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The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting
Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:45 AM EDT

Time for some fun.

Remember I told you about the kickoff meeting of the Massachusetts Software Council's Open Source Software SIG, their Open Source Summit, last week? Dan Bricklin, President of Software Garden, and Bob Zurek, Vice President, Advanced Technology, Ascential Software (now part of IBM) were moderators for the conference, which was held at Babson College near Boston last Friday.

For all of us who wanted to go but couldn't be there in person, audio tapes are now available, and they are delightful. I don't know when I've enjoyed a conference so much. If they were all like this one, I'd go to lots of conferences, and I wouldn't go hide in the ladies' room, either, like I did at LinuxWorld. Really, this one sounded like a lot of fun, informal but idea-oriented and very productive as a result.

There were three sessions, one on legal issues, one on business issues, and one on how to run an open source project, plus a, um, lively talk by Mark Fleury, CEO of JBOSS, as the keynote speaker at lunch. He's Dr. Fleury, by the way. He has a PhD in Physics. It was very much an interactive speech, with the audience participating fully. How could they help it? He started by stating his admiration for the Microsoft business model (all those high margins, I imagine) and said it was a myth that programmers will code for the love of it and described programmers who are not paid to do software as "amateurs". Well, that got a reaction, as you might imagine. He seemed to love being controversial and took the reactions with zest and some panache. You won't be bored. Of course, he's wrong.

: )

I'll probably get an email now.

There was lots of audience participation, more so than at other conferences I've attended or listened to, and lots of lawyers there, I hear. Lots of execs and lots of programmers too. During the business session, someone asked the audience if there was anyone there who *didn't* read Groklaw every day, and one or two hands went up. When they asked next how many *did* read it, all the hands went up except for the two. Later, a representative from Microsoft stood up to respond to a point, and I thought, I wonder if he's one of the two who don't read Groklaw. Maybe he raised both his hands. Just horsing around. I don't know who the one or two were. I hope they are here now though. Welcome to Groklaw, whoever you are. I am happy to have you here.

The event was sponsored by Ascential Software, and the cost of audio taping was paid for by Novell. Software Garden processed the tapes into audio computer files and uploaded them to the Internet. With Dan's permission, I'm mirroring them so we don't melt his server, but if you have any trouble downloading, you can get them -- and lots of more info -- here or from Dan's SIG blog. If you have "podcast catching" software, like iPodder, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for the recordings at

Here are the mp3s (huge, of course) and some slides that go with them. Right click to download, please:

Session 1 - with attorneys Karen Copenhaver of Black Duck Software and Ira Heffan of the law firm Goodwin Procter.
Slides for Session 1 [PDF]

Session 2 - Open Source Business Models and Strategies, with representatives from IBM (Douglas Heintzman), JasperSoft (Al Campa), Optaros (Robert "R0ML" Lefkowitz), Iona (Eric Newcomer), and Red Hat (Nick Carr). You can read Eric's blog for his impressions, as well.

Session 3 - Open Source Technical Discussion on how to organize and run an Open Source project, with Novell's Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza
Slides for Session 3 [PDF]

Luncheon talk by Mark Fleury, CEO of JBOSS
Slides for luncheon talk [PDF].

Anyhow, listen especially to the legal issues session. I learned plenty from the discussion. Look for an interesting comment from Jack Messman, CEO of Novell, on SCO at 27:13. He says that Novell sold SCO the rights to use the copyrights, but they, Novell, still own them. However, they also got a license back on their own technology to use UNIX with their customers, he explains, so they can use UNIX in Linux. So even if SCO were to prevail in its claim that Novell turned over copyrights to them, Novell has the license. "If you want to make the SCO problem and the issue of UNIX in Linux go away," he said, "use SUSE Linux."

Karen Copenhaver of Black Duck is very easy to listen to, and despite being a lawyer, easy to understand too when she explains legal issues. She also talks a bit about SCO about halfway through, right after Mr. Messman, and she also talks about patents. She seems to feel Open Source has an advantage over proprietary software companies, and she is not worried about patent trolls in the Open Source space, and she also has some intriguing ideas about patent termination clauses. I am kicking myself that I didn't go in person. It was clearly a very enjoyable and unusually productive summit.

