, it's because you've demonstrated (via an objective process) that your stuff is out there, can be downloaded and built, and what gets built works.

This would give you quality control, and avoid mistakes -- either letting the wrong companies in, or blocking companies that use git and not CVS, and so on. The conference program as it appears on the web site should include the URLs and instructions.



Eric Ellsworth   [02.28.07 02:30 PM]

Let me just stick up for Sugar for a minute. License quibbles about the logo aside, Sugar offers a rather good, totally functional open-source product - I run it at our business. The fact that they offer products built off that code which are not entirely open source does not change that they are distributing the source of that product for use under terms that permit modification and sharing. To my knowledge, they also have not blocked community members from creating functionality around the open source version that competes with functionality they themselves sell. In my view, that's pretty much hewing to the spirit of OSS development - allowing source access to software to drive its development. I think you're pushing more towards Free Software than just Open Source.

Dan   [02.28.07 03:23 PM]

I've been to talks by 'closed source producers' in past OSCONs. Some where very educational when they shared some of their practices. I come to a conference to see the one-liners on overhead (Powerpoint) slides. I don't come to OSCON to read lines and lines of open-source code.

Perhaps you should post the possible session speakers and let former OSCON attendees vote on what they'd be interested in. If folks want to listend to a closed source speaker, then let them.

Josh Berkus   [02.28.07 04:00 PM]

Unfortunately, Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond gave away the right to decide what was "open source" and what was not when they forked SPI into OSI and SPI and the trademark was lost in the ensuing fight. If SPI still had the trademark, we'd be having a different discussion now (like flamewars against SPI for being too purist, I expect).

I'm going to blog about "who's open source", I think.

And, for the record, SugarCRM does indeed reject contributions from the open source community, if such contributions would make their free product more competitive with their non-free products.

Mitchel Ashley   [02.28.07 05:20 PM]

I think it's really quite simple. The community wants free stuff that they play with on their computers. The business community wants to sell open source software and make money on it. The only problem is when so called open source projects don't play along. You're either open source or you're not. For example, my company sells a product called VAM, we basically turned the amateurish Linux and Nessus products in to a full enterprise product with all of the pomp and circumstance you'd expect from one; then with minimal warning nessus went closed source and left the community and us high and dry.

Be wary of these so called "open source" projects and products that are really just commercial products in disguise.

Siggy   [02.28.07 06:07 PM]

Nat, I saw your post a few days ago and having slept on it, I offer one small insight:

Living in New Zealand, I've never been to a large (thousands of delegates) international conference. I've attended Sydney's WebEssentials and of course, I help put on Webstock (Wellington). Both were truly educational, inspirational and generally fantastic.

If I were to go to OSCON then I would have even higher expectations. Besides convincing work and family it was the right thing to do to take time off and pay lots of money, I would be demanding that everything about the event energises my love for open source, be it people I mingle with, projects I learn about, or speakers that I listen to.

This unwavering focus on best-practice web was our formula for WebStock, along with it "Code for freedom" mantra... we quickly got 400 people turning up and a resounding delight came from all.

I am not sure that any other (relevant) organisation, open source project, or conference has a higher responsibility to push the ideals of open source and encourage interest, participation and advocacy.

Adam Shand   [02.28.07 10:17 PM]

Personally I'd look more at the topic of the talk rather then company behind it.

So Yahoo! was interesting because they were talking about how they used open source to improve their companies business.

If EnterpriseDB wants to come and give a talk on how to do cool things with PostgreSQL, then great, bring them in. If they want to come and talk about their Oracle emulation layer for PostgreSQL then I agree that's a grey area but I'd say "nah" unless there was something particularly fascinating about it.

Another option might be to dedicate a track or a day to vendors who leverage open source.


Calvin Dodge   [03.01.07 06:01 AM]

Montavista's URL is, NOT

Joseph A. di Paolantonio   [03.01.07 06:40 PM]

Is a company worthy of referring to itself as open source or not and thus presenting as an open source vendor at OSCON? First, I think you must differentiate between open source projects and open source companies. And next, everyone would have to agree on what "open source" actually means. And that's not going to happen anytime soon.

These [EnterpriseDB, Greenplum and Pentaho] are three examples of commercial open source companies, and I think they all deserve to be called so. Some of these doubts and questions have also been raised about Ingres and Actuate [BIRT for Eclipse]. I'll leave the decision on those two as an exercise for the reader.

I've said more on this topic, follow the link from my name. It will be interesting to see how this debate goes, though I think we'll be having it for years to come.

BTW, Nat, when are we going to see the results from your three most important open source projects survey?

