2011

This past week Mike Godwin, Jim Jagielski and I were elected to the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), replacing the term-limited Danese Cooper and Russ Nelson and adding one more board seat. We haven’t had our first board meeting yet, but it’s an honor and a delight to serve in such good company. It’s also exciting, because the OSI has decided, prior to this board election, to move to some kind of membership or affiliation model that will enable it to better represent the open source community at large. To say the least, I’m fully on board — sorry, couldn’t resist — with that.

The OSI is the organization that popularized the term “open source” as applied to software, and it has been the steward of the Open Source Definition ever since, certifying compliant licenses as open source so that there is single point of reference for the entire community. Those who don’t work in this field might not realize how important that is. You have to understand that there is relentless pressure, from both inside and outside the software industry, to dilute the meaning of “open source”. Many corporations and individuals have gotten the message that being open source is a good thing, and want to be associated with it somehow, while adding restrictions that favor their business or philanthropic model (or that they think favor their model, but that’s another post for another day). For example, they’ll say they’re using an open source model, and they’ll have almost open source distribution terms, but without the freedom to make commercial use of the software, or perhaps placing restrictions on derivative works.

Often these dilutions are innocent. Simply through inexperience, people sometimes don’t understand that all the freedoms must be present because they reinforce each other, and that picking and choosing among them doesn’t work. Keeping the open source definition clear and consistent — and explaining it to journalists, executives, government officials, educators, and others when necessary — has been and will continue to be important. But the OSI has to expand beyond that and, as Simon Phipps put it, act as a meeting point for global open source communities, who have a lot of concerns in common. The same pressures that require the definition of “open source” to be actively upheld affect more than just the definition: they affect the business, legal, and policy environment in which we collaborate on open source software. Obviously no one organization can ever watch out for the whole environment; that is the job of many organizations and individuals. But there are times when we need to come together and discuss an issue, or coordinate an initiative, and the OSI is a natural place to do that.

So this is going to be an interesting time for the OSI, and I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Many thanks to Russ and Danese for their long and dedicated service. I hope we new board members can do as well.

My old choir from Chicago, Golosa, is coming to New York City on Tuesday, March 22nd, as part of their East Coast tour. They’ll be performing a free concert, at 8pm at Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem (map).

If you’re in New York City, come! Golosa rocks. Don’t take my word for it — listen for yourself. There’s nothing else like them. They’ll have CDs for sale at the concert.

If you can’t make that concert, but you’re somewhere near Boston or New York, you may be able to catch them at one of their other East Coast performances, starting this Saturday (all shows are open to all ages):

  • Sunday 3/20, 11:00 a.m.
    Free concert
    Morning service at Old South Church
    645 Boylston St.
    Boston, MA.

  • Monday 3/21, 7:00 p.m.
    (with hosts Yale Slavic Chorus)
    Free, with optional donation
    House concert
    235 Dwight St.
    New Haven, CT
    This show will take place in a private residence; please RSVP to golosa@golosa.org if possible, but it’s fine to come even if you haven’t responded.

  • Tuesday 3/22, 8:00 p.m.
    Free concert
    Shrine World Music Venue
    2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
    New York, NY.

  • Wednesday 3/23, 7:00 p.m.
    (with Elm City Girls Choir)
    Free concert
    St. John’s Episcopal Church
    768 Fairfield Ave.
    Bridgeport, CT

  • Thursday 3/24, 7:00 p.m.
    $15, $12 for museum members (tickets available at the door, or call 978-598-5000, extension 17)
    Museum of Russian Icons
    203 Union St.
    Clinton, MA.

  • Saturday 3/26, 3:30 p.m.
    $15, $13 for Passim members (tickets available at the door or online at www.passim.org)
    Club Passim
    47 Palmer St.
    Cambridge, MA.
    This show will be webcast live, viewable at concertwindow.com/passim during the time of the show (EST).

This is not gimp’d or photoshopped after the fact — Comedy Central actually flashed it (for one frame only!) over Stephen Colbert’s face as he interviewed Salon.com journalist Glenn Greenwald about Anonymous, the inchoate online group that, among other things, attacks those who attack Wikileaks.

Got all that? Good.

My friend Micah Anderson has sharp eyes: he spotted this as he and Biella Coleman and I were watching the episode in real time, and later he went back to do a screen capture:

Or was it Anonymous themselves, tweaking Colbert? We may never know…

It helps to know that the Guy Fawkes mask is one of their symbols:

Okay, okay, I know. This birthday’s significance depends entirely on our use of the decimal system. Still, a quirk of natural selection (ten fingers) has lent a certain conventional weight to the passage of decades, and I won’t pretend complete indifference at turning forty in a couple of days.

Furthermore, I intend to use this opportunity :-).

A few people have asked me recently what I want in the way of gifts. Thank you! I’m touched… but some clichés are clichés because they’re simply the best way to say it, and that’s certainly true in this case: my friends and family are already the greatest gift I could ask for, and nothing else is necessary. Besides, I live in a small New York apartment; where would I put presents?

