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From Ben Hyde <bh...@pobox.com>
Subject Re: sponsoring of asf: fud or truth?
Date Tue, 28 Jan 2003 13:55:33 GMT

Steven Noels wrote about BigCo take over rumors.

I get that question pretty regularly these days.  Big firms tend to 
think of the world in terms of what other big firms control - so 
understanding it's part of a mindset helps.  It is hard for people of 
that mind set to understand that cooperative development can be a real 
competitor to BigCo platform vendors.  I find it helps to point out 
that the Internet is enabling buyers to erode the dominance of BigCo's 
distribution advantages.  Buyers are self organizing - for example to 
expose product flaws and do product rates, or create content as with 
web sites etc.  That open source is no different; we are just software 
users self organizing to create the software we need.  That as the 
market grows big firms are discovering that's not a bad thing, that's 
just the way things now work.  That big firms are getting on board and 
we would surprised if they didn't.

I worry about those thank-you/sponsor for in-kind contributions.  How 
do you decide which in-kind contributions merit that public reward?  
How do you govern the editing of the page?  How do you avoid insulting 
contributors that are less demanding?  How did you decide that 10 
thousand lines of doc was more or less valuable than one delicate bug 
fix, two sweet feature enhancements, or colo contribution.  I don't 
think you can.  I don't think you should.

> are accounting records available?

I thought there were, I know we discussed having them be public in the 
first year.  It maybe that some reason arose to keep them underwraps.  
The short form though is they wouldn't help resolve this issue.  Most 
of our needs are met by donations in kind of resources - particularly 
the labor of the many kinds of community members.

> I was wondering what might be true (or FUD) about this BigCo funding.

It isn't true.  If you take the committers and distill out their 
employeer no firm has a significant slice of the pie.  If you take 
almost any class of contributors and do that you don't get a 
significant slice of the pie.  I'm confident that if somebody tried 
they could find a class that made the case for XYZ having a lot of 
leverage over something, but should that be a problem because the 
governance is in the hands of the members it would be fixed.

What has changed over the years is that the industry has become a lot 
bigger.  So there are a log of BigCo players in the industry.  The 
works of the foundation form a significant part of the inputs to the 
operations of some of those firms.  It would be dumb if those firms 
didn't choose to participate in the foundation.

A paranoid might be afraid that one day one of those firms would mount 
an attach on the foundation by staffing a large number of full time 
contributors.  These would act as moles.  They would labor away until 
we admitted them as members, then they would seize control of the 
board. etc. etc.  Of course at some point they would have to do damage 
to the license.  This vile plan would be very hard to execute on, since 
it require years of work and at would take place in the bright light of 
public view.  In the meantime the open source assets of the foundation 
would be growing stronger due to all those contributions the moles 
would be making.

  - ben


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