Spanky   [03.02.07 03:18 AM]

There are a lot of "open source" posers. They all want to be in the distribution slipstream of the disruption. It really is deserving of developer contempt when these companies try to bastardize the concept for their sole commercial greed. I'm not against commercialization. Quite the contrary. However, many of these marketing wizards want only the publicity associated with open source disruption, without the commitment to the premise. You can usually tell who they are because they wouldn't know C++ from HTML. Stay on them. Many whom I shall not embarrassingly name have joined Open Source Anonymous programs and been fully rehabilitated.

Frank Wilhoit   [03.02.07 06:03 AM]

"Open source" can only mean one thing: you have the source and you can build it. And there is only one reason for this: so that you, the user, can fix bugs without having to wait for the original author/publisher/vendor to fix them. This doesn't necessarily mean free; neither does it *quite* rule out a build kit that contains a *few* pre-compiled binaries, if you are willing to trade off that those pieces can't be fixed if they break. But that's the only leeway that the definition has.

It also has nothing to do with rolling back to the original author/publisher/vendor or a vicarious community. All that it is about is the cold, hard, invariable fact that if you find bugs in closed software, they *will*not* be fixed [in a timely manner].

Matt   [03.02.07 06:33 PM]

You guys seem to have not noticed the Open source beer comapny and marketing models that are happing all over ....

The Open Source Beer Company Brewtopia

Open source is a mindset not code.

Lukas   [03.03.07 11:06 AM]

I have written a reply in reponse to Allison's post regarding EnterpriseDB where I discuss my view point regarding what consitudes an "open source company":

In summary:
any company can call itself an "open source company" if its business model depends on being in good standing with an active open source community

Stephen Walli   [03.03.07 11:17 AM]

Trackbacks seem to be broken so I'll comment. As long as you place "commercial" on the other end of the spectrum from "open", you are allowing Microsoft PR to frame your market discussion. It's their Shared Source framing afterall. "Commercial" and "open source" are orthogonal. Nat's original with respect to OSCON is still relevant.

Matt Filios   [03.03.07 03:03 PM]

"I think it would be a *massive* mistake to relax your standards to let in all sorts of pseudo-open source companies."

I agree, Mr. Asay. That would be like OSBC having Microsoft as a sponsor. Oh wait.....

Henry Wertz   [03.03.07 04:40 PM]

Well, contrary to Robert O'Callahan, I'd prefer cvs, bugzilla etc. to be public. But, as far as I'm concerned the minimum for an app to be open source is for it to be possible to fork it. That is, license allows redistribution, and source is available, even if it's just a tarball. This allows for development to take place if the companies "orphans" the product/just fixes bugs too slowly, goes bankrupt, or decides to close the code for future versions. Is that open enough to give some talk at OSCON? Debatable.

As for companies -- well, just do it by product. IBM shouldn't be coming to OSCON and talking about DB2 (unless it's recently been open sourced), but they can certainly talk about all the great open source work they have done. Hell, I'd even let M$ in if they're talking about something they've open sourced (real open source, not one of the several fake open soucre licenses Microsoft has that don't allow source mods or have other bad restrictions..)

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton   [03.03.07 04:59 PM]

i'll be doing an article on advogato soon, which will outline the issue of knowledge and the difference between "open" and "closed" knowledge.

fundamentally, knowledge must be _used_ to become effective. free software licenses are there to protect knowledge from stagnating.

except, as people are noticing, we come into conflict with Cancerations (corporations with a blatant disregard for all but maximisation of profits)

Sameer Verma   [03.03.07 06:27 PM]

The term *open source* doesn't mean much unless its in context. Use open source is different from follow open source (philosophy) or create open source. The only way to find out whether they create or use open source is to call their bluff on it.

Since we are also on the topic of open source at OSCON, I am always amused by the number of people who use or present at OSCON with a well-known closed source OS with the telltale bitten fruit on the lid.

How can you discuss or promote open source if you don't bother using it?

Arjen Lentz   [03.06.07 06:42 PM]

I think the value for a conference lies in the lessons learnt. If these lessons require a look at the code, then that code needs to be available for the audience. Someone describing how they *use* open source can be very valuable.

For OSCON, I think the cut-off comes with the exact proposals received. It either has merit in the abovementioned context, or else it's a vendor pitch. There's no simple definition I think, but when looking at specific proposals it's generally clear.

Ross   [03.12.07 01:15 PM]

I think trying to define what an "open source company" is will be much more tricky if one is looking for a single characteristic. There are and will be plenty of business models, but generally companies will fall into one of two camps, either open source "providers" or open source "enablers".

Companies that produce product that is released under an OSI license should be considered providers, as they provide open source software. Companies that don't release product under an OSI license, but enable open source products should be considered enablers.

I think these two distinctions cover pretty much the entire realm of businesses, from Ubuntu(provider) to EnterpriseDB(enabler). They allow for new business models to be developed that support the open source community with value, but don't directly provide open source products.

