OSI committee rejects former founder Bruce Perens' membership application

OSI committee rejects former founder Bruce Perens' membership application

Summary: Over the weekend, Bruce Perens, who was one of the original founders of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) but now currently serves as vice president of developer relations and policy for SourceLabs, publicly expressed his dismay over the rejection of an application he filed to become a member of a newly formed OSI committee for dealing with the problem of open source license proliferation.

TOPICS: Open Source

perens.jpgOver the weekend, Bruce Perens, who was one of the original founders of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) but now currently serves as vice president of developer relations and policy for SourceLabs, publicly expressed his dismay over the rejection of an application he filed to become a member of a newly formed OSI committee for dealing with the problem of open source license proliferation.   In open source circles, the OSI is the consortium whose imprimatur must be applied to a software license before that license can be widely recognized as an open source license.  License proliferation has dogged the open source community because of how the dissimilar licensing language found in the 57 different open source licenses can prevent the free sharing of code between many open source projects.   In addition to co-founding the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond, Perens was instrumental in drafting the official definition of open source -- otherwise known as the Open Source Definition or OSD.  The OSI uses the OSD as a litmus test for whether or not a newly proposed license qualifies as an open source license or not.   A copy of Perens' public statement which was distributed to the OSI's license-discuss mailing list appears below.   Dating back to the public laundering of a disagreement between Perens and Raymond, Perens has not been involved with the OSI for some time now.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Perens told me that "even [OSI] board member Danese Cooper told me she thought I should have been on the committee."   In a phone interview today, Cooper acknowledged that she and Perens had a discussion two weeks ago at LinuxWorld in San Francisco and said  that she did intimate to Perens that if she was the committee chairperson, she might very well have put him on the panel.  However, Cooper also said she responded to Perens with the caveat that she had not yet discussed the matter with committee chair Laura Majerus who had much more intimate knowledge of who the applicants were and how the selections were being made.  According to Cooper, the OSI Board of Directors has been careful not to interfere with Majerus' chairmanship of the committee. 

Late today, I caught up with Majerus by phone and, although she clearly acknowledged that "Perens has made a substantial contribution to the open source community and to the OSI," she justified the application denial saying that she needed to keep the committee to a manageable size and that she wanted fair representation from the many sectors that needed to be represented including government, corporate, lawyers, non-lawyers, and women.  However, when pressed for what sector she felt Perens fit into and who in that sector was better qualified, Majerus was coy, only saying that she believed she picked the best candidates.  "We received a lot of applications and I believe the committee now consists of the most qualified people." Majerus said.  "But we very much value Bruce's contributions and opinions and, since the process is open and the minutes from the meetings are published, we hope Bruce will contribute by giving his feedback." 


Here's a copy of Perens' letter:

From: Bruce Perens <bruce@perens.com>
To: license-discuss@opensource.org
Date: Aug 21, 2005 11:46 AM
Subject: Bruce Perens rejected from license-proliferation committee.

I've tried diplomatic approaches to this for some months, and have been met with something between resistance and naivete. So, it's time to tell you about it.

Some time ago, I applied to be on the license proliferation committee. I eventually got a form letter from Laura Majerus saying that they had too many qualified people. When addressed through Mike Tiemann, Laura simply repeated her previous mantra.

Most of you will realize that I am uniquely qualified as the main author of the guidelines that OSI now seeks to interpret, and someone who has assisted many businesses and legal professionals in working within those guidelines since then. Two people with experience similar to mine but less in duration were admitted to the committee. There are a few legal professionals admitted. All others admitted are extremely worthy individuals, and have been working very hard at this, but I can't really say they are more experienced.

I've discussed this with a number of OSI insiders and professionals who are close to the problem. All said the same thing: having offered, you never should have been rejected.

And thus, I really have to question the process.


Bruce Perens

Topic: Open Source

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  • Ballsie Braud

    She'll be history. Bruce and the "real" people will start something
    new...as they should, move to the next level. Let that committee
    of followers/buerocrats slide into irrelevancy.
  • I'm with Bruce

    There's no one better to take this on. NO ONE.
    Roger Ramjet
  • What's his disqualification?

    Asking, not asserting.

    The issue could be open source becoming more corporate, with obstacles to profit being removed. But what do I know?
    Anton Philidor
  • Perhaps, just perhaps...

    Just because someone invented something, does it always make sense for them to be always involved in something ? Could it be possible that others can bring to the table a different angle ? a different view point ?

    Perhaps it's just that Bruce's focus/viewpoint no longer rans in the same parallel path as those of the OSI anymore ? Does one man makes an entire movement ? or does the movement evolve into what the 'market' would allow it to be ?

    Just thoughts and discussion points, not judgements.
  • Perens is Important

    Passing over Perens, the author of the DFSG (and thus the foundational document of the OSI) is simply stupid. Or could it be personal somehow? Or political?

    Majerus' publicly stated reason is implausible, to say the least. I can only imagine the real motive.

    Suffice it to say, that Perens' role as an OSI founder is crucial to the organization maintaining its roots. Knowing where you've come from, helps you to keep focused on where you're going to. I am not certain if any other founding members are on the committee, but without them, it would be difficult to see how the OSI could hold to its roots.
    • I should have mentioned that...

      ....Eric Raymond, tho no longer the President of the OSI, is on the committee. So is Russ Nelson.

  • Could it be...

    ...that he simply rubs people the wrong way? If so, then that's not a personal issue, it is a business issue. People who rub others the wrong way, whether out of stubbornness, ignorance, or just plain poor people skills do stand in the way of progress, especially when they are members of a committee.

    Like Anton, I am not suggesting that this is the case, but am simply putting forth the question. But I have read many of his essays, and he does come across as somebody who refuses to compromise for any reason. The fact that I generally agree with what he has to say would suggest that anything he may have written has not rubbed me the wrong way, but had I disagreed with him, I can imagine being rubbed the wrong way if I had to debate him in a committee. Again, let me make it clear that I've never met him so I don't know that would happen, but it does at least warrant putting forth the question.

    (BTW, RMS is an example of a person that I tend to agree with much more often than not, yet STILL rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps others feel the same way about Perens.)
    Michael Kelly
  • Could it be his extrermist views?

    Hmmm, going to be working with people from every cornert of IT includuding (gasp) for profit companies. Now as he has said repeatedly in a loud voice he wants to destroy all for profit software I can see why he is being given the bums rush. Don't call us, we'll call you???
    • When has he said that

      Would you care to provide a link to where he ever said that he
      wants to destroy "for profit software"? Otherwise I'm going to
      assume that you are simply slandering the guy.
  • Remember it was Perens who originally walked out

    of the OSI in the first place, explaining his reasons in this post[url]http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/1999/02/msg01641.html[/url].

    It sounds like the OSI have looked back and decided that his input, however valid, is also too damaging to the greater good.

    ...or they could just be miffed....