☞ Freedoms

  • It’s just two weeks away, get ready to join in!
  • Meshed WiFi in every Linux device? Yes please!
  • Listening to the “special interests” who worry about freedom of speech and breaking the Internet? Well, that makes you just as much a criminal as they are.

    Don Henley of The Eagles really does need to think more deeply about this and recognise that the 20th century’s music business winners are the problem that needs solving, not the solution that needs defending.

  • There’s a depressing ring of truth about this WSJ article. Hopefully it will turn out that there is indeed adult supervision at HP, but since the only corrective they appear to have taken is to reorganise the PR team, maybe not.

☞ Who’s On Your Side?

  • I’m not sure what offends me most about Google’s idiotic approach here; the patronising parochialism that says they are the arbiters of what a “real” name is and how it’s constructed, the heavy-handed use of Terms of Service to bully individuals, the disregard for the established privacy strategies of so many people or the “talk to the hand” strategy when it’s all questioned.
    Whichever it is, it’s offensive and I have no idea why the anonymous person who has decided to pick this fight and call in air-cover to protect them is being allowed to burn Google’s karma by being digital rednecks.
  • It’s no surprise to see proof that the USA was heavily engaged in diplomacy on behalf of one of its richest corporations, and the documents certainly have the ring of truth.
  • This new Ward Cunningham project looks both fascinating and brilliant. For those who were looking at what “innovation” might mean today, look here.

☆ The Social Media Chorale

Chatting with Jill earlier, I ended up watching this TED talk by composer Eric Whitacre:

Which led me to his Virtual Choir project, which I found exceptionally beautiful and moving:

and to this year’s Virtual Choir 2.0, which drew together an astounding pool of global talent:

I’m moved by both works, by the beauty of the music as well as by the grace of the gathering together of strangers to create that beauty. I think I’ll enjoy the CD that contains both works (I’ve ordered it from Amazon UK; also on Amazon US).

The Value Of Social Media

Both of those Virtual Choir videos are the product of social media, downloading and peer-to-peer systems. Groups of people have voluntarily contributed their own voice and performance to collectively create a larger work beyond the scope of any one – or even any group – of them locally. When legislators lash out blindly at “social media” or “downloading” it harms not just the underclass they are briefed by lobbyists to envisage but also the creative energy of a meshed global society.

We saw during the London riots that social media was the vehicle for the expression of cohesiveness and contribution as well as for frustration and destructiveness. Here we see social media as the vehicle for creativity and beauty in an area we are being told it’s only used to “steal” and damage.

The truth is that tools are amoral (which does not automatically imply immoral), producing whatever the hands that hold them intend. We already have plenty of laws in our society which deal with malicious intent. I remain unconvinced we need new laws to deal with its modern expressions through new technology.  We need to tell our political representatives that banning social media, downloading, peer-to-peer and other technologies because they have only heard about the bad uses is wrong.

⚡ UK Public Holiday Monday

Just in case you’re not aware, the UK* has its end-of-the-summer public holiday tomorrow so none of your UK contacts will be at work (unless they’re hiding out in the office to avoid something…)  See you Tuesday!

*Except Scotland, who do things differently

☝ The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma

Following on from my Road To (Software) Freedom posting, I’ve written today about why I think the need for contributor agreements is a matter of choice and not necessity for a software business today. It’s over on ComputerWorldUK.

☞ Classifications

☞ Clarion Call

  • Stallman is right to call the alarm on unitary patents. We need to resume the defence of the barricades against the pro-patent lobby. It’s worth noting, however, that the reason the pro-patent lobby pulled the plug last time (as Stallman says) was not because of the street protests themselves but becuase of the targeted lobbying they permitted. Now would be a great time to consider a donation to the Open Rights Group or FSFE to make sure there will be people in a position to do that direct engagement with legislators this time round; the people who did it last time are no longer available.
  • Nokia’s journey to open source seems to have run off the road at stage 3. This bit of history from Bradley is worth reading.
  • The Document Foundation and LibreOffice take their next step forward. I’m pleased to be able to contribute in a small way by serving as the Elections Officer so that all the other leaders there are free to stand for election.

☆ The Long Road To (Software) Freedom

George Street, Sydney - Empty!At the Community Leadership Summit in Portland back in July, I moderated a session called “The Death Star User Group”, aimed at community managers working for large corporations in the various stages of their journey towards software freedom. Community managers in that situation often have to deal with negative perceptions of their employer. I think having a model for the journey that a company is taking towards eventual embrace of software freedom is valuable.

