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So. What Now?
Saturday, December 25 2010 @ 02:38 PM EST

I took a few days off from writing any articles, partly to try to make a serious dent in transcribing the Comes v. Microsoft exhibits. We're in the home stretch, and a quiet weekend, marking on a curve, is perfect. I know there's lots going on, other than work.

I also needed to take some time to think about the recent discovery about Novell taking money from Microsoft and contractually agreeing to show up at Open XML standards meetings and events. Should Groklaw stop helping people like that, I asked? Is it time to shut Groklaw down? If not, is there a way to carve out helping Linux and FOSS, which is what we are about, from helping self-interested executives and board members so that in essence we end up being used by them so they get larger piles of money because we worked ourselves to the bone and then they repay the community with such a deal as this?

Yes, I'm furious. Or I was. I always tell you the truth. And the truth is I felt used and abused. How could Novell enter into such a deal? Then top it off with selling 882 patents to a Microsoft-organized consortium? Why do I bother, I wondered? More seriously, I asked myself should I ask you to help? We're all volunteers here. No one pays us, and I feel a responsibility not to ask you to do anything that isn't worth doing. So I had to think this through.

If you note the dates in our Archives, March is when we were staying up 'til 4 in the morning covering the second SCO v. Novell trial in Utah, which started on March 8, and that same month Novell entered into this humiliating deal with Microsoft, agreeing to get paid in part for showing up for a contractually set number of OpenXML standards meetings and events. It was signed on March 29, the day before the jury ruled that Novell did not transfer the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights to Santa Cruz in 1995. Reading the excuses from a couple of Novell employees after the news of the work agreement broke justifying the deal makes me even more furious, because there is nothing they should say except, "I'm sorry we made the community look like we sell out for money." And they are not sorry.

I don't wish to help people like that.

But I love using the GNU/Linux operating system, and I'm offended by the scurrilous attacks on it. So, how to help Linux survive the rape and pillage the forces behind SCO intended when there are folks in the community doing such harm, whether intentional or not?

Is it intentional? Or does the heart find ways to justify what people want to do because they personally benefit? I leave that part to God. I can't read hearts. I analyze behavior only. But I see results. It's depressing to find out that community members are so easy to buy off, which is how I view it.

But, there we are. They are. And let's face it. There has always been a segment of the community who thought getting business involved in FOSS would be a good thing, even if some compromise had to make it possible. In some ways, it has been helpful, but in others, it's the problem. If there is one thing that covering the legal news for the FOSS community for nearly a decade has taught me, it's that most corporations in the IT field are a teensy bit disgusting, don't you agree? So when they join the community or at least seem to, they bring their ugly baggage with them, their way of approaching things. It's not the community's way at all. Novell is Exhibit A, and they aren't even the worst. Wall Street seems to have no ethics that I can discern. They seem to be willing to destroy anything if there's money in it, including the entire world's economy for their own short-term benefit, so why am I surprised? Being a public company means you have to deal with Wall Street, after all, and they are the way they are, so it no doubt was a complicated situation for Novell once Elliott made a play. Was Microsoft behind that too? Other dark forces? I don't know. But would it surprise you?

I watched an author recently talk about a book on Calvin Coolidge she's just written, essentially saying he was a better president than people think. Why? He believed in small government and he reduced the budget.

Calvin Coolidge. Lordy. If there is a top ten list of worst presidents in the history of the nation, might he win the top spot? He is definitely in the top ten.

On the same channel, I also saw an author, Ted Gup, talk about his book, A Secret Gift, the subtitle being How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression, which is about his grandfather, who gave away money during the Depression, in the most pure way, anonymously. Not even his wife knew he had done it. He had put an ad in the local Ohio paper, saying he'd give 150 families $5, in those days worth about $100, and if they had a need, they should write to him and let him know they needed the money. His grandfather was not a wealthy guy, but he had a heart and he saw so much suffering he wanted to do what he could. And he did, without asking for anything back. The letters brought tears to my eyes, literally. What people went through during the Depression is tragic, and Coolidge is the guy, after all, who was president when it happened because when government does nothing, people suffer terribly, because greed is not good. Heartlessness has real-world effects on real people who suffer in real ways. And they really did. Such letters!

So the fundamental question facing us is, now what? Is it worth bothering to do Groklaw? Hearing the author talk about A Secret Gift resolved the question for me. Being a decent person is always worthwhile, in all circumstances, no matter what others do or fail to do, and it's not about a reward.

There's a SCO appeal pending, after all, and just between you and me, the 10th Circuit is what people used to call "special", in that they do things no other circuit does, and I assume there could be more weird decision-making afoot that we'll need to cover to finish the entire saga. I hate not to finish after all we've done so far, but I'd rather cut off a thumb than help Novell cross the street at the moment, frankly. And while our motive isn't to help any particular corporate interests, the truth is, in this case, we can't help but help them because the facts and the law are on their side and always have been. So any evidence or information we dig up can only help Novell.

So here we are, in the midst of real life and at a fork in the road, and like so many decisions in life, it's complicated. But for me, I've decided to complete our journey. I didn't start Groklaw to get anything personally. I don't do it for money. I don't do it for fame. I do it to be effective. I saw a wrong, and wanted to help. If others misbehave, what is that to me? I didn't start Groklaw to cover SCO, after all. It was just a perfect case to use to show you how the law works, and that was my goal, so that geeks can help when cases come up where technical knowledge can help get things right.

So I'm going to keep going. I can't predict how much our work can matter. I've been amazed at all we've accomplished, way more than I ever dreamed of or planned for. And that's worth doing, no matter what others do. First, it's worth doing in the most pure sense of doing good because you want to. Second, spreading knowledge is always worth doing, even if, like teachers around the world, you don't ever know how your work will bear fruit years from now or even if it will at all.

We're in the Library of Congress, and we need to finish, I believe. It's in that spirit that I'm back to working on the Comes exhibits until it's done. So if there are no articles for a bit, that's the reason why, but Groklaw will continue. I'm disappointed in Novell, but I didn't start Groklaw for Novell, so I need to get over it and focus on the issues that matter to Groklaw, which have not changed just because Novell has made it harder to succeed. That's the bottom line.

Please help with the Comes exhibits, if you have moment. Go to this page and then click on the link, the third one in the list. I've finished the first page and should finish the second today. So move from there, find one that isn't done and post your work in a comment, ideally HTML in a plain text comment so I can copy and paste. If you find an exhibit that's too long, and you only have a moment, just describe it. That way if someone wants to find all exhibits on a particular topic, they can at least find out which exhibits to check out further when they search for keywords.

I know some of you are slipping away from relatives and hiding in the upstairs office or the basement to get away from the holiday activities for a bit, so why not take just one exhibit and do it as text for us? I'd appreciate it if you can.

Thanks, if you can. If you can't, I'll just keep doing them until they're done. But I know you'll help. You guys, at least, have never let me down yet. And I hope vice versa.


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