When you listen to the business segment, you'll notice that some in the audience who were there express a bit of puzzlement about exactly how to interact appropriately with the FOSS community. I hear in one man's voice a real sincerity in asking about it. After you listen, I would like you to help me think about how to make it clearer to companies like that how to transition into FOSS interaction, and how to make them feel at home. So if any of your brainiacs can help me think about this, I would appreciate your input. Also, if any of those who asked the question wish to ask their questions here, feel free. If they are reading us every day, we do really need to extend a welcome to them and help them find answers to their questions, don't you think?

No one likes going to a gathering where they don't know anyone and don't know what is expected. Maybe a few thrive in that atmosphere, but most of us don't. It's uncomfortable not knowing what is expected. We all like to feel confident that we know what fork to use at a formal dinner, no? It's no different for proprietary companies trying to transition to participation with the community. So, I think we need to start thinking about sharing experiences. If any of you have worked at companies or run companies that have dipped your toes in FOSS waters, would you consider telling us your experiences? What have you learned? What didn't work? What did? What would you tell your best friend if he asked you how best to work with the community?

If anyone is inspired to want to transcribe the business or tech sessions, feel free. I'm working on the first segment already. I found that one, on legal issues, the most interesting, naturally, but I'll bet a lot of you will love the technical session with Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman from Novell. Talk about kick myself for not being there to meet them. Nat's blog about his talk fills in a blank that happened when the tape was turned over. Psst. Note to you lawyers: He asks if anyone knows a good PI plaintiff's lawyer.

I enjoyed the tapes enormously and wish so much I could have attended. I was invited. Next time, I hope life's circumstances make it possible to go. It's fun to imagine everyone. Here are some more attendees' reactions:

Stephen Walli
Gordon Haff
Bob Zurek

In my mind's eye, I am imagining sitting there when they ask who reads Groklaw every day and seeing virtually everyone in the room raising his or her hand. And I'm smiling. I've often written about not wanting to be famous, and how uncomfortable it makes me when people point me out in a crowd. But knowing that so many people whom I admire read my work, well, it's a satisfaction beyond words, one that makes it all worthwhile.

Of course, that's in my imagination. If I'd been there in person, no doubt I'd have turned beet red and headed straight for the ladies' room, hyperventilating all the way. Some things don't change, no matter how many people read what you write. But it's fun to play it over in my mind, safe in my little office.


The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting | 123 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off-Topic here, please
Authored by: MeinZy on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:55 AM EDT
Make those links clickable, please.

Zy -- 'Square peg in a round Earth' - But working on those corners

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alternative to JBoss: Apache Geronimo
Authored by: ak on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:06 AM EDT
There was a reason why Apache created Apache Geronimo as an alternative to JBoss ...

[ Reply to This | # ]

The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting
Authored by: Nick Bridge on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:21 AM EDT
I totally agree that we should welcome everyone who's here for constructive

As for feeling nervous or trepidacious - that's probably misplaced; and here's
why I feel that:

You're probably an executive worrying about the consequences of using Free
Software or Open Source Software.

Well, there isn't a company I've worked at (I'm a consultant - so I've been
involved in quite a few) that hasn't used FOSS somewhere.

Firstly, there's the FOSS that's included in off the shelf products. In Sun
products, SCO products, IBM products - you name it - yup even some Microsoft

Secondly, many of us implement Free Software and Open Source Software to solve
business problems without making an issue of it. Many people I've worked with
have also. Like using the Tomcat servlet container.

Or including the Xerces XML parser in an application (another OSS app that's
incuded in many off-the-shelf products).

Thirdly, the licenses are there for two main putposes:
1. To ensure that everyone has access to the source code.
2. To ensure that the software continues to grow in the same way, and can't get
locked up by some unscrupulous vendor.

So as long as you use the software in good faith - you won't get on the wrong
side of the community or copyright holders.

We really are a forgiving bunch!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:22 AM EDT
I'll start: the location is Babson (not Bobson)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: iceworm on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:32 AM EDT

Just in case you can't see the anonymous posters...

PJ, please include the rest of Miguel's name (de Icaza) for those of us who know more than one Miguel. Thanks. iceworm

[ Reply to This | # ]

How to talk to the FOSS community - a fundamental issue
Authored by: cheros on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 03:21 AM EDT
Caveat: all IMHO, but I think I see a fundamental point of friction between the
FOSS "club" and those who'd like to deal with them. I'm aware I'm
opening a can of worms here..

As far as I can tell off the cuff there seems to be a a very clear correlation
between IT talent (software as well as hardware) and mild to severe forms of
Aspergers (an affliction in the autistic spectrum).

