Open mouths and closed minds in open source

Open mouths and closed minds in open source

Summary: We all have our own frames, our own assumptions of hero and villain, and our first instinct is always to respond in terms of that frame. We close our minds, even in open source, and that's a problem.

TOPICS: Open Source

The recent legal dust-up between Oracle and Google has me engaging in a little self-criticism.

We were all very ready to condemn either side, even before we understood the issue. Paula and I leapt to the defense of open source. Others leapt to the conclusion that the suit would destroy open source and good riddance.

Neither is the case.

(Maybe nothing is as it appears. This is the logo of a popular southern California food blog. It just spoke to me as a statement about open source, and open source attitudes.)

Now it's true that legal language is hard and deadlines are constant. When anything happens, we are all under enormous pressure to get something out, now, before someone else grabs our page views. And it's best that we have a take, because heat is so good for powering the Internet machine.

But it turns out that Google didn't use the GPL version of Java for Android. They used a proprietary version instead. Then they modified that version and distributed it, again not under the GPL.

So maybe Oracle had a case. Sometimes a commercial dispute is just a commercial dispute. There are no great philosophical issues at stake here, other than the fact that Oracle used patent claims in making its case.

It may be that last which got us all going. The Roberts Innovation Tax is already doing its dirty work. Patent trolls are multiplying like cockroaches. It's just like the Obama Stimulus, except all it's stimulating are waste and legal bills.

I am not making a political point here. (Please put those rants against the President away.) I'm saying we all have our own frames, our own assumptions of hero and villain, and our first instinct is always to respond in terms of that frame.

We close our minds, even in open source, and that's a problem.

It's easier in coding. Philosophical arguments tend to resolve themselves. Either the code works or not, either it has value or it doesn't.

But all coders know colleagues who may be annoying, hard to work with, or just in over their heads. Getting around them in order to get the work done can lead to heavy drinking.

Unfortunately, in discussing issues of open source, right or wrong aren't so clear as they are in code. Would that they were. It's a lesson we should all remember next time news breaks. While writers might forget it, I hope you readers won't.

Topic: Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Well...

    Good article. You point out a lot about the FLOSS community which is sometimes true.

    However, in regards to Dalvik and Google Android's implementation of Java- this is a lot more convoluted. They didn't simply -base- their work on the proprietary model that was at one point Sun's. They basically made a JVM and own bytecode set akin to Java, but from scratch.

    If you want a better understanding of this I recommend looking up java.father's (oh you know who he is :) ) remarks about the suit. The topic is a lot more convoluted than that.

    GPL or not, the case is moot with several patents at least. There are two at least which hold some substance. I doubt there will be much happening from this case, mind you. Mixed-mode being introduced in 2.2 might cause complications, but this is minimal. Etc etc.
    • RE: Open mouths and closed minds in open source

      our own assumptions of hero and<a href=""><font color="light&amp;height"> about it</font></a> is bank that <a href=""><font color="light&amp;height">website</font></a> attacked from the <a href=""><font color="light&amp;height">site support</font></a> from any soldier <a href=""><font color="light&amp;height">site</font></a> to the light <a href=""><font color="light&amp;height">home page</font></a> is great villain
  • the closed minds are only

    at M$. Everyone using GPL is open minded.
    Linux Geek
  • Thought sure the title referred to the OSI

    When I saw this title, the first thing I thought was that it referred to the OSI: "Open mouths and closed minds in open source". There are way, way too many self-aggrandizing blow-hards in Open Source, who actually don't do anything except keep their minds closed and mouths open.

    The OSI is a bunch of hypocrites. When is the closed, private OSI going to practice what they preach and adopt an open governance model? Tell us, who elected the OSI board? Quoting Mark Hinkle, People need to remind themselves "that no matter what the users, vendors, or ... want the [OSI] board has no obligation to act based on their input." Basically, the OSI is accountable to no one:

    Matthew Aslett similarly understands the closed Open Source Initiative:

    Oracle has done the Open Source community a favor by killing OpenSolaris. It was a total waste of time, distracting the occasional developer who didn't know better from focusing on Linux. Now the people who were wasting their time on OpenSolaris will hopefully contribute their development time to Linux.

    Now if Oracle would just find a way to kill the closed OSI so we wouldn't have the irrelevant ramblings of a few self-appointed egotistical blow-hards that continue to make the Open Source community look like a bunch of amateurs. Maybe in the next round of OSI elections we can all vote out the OSI board. Oh wait, they don't have open elections. Never mind.
  • This is very good article

    I think more 'journalist' needs to do more research before they blindly defend Google
  • But at the end of day is Oracle REALLY a good steward for Java/FOSS?

    The more that I hear about Larry Ellison and the corporate culture that he $pawn$, the more that I am reminded of Bill Gate$ & $teve Ballmer. My greatest fear is that this is an indication of <b><i>more than</i></b> just sharp elbows on the part of Ellison & Co. What if Oracle's senior leadership concludes that FOSS is not merely <i><b>benign</b></i> to their business model, but is instead <i><b><s>antithetical</s> a strategic threat</b></i> to it?
    • Money

      Why wouldn't a public for-profit company focus on making money?
  • @archerjoe

    Well, sure... Good question- but poor context.

    The issue is not purely focused on 'making money'. The issue reverberates a bit past that. By attempting to restrict (in any sense, and this is an extrapolation according to current events) Java in any manner they are not only suffocating the community but future potential developers (or existing ones for that matter) from touching it.

    They are alienating the FL/OSS community, Java community, developers and licensed partners on a rather grand scale right now.

    "Why wouldn't a public for-profit company focus on making money?"

    Indeed. Why would they shoot themselves in the foot in pursuit of profit, only to have diminishing returns as a result of their provocative stance?