The path to software freedom at Sun involved several steps that are common to corporations taking this journey (I think Sun was reaching stage 6 before it was taken over). Here’s a quick sketch of the seven steps I’ve seen in multiple corporate journeys towards software freedom. I hope over time to develop it into a more detailed description.

  1. Open source as enemyAttacking and ridiculing the idea of software freedom.
    A corporation in this state is largely beyond redemption. It does no good to counter like with like – corporations can’t generally be humiliated, or made to feel shame, as these are human emotions. While we suffer from a legal system that falsely recognises corporations as having most of the benefits in law of an individual without many of the responsibilities, this anthropormorphism doesn’t imbue humanity – a reptile remains a reptile even in a suit and crocodile shoes. There is some evidence that highlighting their hostility may have market effects, but in general ranting at a reptile makes you look stupid and does nothing to change the reptile.
  2. Damage containmentFraming isolated actions as proof of support for the idea while diminishing other projects.
    A corporation doing this is a long way from software freedom, viewing open source as purely a marketing issue. While they may have a few people who have embraced its ideals, the overall ethos in the corporation will snuff out any wider community consequences. When any part of the corporation has a business need that tramples all over the freedoms of developers or users, expect it to take priority over anything being done nominally as open source. Also expect open source projects to be forgotten when their project sponsors move on in their careers.
  3. Embrace and extendFraming larger strategies as proof of embrace while mapping the semantics to deal with inconvenient dissonance.
    By the time a corporation reaches this stage, there is someone in the leadership team who has spotted that open source may be a competitive issue rather than just a marketing issue and believes a broader strategy is required to contain it. Corporations in this state will come up with explanations of why they are, in fact, big fans of open source and why it’s in their blood. Extra points for finding a phrase with “open” in it that’s no-one has thought of before.
  4. A change of executive directionnew leadership or direction results in executive air-cover.
    At this point, a change in executive leadership means genuine change is possible in the rest of the corporation. This is the essential turning point; without it, I would not expect any corporation to move further on the journey. Corporations stuck with teh same leadership for years get stuck at stage 3 for years too, constantly cycling through new staff in the “head of open source” role, each struggling to find creative new sophistry to explain why their employer is really really keen on open source without actually seeking software freedom.
  5. Exploratory openingAs business units adapt models, practical barriers to community are removed.
    Products may not actually go open source at this stage, but the trend is firmly set and there’s regular news of improvement. Given new executive direction, business units in the company begin to explore new ways of doing business that support both profit and software freedom at the same time. This is a very difficult stage. It’s easy to believe the new direction you’re receiving from your management is just a fad that you can wait out. To progress to stage 6, a corporation will need to firmly insist that middle-management change or quit.
  6. General openingProjects are expected to switch to open source, exceptions need justifying.
    This stage is just short of a full embrace of software freedom, since the product portfolio will still be in a hybrid state. However, products that were holding out in stage 5 will now be having a hard time with executive management, and business units whose actions conflict with software freedom will find they are escalated to the CEO and instructed to get in line.
  7. Embrace of software freedomsoftware freedom is a core company philosophy expressed in all actions.

There are other journeys – this does not describe IBM’s journey well, for example. But this particular journey is one I’ve seen corporations follow, and one which many of the participants in the “Death Star User Group” session at CLS will recognise. I would be interested in your reflections, insights and experiences on this journey though.

☞ Interesting Reading

  • Interesting interview with Mark, who I consider one of the key thinkers of the software freedom movement. I think too many people criticise him too much while failing to understand the larger picture of his philosophy. When we look back in the future, Mark will be seen as one of the most imprtant change-makers in the history of software freedom – and I mean good change.
  • New York Times article that may surprise you. Warren Buffet has always been an atypical billionaire, and I think he’s speaking sense here given the system we have (rather than some ideal system we don’t have).
  • More reasons to avoid fast food, as if I needed any more.
  • While it sounds a little sacrilegious to do this to decent whisky, I do like the idea of the “oak ice cream” and of the “grey dog” from an elderly whisky. The prospect of recombining the best bits of several whiskys is interesting too.

☆ HP Seems To Agree

Just a few hours after I posted my CWUK article, HP showed how much they agreed with my analysis by cancelling the TouchPad and putting WebOS on ice. Will they now follow the rest of my advice and open the platform up? I’ve updated the CWUK article to reflect the change.

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