The expectation of business, however, is that 'techies' behave and think the
same as 'management' which is unrealistic. Learning about Aspies (as sufferers
sometimes call themselves) or AS could yield a much more profound insight into
what drives technical staff and what can be done by both camps to actually work
together. This is not to say that everyone with technical talent has AS but it
sure seems to be an upward trend (you may want to read the Wired piece about
Silicon Valley for examples - don't have the link handy right now). Aspergers
is not a debilitating affliction, depending on what style of work you have it
can actually help (high IQ and analytical talents are common - spot the
pattern?) and I've found over the years that those who are such equipped best
get on with people of similar ilk, and understanding the issue makes a lot of
friction disappear.

Just my two cents..

= Ch =

[ Reply to This | # ]

Elementary Classics
Authored by: Wol on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 04:06 AM EDT
For someone supposedly learned - he is titled "Doctor" - I am amazed
he doesn't seem to understand simple Latin/English.

"Programmers don't program for love. If they're not paid they're
amateurs" - "amare" - to love, "amateur" - someone who
does it for love!

Wol (who's just been presented with his Masters yesterday!)

[ Reply to This | # ]

The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting
Authored by: belboz on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 06:40 AM EDT
Novell : "If you want to make the SCO problem and the issue of UNIX in Linux go away, use SUSE Linux."

I don't like the phrasing of that. Sounds like the launch of a NovellSource programme.

Just kidding. (I hope)

[ Reply to This | # ]

How to work with FOSS ---
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 08:10 AM EDT
"After you listen, I would like you to help me think about how to make it
clearer to companies like that how to transition into FOSS interaction, and how
to make them feel at home. So if any of your brainiacs can help me think about
this, I would appreciate your input."

I think that there is actually a very simple and straight forward answer to

Above all else, be honest with people. I know that's a big nut to swallow for a
lot of companies, but .... just be honest with us, OK?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A myth that programmers code for the love of it?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 08:15 AM EDT
Fleury should take a look at his own employees.

I hope a very good friend of mine who I have known for years and worked with for
years won't mind me saying that he codes for the love of it more than anyone
else I have ever met.

He now works for jboss. In a previous job he simply left because he didn't love
the work any more despite having no other work lined up at all. He started
coding jboss unpaid and was only employed later on and is now very senior among
the jboss developers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting
Authored by: MadTom1999 on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 09:21 AM EDT
So thats Dr Fleury is it?
Now if I remember rightlyProfessor Einstein wrote his
special theory of relativity as an amateur so that says a lot about the quality
of Fleury's comment!

[ Reply to This | # ]

The amature FOSS programmer myth
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 09:50 AM EDT
Dr. Fleury, and and the MS spin machne that he so greatly admires, continue to
perpetuate the myth of the FOSS programmer as unemployed and unpaid. This is a
major misconception that we would do well to work to correct.

The basic fact that must be made clear is that only about 20% of the worlds
programmers, WORKING programmers, are employed by a software vendor or a
software development company. The rest are employed by end user companies with
any IT staff at all, or are employed by VAR's or consulting services working
directly for those same end users.

For the most part, FOSS programmers come from this second group. They ARE paid,
and they are frequently paid for projects that contribute to FOSS. Why, because
the so called 'itch' is frequently one felt by the programmers employer. The
programmer wins because he/she gets paid and supported to do what they were
trained to do. The programmers employer wins because they get the functionality
they needed without strings and restrictions. The employer wins a second time
because the basic application itself will continue to continue to grow and
evolve as other users add new functionality, created, by the way, by paid
programmers working for other end users. Of course, who doesn't win are the
commercial software vendors because they are frankly no longer needed.

Now just why would Mr. Fleury assume that only programmers working for vendors
are true working programmers and that the rest, and the majority, are dismissed
as amature trash?

FOSS is a sea change in software. It is here. It is proven. It can not be
stopped. Even MS's political and legal attacks will fail. Why? Because they
stand alone against a world of users; other business in other industries,
governments, institutions of all sorts, not to mention the sea of individual
home users. Any win for MS in these courts will immediately and drastically
harm every one else. The realities of politics will not let that happen. No
matter how much money and power MS has to use to attack, it is small and
insignificant compaired to the wealth and power of the rest of the world.