But I do know some places that could use a gift right now. And just to be clear, when I say gift, I mean ca$h money. Below are some charities I support; if you really want to give a gift, please give to one of them, or to a charity that you feel does good work:

(Yes, I run a non-profit too — but it would be tacky to suggest donations to that on my own birthday, so please consider donating to it the other 364 days.)

Produire du Logiciel Libre

One of the best things to happen to my book “Producing Open Source Software” was that people came along and translated it, notwithstanding the rather poor translation tool support provided by the book’s site.

Now I’ve gotten word that the French translation is not only finished — they wisely imported the book into the Framalang wiki translation system to better coordinate their efforts — but is even available in print. My hat goes off to the entire French translation team!

You can download the PDF or even order a hardcopy (15 EUR, print-on-demand). The “live” development version is in the Framalang wiki. Here’s the announcement from Framalang, and if anyone would like to provide a translation in the comments that’d be great):

Nous sommes heureux de publier cette traduction française de Producing Open Source Software. How to Run a Successful Free Software Project, dont le texte original est accessible sur ProducingOSS.com, dans de nombreuses autres langues.

Pour les habitués du genre, la plupart des How To — ou “comment faire…” — en informatique sont des compléments aux manuels de logiciels. En se focalisant sur des tâches spécifiques, un How to permet de montrer, par la pratique, comment se servir de telle ou telle fonctionnalité d’un programme. Dès lors, comment concevoir qu’il puisse exister un How to censé renseigner sur une activité éminemment sociale comme celle qui consiste à produire du logiciel libre par une stratégie de projet communautaire regroupant des programmeurs?bénévoles?

Grâce à son expérience du développement Open Source, Karl Fogel nous livre ici bien davantage qu’une simple marche à suivre pour qu’un projet voie le jour et ait une chance d’aboutir. Il s’agit en effet de détailler les éléments stratégiques les plus importants comme la bonne pratique du courrier électronique et le choix du gestionnaire de versions, mais aussi la manière de rendre cohérents et harmonieux les rapports humains tout en ménageant les susceptibilités… En somme, dans le développement Open Source peut-être plus qu’ailleurs, et parce qu’il s’agit de trouver un bon équilibre entre coopération et collaboration, les qualités humaines sont aussi décisives que les compétences techniques.

La traduction de cet ouvrage a obéi aux mêmes principes que ceux exposés par Karl Fogel. Elle fut le résultat de la convergence entre les travaux initiés par Bertrand Florat et Étienne Savard et ceux de Framalang, le projet “framasoftien” de traduction de textes libres.

En dernier lieu, c’est l’équipe Framabook qui se chargea de la mise en oeuvre de la présente publication. Les phases de relecture, de reformulation et de chasse aux coquilles furent elles-mêmes menées à plusieurs en utilisant notre chaîne éditoriale La Poule ou l’Oeuf, que nous tenons à vivement remercier ici. L’efficacité de cette ultime étape collaborative fut impressionnante, mais nous n’aurions pas la prétention de qualifier ce travail d’exemplaire. C’est pourquoi nous avons toujours besoin des “rapports de bogues” de la part des lecteurs, et pour cela, n’hésitez pas à vous rendre sur le wiki de Framasoft pour contribuer vous aussi à ce Framabook.

Merci beaucoup, team!

Screenshot of San Francisco

I have the best job [1]: among other things, I get to help cities (and states, etc) open source their software. Most recently, we worked with San Francisco Department of Technology to open source their Enterprise Addressing System — web-based software for managing the city’s master database of street addresses, tied to Assessor’s parcels and the City’s street centerline network.

See the blog post at Civic Commons for more. Comments there, please, not here.

Unless it’s a comment about how awesome my job is. Then please post it here :-).

[1] I work at O’Reilly Media on open government. Right now that means being largely seconded to the non-profits Code for America and Civic Commons, helping government entities do open source.

Apache Subversion   Apache Software Foundation

Thought I’d start off the New Year with a genuine rant:

A company whose programmers participate in Apache Subversion development has apparently decided it is somehow steering the whole project. Don’t ask me where WANdisco, Inc got this idea: they’ve been part of Subversion development for nearly two years now — they hired some people who were already Subversion committers, and to be fair, have supported some great work. But so do plenty of other companies (CollabNet, Elego, and Google, to name a few), and all of those other companies have managed to abide by the consensus-based, community-governed process that Subversion has always had (and that was re-formalized when Subversion joined the Apache Software Foundation in 2009).

The ASF has finally posted a response to WANdisco’s recent statements. More entertainingly — perhaps because he’s not constrained by the ASF’s need to take the high road — my friend Ben Collins-Sussman, who is one of Subversion’s founding developers, has posted a rather more acid analysis of WANdisco’s behavior: “WANdisco, ur doin it rong”.

Yikes. Happy 2011 :-).

Update: InfoWorld’s Paul Krill has now written about it (it’s a good summary, and both the facts and the quotes are accurate).

Update: And now Slashdot.