Re: [unrev-II] Leadership and licenses

From: Eugene Eric Kim (
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 09:53:39 PDT

  • Next message: Eugene Eric Kim: "Re: [unrev-II] Leadership and licenses"

    Several things are clear from Paul's post, first of which is that there
    are several misconceptions that need to be clarified. I'll try to do that

    On Tue, 13 Jun 2000, Paul Fernhout wrote:

    > * Doug is looking for SRI (or a similar group) to do the heavy lifting
    > again. Frankly I believe many of the same forces that killed his work at
    > SRI in the past will in the future prevent SRI from doing the right
    > thing with it -- not "something", but "the right thing". While SRI
    > personnel have done incredible things, SRI is still an entrenched part
    > of the pre-internet economic order. It would be a great coup for Doug to
    > get SRI to implicitly admit their mistake in letting go of Augment by
    > taking it back (like an old lover admitting how wrong they were to push
    > one away). The question is, has SRI really changed since then?

    First, SRI didn't kill the original NLS project; DARPA did by not funding
    the project. Second, Doug isn't looking for SRI to do any "heavy
    lifting"; SRI is currently acting as an umbrella group to provide
    infrastructure, such as the office space we use for our meetings. Third,
    Pat Lincoln and Lee Iverson, two SRI representatives, have been tremendous
    contributors to the group.

    > * Bootstrap is a for-profit company and is having trouble making the
    > transition to open source, and also lacks some credibility because it is
    > for-profit.

    Who here on the list thinks that this project lacks some credibility
    because of its legal status? Legal complications over BI's status is one
    of the reasons Doug sought SRI's help. SRI is a non-profit organization
    -- a point I think people on this list miss. It also has in-house
    counsel, a luxury that BI does not. The reason BI is not currently
    nonprofit is that it lacked the manpower to fill out the proper
    forms. But I don't see how the legal status of BI has affected the
    project in any way thus far.

    > * Many of the participants who could contribute are more busy looking
    > for a way to survive economically (possibly by selling DKR products or
    > services). Those who could contribute a small amount of effort or code
    > gratis are somewhat repulsed by this. (These two tensions can also exist
    > within the same person!) This is one reason the license has not been
    > worked out -- the commercial survival group is still looking to hold on
    > to something for an economic edge. However, there are also several open
    > source possibilities for licensing, so this is a compelx issue.

    Tension between factions is not why the license has not been worked
    out. The license has not been worked out because open source licensing is
    very complex, as you note. However, I feel like we are close to reaching
    consensus on a license. Once the minutes from last week's meeting comes
    out, you'll note that we have chosen a date for committing to a
    license: July 6.

    > * Taking handouts from Sun and Stanford has created implicit bonds
    > (choice of Java, "Permission to use" license) that make various options
    > less attractive or prevents them altogether.

    There haven't been any handouts yet. BI uses some equipment that was
    donated by Sun several years ago. I don't think Stanford has ever donated
    a penny to BI. Is there a specific instance you can see of the group
    being limited by "bonds" to either Sun or Stanford?

    > * The project did not start with "a gift of code", and so has no open
    > source credibility beyond Doug's reputation in saying that is what
    > Bootstrap wants to do. Releasing anything related to Augment under an
    > open source license would increase this credibility.

    Your first point is correct, but I don't see this hurting our
    credibility. It certainly hasn't affected our credibility with the
    various members of the open source community we've been in touch
    with. Once we choose a license, open source credibility issues shouldn't
    be a factor.

    Second, releasing Augment as open source will be a bureaucratic nightmare
    with limited benefits. Lockheed currently owns the right to Augment, and
    negotiating with them would be major pain in the rear. Also, Augment was
    written in a custom language -- L-10 -- and the compilers were written in
    DEC assembler. I'd like to see this available for historical reasons, but
    it won't have any real technical value to us.

    > * The weekly meetings in CA have created an in-group / out-group
    > situation with regards to this list. Those who are physically located in
    > CA become the in-group with privileged interactions (although thankfully
    > summarized on the list), those elsewhere geographically become the
    > out-group. While much progress is undoubtedly made with face to face
    > meetings, the Apache group didn't meet face to face for years. The
    > "in-group" does not seem to have license as a priority, because it seems
    > more composed of people figuring out a business model for funding. I
    > don't fault them for this, but it creates a tension between them and
    > open source advocates on the list who just want to proceed without
    > funding.

    This is a very valid point. As someone who has attended the physical
    meetings and who follows this list, let me try to clear up some
    misconceptions. First, any time anyone has spent trying to figure out
    business models has been his or her own. Second, Doug and Pat Lincoln
    have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work trying to get funding for
    the group, but that hasn't been what's slowing us down.

    What's prevented this from taking off at the pace people would like is the
    fact that there is no technical starting point yet. As you pointed out,
    successful open source projects start with code. Apache had the NCSA
    code; Linux has Linus's code; Mozilla had the Netscape code. Before you
    can have code, you need to have design. This is what we've been working
    on. Once we finish a preliminary design, we can build a prototype,
    release the code, and start gearing up the community.

    > I don't quite know how to explain this, but I feel like this group has
    > both too much structure and too little structure.

    I agree. But I'm confident the group is streamlining. It's probably more
    evident in the physical meetings right now, but it will start becoming
    more evident here as well.


    +=== Eugene Eric Kim ===== ===== ===+
    |       "Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they        |
    +=====  can have an excuse to drink alcohol."  --Steve Martin  ===========+

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