At OSCON the premier players will be those that are listed as providers, an exclusive club to be sure. Everyone else will be happy existing in the enabler camp, and they will have to sell their value add to the group.

But the tent is large, and all should be welcome.

William Bodey   [03.20.07 12:40 PM]

When you closely examine 21st century Republicanism and Islamic extremism against the light of truth and the facts, there really is no difference. They are both evil twins.
One twin thinks that it is OK to hijack airliners and murder thousands of people by flying the aircraft into the twin towers of New York. The other evil twin (21st century republicanism) is OK with that event and actually lets it happen so they can use this tragedy to their self serving advantage. Both twins use God and religion to justify their lack of integrity, moral deficits and personal crimes against humanity. Both twins also use God and Religion as a shield to ward off criticism anytime someone exposes their shortcomings, lies and criminal activities. Both twins only represent a small minority of people and have sociopathic views not shared by the mainstream or majority of any religion or population of people. In short…they are evil twins and they will go to any extreme to get control over the lives and livelihood of others.

In retrospect, Bush’s keepers and handlers must have known to some degree that he was a total screw-up before he first became president. Bush and his daddy Cheney were both very clueless about being true political statesmen or leaders of this nation. As such, they did the only thing they knew how to do… fleece the middle and lower classes of the nation to make the rich even richer. It is no secret that Bush was the worst governor Texas ever knew and the tax payers of Texas continually got stiffed by Bush and his policies. Actually, there is nothing that Bush has ever touched that did not turn to crap whether as Governor of Texas or President of the USA.

And Cheney…he is the evil twin’s evil daddy. He is nothing more then a corporate CEO who likes to see rich corporations prosper from the sweat, blood and life of others. Thanks to Cheney, Halliburton Corporation has been allowed carte blanch to freely rake in billions in American taxpayer’s money, blood, & lives. Also, Cheney is the kind of guy who likes to approve and sign anti-gay legislation while at the same time…telling the world that it is out of line to make mention of his lesbian daughter, her lesbian lover or out of wedlock pregnancy. Pretty typical of most Republicans who like to have it both ways. They claim to be paragons of virtue and morality and this is somehow made manifest with anti-gay rhetoric and anti-gay legislation while they hide the fact that they have gay family members and gay members within their ranks.

Regardless of all the lies that Bush & Cheney made to the people of the USA during the 2000 campaign, the truth is that fact that they were simply liberal neoconservative puppets of the Project for a New American Century and those were the only interests they represented. In retrospect, it is amazing that the Republican Party was stupid enough to back these 2 idiots considering the damage they’ve done to the Republican Party. Money is what got these 2 unqualified maggots into the Whitehouse and that, just like absolute power, only attracts the absolutely corrupt. In retrospect, Bush & Cheney are both true cowards who never ever served their country which is partially why they run it like true hypocrites.

In any case, here is the timeline of events regarding the evil twin in the USA (21st century republicanism) from the moment it illegally stole the Whitehouse in 2000.

First line of business upon seizing political power in the USA was to ignore any and all credible information from the previous presidential administration regarding the real threat that terrorism posed to this nation. If that did not work then the other tactic was to lie about having all the facts and put the blame on various agencies. If that did not work, simply blame the previous president even though that president went to great lengths to educate and warn the new president of the dangers radical Islam posed to the USA. The Bush presidency has been the best friend that radical Islam and Islamic terrorists could ever have. These two evil twins just keep ratcheting up the problems with very little to no resistance.

Second line of business was to get a rubberstamp congress. Translated: Remove the legal divide that is supposed to exist between Congress and the Whitehouse so that Rove, Bush & Cheney will have no obstacles to promoting their self serving anti-constitutional goals. Bush took a very long vacation when he first became president and all he did was waste American tax payer dollars going around the country doing anything and everything possible to bolster Republican control of Congress. It eventually happened. From that point forward, democracy in this nation had become severely compromised as Congress had ceased to be the voice of the people and had become the Republican auction house for legislation to the highest bidder. Legislation to make tax cuts for the filthy rich minority of the nation were many of the outcomes here as that is exactly who pushed for the legislation. This met with little to no resistance when it went through each congressional hurdle.

Third line of business was to allow something horribly tragic to happen to Americans on American soil by foreigners. We all know this as 9/11. This was the so called “another pearl harbor” that Bush’s neoconservative handlers and keepers at the Project for a New American Century wanted. This was the flash point they had waited for in order to promote their murderous power and wealth consolidating plans and it is not a conspiracy theory. It is a known fact that Bush knew this attack against America was under way long enough to save the second twin tower and it is also a known fact that Cheney conveniently happened to be at NORAD while this attack was going on and that he grounded all military jets. Cheney personally grounded all available fighter jets so that they could not intercede with the events that were in progress.

