How open source advocates beat themselves

Calling someone else "IBM Stu" or "Microsoft Dave" is what gives vendors their power over open source.

It's a story I heard from every European open source advocate I talked to over the last three weeks.

"So-and-so (name or institution) is in the pocket of so-and-so (Google, Microsoft, IBM). "

When I probed further, they mentioned some contract or other the person or group had with a large company. Further probing revealed a demand for disclosure, a disclosure they were curiously unwilling to offer for their own work.

Fact is, we all have to make a living. Even open source advocates. Advocacy groups need cash to keep the doors open and the servers humming. The problem occurs when the need for cash becomes assumed corruption.

Here at ZDNet we have strict disclosure requirements, and our statements are always just a click away. It's important for you to know who butters our bread, and disclosure helps us bring you "players" -- experts with income and access to inside knowledge -- rather than just raggedy journalists (like me).

I have not updated my own disclosure for some time. Since joining ZDNet it has been my soul source of income. My dearly beloved has a a good job far from this beat so I can afford it.

But there was a time, long before ZDNet, when I did some consulting. A company I worked for had contracts with some very big vendors indeed, under strict non disclosure agreements (NDAs).

I learned a lot from those contacts, about the decision-making process within those clients. Did it make me their lapdog? Not at all.

My point is that the assumption of corruption in others does grave damage to the cause. The use of rumors -- calling someone else "IBM Stu" or "Microsoft Dave" -- is what gives vendors their power over open source.

Rather than complain, I might suggest that advocates disclose instead. Tell us who you have worked for, who you are working for, where your bread is buttered. Never mind any NDAs -- we just want the name.

That will improve your credibility, and we'll let the other guy (or gal) worry about theirs. OK?

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