Sorry Simon, but you're still screwing up

Summary:No one person, inside or outside Sun, should be plotting its open source strategy. You can guide it, you can concentrate your own energies at key points, but there is no I in team. Open source requires team-building.

Simon Phipps at FOSS India 2007, from the FOSS.IN blog
In an interview with Builder AU Sun's chief open source officer, Simon Phipps, admits that Sun "screwed up" regarding open source. (The picture is of Phipps speaking in Bangalore from the official Sun FOSS.IN blog.)

But he isolates the "screw-up" to 2001-2002, when Sun was still a proprietary company. This is like a candidate for re-election blaming the problems he faces on a predecessor from the other party.

The fact is Sun is still screwing up. Offering open source licenses for key products is not all there is to an open source strategy. Transparency, community, and some ceding of authority are also required.

Sun has not done that. Java, and mySQL, are not really being run as community projects, according to all the reports I get from community members. They are being run as Sun projects. (Please, Java developers, hammer on me if you disagree.)

That's not how open source works best. The community demands a major say in the development direction or it won't follow. And if you don't have followers you're not leading a parade, you're just marching down the street by yourself.

What Sun needs to do is recruit community members to plot the direction of its products, take what they say on board, and show some transparency. Listening is the key, not talking. A corporate board of advisors would also be nice.

No one person, inside or outside Sun, should be plotting its open source strategy. You can guide it, you can concentrate your own energies at key points, but there is no I in team. Open source requires team-building.

If Sun fails and blames its failure on the open source community it sought to control rather than work with, it will have told the world the biggest business lie ever.

But that's the direction we're going in, still. And that's a pity.

Topics: Oracle, Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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