Software vendors can live and thrive in this new environment, IF ( and that's a
big 'if') .. if they can produce real value without distroying competition.
And they will have to compete within the FOSS ecology. Fortunately, we are
seeing most commercial software developers making that adaptation. Microsoft is
digging in for a fight to the end, it would seem. And then there's SUN which
just can't decide what it whats to do.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Matt C on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:27 AM EDT
Why do intelligent, creative people so often content themselves with caricature? San Francisco? Free Love? What does any of that have to do with software?

Did I imagine that or did a major OSS project CEO just defend his ideas by parroting the Open Letter to Hobbyists? What year is this?

Dr. Fleury, and anyone else who wants to sum up the monetization problem by saying "people don't write software for free", please ... finally ... try to incorporate some of the following qualifications into your argument:

  • people write a certain amount of software for free. e.g. version 1.0 of Linux. I do not think a red cent changed hands in order for that much to be developed.
  • people improve software for free -- note in Fleury's speech he acknowledges the superior QA obtained by free software, because of the distributed source.
  • If you could come up with a tool that organized these little bits of what-people-in-fact-do-for-free, a great deal of high-quality software would really seem to erupt "out of nowhere"
  • If you called this tool "The Internet" it would be frequently confused with an existing tool by the same name that accomplishes this.
Yes, 20 people who are paid to hack Linux now generate 80% of the code. Fleury cites this as evidence that no one builds software for free. But this code competes with the flagship product of a $270 billion company.

Surely there's room in Fleury's brain for e.g. SQLite, which I don't think anyone is paid to hack. Oh, and which is good software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Fleury - Authored by: fredex on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:55 AM EDT
    • Fleury - Authored by: Matt C on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:34 AM EDT
  • Fleury is confused - Authored by: Jude on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:57 AM EDT
  • Fleury - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 01:00 PM EDT
Businesses already use FOSS
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:55 AM EDT
You don't have to learn to communicate with businesses, you need to learn to
communicate with software development companies. I think businesses already use
FOSS. The companies that have a problem with FOSS are the software development
companies (FOSS competition). I seem to remember reading about Wall Street
businesses already using Linux either here or in computer world. The business
community is talking about IT as a commodity that you purchase. Whatever is the
lowest cost is what a business will go with.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting
Authored by: fredex on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:03 AM EDT
I was there that day. I took some notes and intended to send them on to PJ, but
it turned out there was so much more going on than I could possibly have made
notes on, I ended up not doing so.

I sat with "dani3l" (his grokhandle) and we had a nice time visiting.

There were MANY people there... I don't know the attendance, but the room must
have been around 3/4 full and it was a fairly large room. I didn't hear any
headcounts, but it must have been well over a hundred people. I was amazed at
the number of "suits", including Mr. Messman from Novell.

The facilities are awsome! the food and amenities were great! My thanks to all
the various businesses that subsidized the meeting.

There's talk (I don't know if it's on the audio files or not, haven't had time
to listen to them all yet) of where the SIG should go from here, and a number of
suggestions were made, including trying to get more FOSS project participants
involved, and getting Tim O'Reilly to present something.

It was fun and I look forward to the next one.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Session1 thread: legal/license issues
Authored by: rocky on Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:40 PM EDT
I think this might be a good way to organize some of the commentary on these
talks, so here is a thread for Session 1.

There was a great insight given by Karen Copenhaver in this first talk to a
group of (mostly) lawyers about open source licensing. She said that there is
frequently concern and disapproval from the legal-types that the programmers are
in some way "out of control" for just grabbing code when they feel
like it. She gave a pointed and thought-provoking question back to them.
"When you are going to write out a contract, how many of you just start
from a blank page?" She points out that lawyers very readily copy and
paste clauses from other contracts. She asked how many of the clauses in their
contracts came directly from Microsoft contracts, and did they know that all
Microsoft contracts until fairly recently were copyrighted.

Then she got to the main "why" which is the same for both. They are
peer reviewed. They have been used and looked at and held up to the scrutiny.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Dr Fluery
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 08 2005 @ 02:28 PM EDT
I was at the MA Software Council's OSS SIG Kickoff Meeting and really enjoyed Dr
Fluery's presentation. I think everyone, okay a few programmers, over reacted
to his use of the word amateur. An amateur is someone that is not paid and
conversely a professional is someone that is paid. In these 2 terms there is no
qualification to abilities. I think his point was that a paid employee has the
a lot more time and resources to apply to something than someone who is doing it
on the side. Of course physics professors don't always come off right, but this
part of their charm.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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