Essays

Stavanger SwordsSome blog posts develop a life of their own, growing beyond the transient and getting used for reference. You’ll find those essays moved here as they emerge. I’ve divided them up into three categories. The first are essays on general community concepts. The second contains essays that explain open source ideas for business people who are designing their company’s open source community interaction. The third covers public policy issues and is intended as a resource for activists and legislators.

I’m available to consult on these topics, including writing white papers and policies, and to deliver seminars, tutorials and conference speeches. Please get in touch.

Essays For Community People

  • Reptiles – When I say corporations are reptiles, I’m not being rude, just drawing an analogy. And all corporations are indeed reptiles. Only the presence of good people within them redeems them.
  • Direct and Indirect Causality – Many of the arguments that turn up in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement between people who apparently should agree are because of a difference of view over the appropriate degree of causality that applies to the situation. This conflict between degrees of causality actually powers many more human disagreements too.
  • On Copyright Aggregation – The practice of aggregating copyright to an open source project through contributor agreements for the benefit of a corporate sponsor is harmful to community growth and strength. I propose using the term “participant agreement” to indicate agreements that set equal terms for all community participants and “contributor agreement” for only those participant agreements that additionally benefit one entity unequally. See also Transparency and Privacy.
  • Open Source Does Not Need “Monetising” – It’s common to hear commentators and business leaders justifying practices that wouldn’t be recognised as “open source” on the grounds that they have to make money somehow. Phrases like “we can’t give everything away” garnish the thought, and it’s easy to be drawn into sympathising with them. But they are wrong. Open source itself is not about making money – that’s the job of its participants.
  • The Internet’s Voltaire Moment – The high-profile releases from Wikileaks have unleashed knee-jerk responses that include extrajudicial actions and proposals to restrict freedoms. Even if we don’t like Wikileaks, we need to stand up for its freedom to exist.
  • Donating Money – Should you donate money to open source projects?  Probably, but it’s better to support the developers directly by buying their stuff…

Essays For Business People

  • Community Types - There is no single “open source community” – rather, there are many groups of people gathered around many free software commons. Those gatherings are themselves of several different types; this essay defines some terms to help business people understand those differences. [Versão em Português]
  • Payment at the Point of Value – Open source is of course free software. But the freedom you’re finding brings you value varies depending on the role you play with respect to the software. “Free” doesn’t mean the same to everyone.
  • Freedom To Leave – Paradoxically, in the meshed society being created by the internet, lock-in is a reason to switch suppliers and the freedom to leave is the best reason to stay.
  • Open Core Is Bad For You – The “open core” business model is popular with VC-funded startup companies but does not deliver the core freedoms from which lasting business value for customers is derived.
  • Transparency and Privacy – The key success factor in an open source community is the equality of all the participants. A strong community is characterised by high levels of transparency about the project coupled with strong respect for the privacy of the participants. Read why you should not impose your business model on anyone.

  • Business Value of Open Source Series- We’ve been trapped into thinking open source is just about saving money. It’s not – that’s a derivative benefit from the true goal of securing the liberties a business needs today for competitiveness and success.
    • Software Freedom Means Business Value – Overview of the four freedoms which observes they are not just a matter of philosophy, and that all the business value of open source is directly derived from them – business value is the first derivative of software freedom. [Versão em Português]
    • Open Source License Compliance – There are plenty of people who want you to think open source is risky and that complying with open source licenses is difficult. But the truth is, if all you are doing is using the software and not distributing it, there is no compliance issue of any kind; you are just free to use it for any purpose without restriction.
    • Community Escrow – Just because your supplier decides to end the software you depend on, that doesn’t mean you have an insoluble, expensive problem – as long as it’s open source software, that is…

  • Procurement Series- Procurement in the age of open source and cloud computing has significant differences that need understanding if you’re to get value for money and long-term benefit for your business
    • Managing Cloud Risks - The way a number of service providers to WikiLeaks used tenuous “terms of service” violation issues to take them offline raises important issues for businesses considering using cloud and web services for their infrastructure.
    • Open Source Procurement: Indemnity – Legacy procurement rules that insist on indemnity from open source subscription suppliers are an unnecessary barrier to open source adoption. [Versão em Português]
    • Open Source Procurement: Copyrights – Those same legacy procurement rules may well expect software contracts to deliver rights that just aren’t available in connection with copyrights.
    • Open Source Procurement: Subscriptions – Buying open source subscriptions may seem like a junior version of buying proprietary software. But if your procurement process treats it that way, you’re probably losing out on benefits you need.
    • Open Source Procurement: Standards – On a different tack, when procuring open standards, looking for an open-by-rule open source community implementing them is the best indicator of openness.

Public Policy Essays

  • DRM Is Toxic To Culture – Digital Restriction Measures aren’t just an inconvenience today – they threaten the availability of today’s cultural artefacts tomorrow, and place them beyond use by friends and family in the future.
  • H.264: Not The Sort Of Free That Matters - While H.264 claims to be “free” for web uses, it turns out that it imposes a costly chain of charges on software developers and provides a great case study for what is wrong with allowing patents in standards on a “Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory” (RAND) licensing basis.
  • Human Rights Trump Copyrights – Attempts to make copyright infringement a matter that can lead to an individual and their family being cut off from the Internet are unjust. Here’s why.
  • The Sentinel Principle – While using standards as a filter on government procurement has strengths, vendors have now gamed standards so thoroughly that another filter is needed. I propose using the presence of an open-by-rul implementation community as a precondition for considering a standard open.

Open-By-Rule

Open source is about more than just licenses – it’s about pragmatic software freedom. The Open-By-Rule benchmark attempts to implement the idea of a scorecard for open source projects, and to test and improve the benchmark I’m documenting the results of the Benchmark for a number of communities.


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Creative Commons Licence
All essays are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License unless otherwise stated.
While you are not compelled to do so, the author would welcome notification of derivatives, especially translations which will be gladly posted here. If your intended use is commercial, please do ask for permission as it is usually granted; it is withheld by default because of past abuses.

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