After the destruction of the twin towers on 9/11, Rove, Bush, Cheney, the PNAC & their rich wealthy corporate elite knew they could get anything they wanted all at tax payer’s expense and taxpayer’s lives. From this point…they simply keep this up as long as they can maintain power and control over others. For the Evil Twin in the USA (21st Century Republicanism), this created the perfect smoke screen for them to get away with anything they wanted all under the disguise of God, Country, Patriotism, fear of terrorism and Protecting the USA. Raiding the national treasury and diverting upwards towards the rich and elite who did not need the money had never been easier.

For Republicans at the top of the food chain who got a chance to participate in this pathetic little circus, here was the pay off:


1) Fleecing the middle and lower classes of the USA. Bush has quietly shifted this nation backwards to the dark ages of a “trickle down economy on steroids” and this one is far more destructive to our nation and to democracy then any past trickle down economy. This one cuts taxes on the rich, shifts that burden and more to the middle class and spends like there is no tomorrow all while claiming to be conservative. It’s amazing that the religious right wing buys into this non-conservative form of government. However, the one dimensional voting habits of the religious right wing are why they are liked by the Republican Party. The religious right wing never votes the big picture and always casts their vote for any pathetic waste of skin who claims to be moral or against abortion.

2) Consolidation of wealth towards the rich, wealthy & elite of the nation. This is a universal constant during war times and is always the outcome of war profiteering. History always bears this out and those who understand this always smell a profit to be made in the middle of the shed blood of our citizens.

3) Politicians who are not of, for or by the people but who are in the pockets of a wealthy minority of the country. Bush, Rove & Cheney are responsible for some of the most corrupt legislation and policies that money can buy. Bush pimped the presidency and made his republican controlled congress an auction house to the highest bidder. It worked! In retrospect, this actually exposed Republicans for what they really are as opposed to the ideology that they claim to stand for. It’s like claiming to believe that you are conservative while living a life that is a total lie and is the complete opposite of one’s stated conservative or family values based beliefs and ideology.

4) Legislation that cuts taxes only for the rich, wealthy & elite under the general lie of tax cuts for all. The only real beneficiaries of Bush’s tax cuts have been a very small minority of rich wealthy people who do not even need the cuts. This is typical of neoconservatives and to some degree…Republican political tactics regarding taxation. They claim to be for fewer taxes so the way they approach this is simply to redesign the tax tables so that the middle class pays more in taxes then those who are filthy rich. That way Republicans can say that they did not increase taxes on the nation.

The end result is still the same which ends up being increased taxation on the middle class to make up for the unnecessary tax cuts Republicans always make for the rich. In this case, it’s even worse because Bush’s administration has demonstrated Enron style accounting tactics with our nation and his administration has been a terrible steward with our nation’s resources, treasury and lives. This is truly Satan wearing the costume of conservatism and the face of the religious right wing and Republicans. Sadly…there is absolutely nothing conservative about this current generation of people who belong to 21st century republicanism.

5) Assurances that the rich and wealthy of the nation will not be paying for the financial indiscretions of the Bush / Cheney / Rove Republican circus that has created debt far exceeding all past Democrat presidencies combined. The way this presidency has being paying for their war mongering has been on wasting our nation’s resources, and largely doing so on credit. Bush even admits that he does not know who all his administration has borrowed money from in order to finance his daddy’s personal private war of greed and aggression. However, his administration goes to great lengths to hide this particular truth. Bush & Cheney have been mortgaging the future of the middle and lower classes of this nation and effectively hiding it.

Our nation currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars to other nations thanks to all the money that the Bush administration has borrowed to waste on war and other illegal, unconstitutional efforts. Throwing away our tax dollars while borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from other nations and decreasing taxation on the rich and wealthy has created debt that our grandchildren’s children will most likely be stuck with. While economic indicators on Wall Street are constantly touted as evidence that our Nation’s economy is doing great, those numbers can easily dip into the negative in a New York minute if Bush is allowed to drive this nation into further debt.


There ya have it. One evil twin (radical Islam) loves to murder innocent people in the name of Allah and their radical beliefs that are completely outside of mainstream Islam. The other evil twin (The 21st Century Republicanism of Rove, Bush, his evil daddy Cheney, Neo-conservatism and the PNAC) actually allows the mass murder of their own citizens in the name of God in order to get what they want. They both got exactly what they wanted starting on 9/11/2001.

However, the evil twin in the USA probably got more then they wanted. One constant in this universe is the fact that those who have delusions of personal power and think that they are great usually do not require help from anyone in screwing things up for everyone. Bush, Cheney, Rove and their kind probably got exactly what their self serving, greedy hearts desired but they are probably clueless regarding the price that they personally will have to pay in the end. It’s not over and history will ultimately remember them for the spineless, gutless reptiles that they are along with their many right wing sycophants who share their un-American, un-Christian, un-Godly, un-constitutional views and ideologies.

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