I’ve had some useful communications from a variety of well-informed people after yesterday’s blog about IBM and TurboHercules, and two things are clear from what I’ve heard:
- The case IBM has against TurboHercules has many murky layers and it’s pretty pointless trying to decide from the outside who is right. Certainly the sources we’ve heard so far are insufficient and have unclear motivations, especially knowing that Microsoft’s puppy CCIA is involved. I am not in any way interested in calling either IBM or TurboHercules evil on the evidence so far. To be clear: I have no view on the merits of the actual issue between IBM and TurboHercules.
- IBM’s actions in the case lack the necessary internal oversight for some reason. IBM messed up in allowing a document to leave the building suggesting any of the patents they had pledged to protect open source software would be used against it, and they need to admit the error and apologise. We all make mistakes, and when we make them most of us are called to account. I see no reason why IBM should be exempt.
It’s been fascinating to watch so many commentators on the open source world drawing a tight circle in defence of IBM over the last day. We’ve seen PJ at Groklaw coming to some highly questionable semantic conclusions in order to leave IBM with no case to answer; the Linux Foundation parroting IBM’s original pledge without asking the hard question; SJVN rubbishing me and ignoring the actual point; Joe Brockmeier at least willing to say IBM has an issue but pulling far short of calling for an explanation. For more balanced views you have to look further afield – to CrunchGear or to Thomas Prowse for example. Presumably those two (like me) aren’t on IBM’s PR calling list!
What’s fascinating is the way people I would have expected to remain balanced instantly sprang to IBM’s defence without any hint that IBM owed the FOSS community an answer. Maybe it’s a consequence of being allowed little grace over the last 5 years, but I wish we could hear a little less lionising of IBM and demonising of anyone that questions them. Calling to account is different from judging.