Open source community needs unity

Open source community needs unity

Summary: commentary Last week in our regular News Perspectives newsletter, your correspondent asked what the next step was for the free and open source community. This week, I asked Linux Australia (LA) vice-president Pia Waugh to elaborate on her recent remarks to linux.

TOPICS: Open Source
commentary Last week in our regular News Perspectives newsletter, your correspondent asked what the next step was for the free and open source community. This week, I asked Linux Australia (LA) vice-president Pia Waugh to elaborate on her recent remarks to about code and culture in the open source community.

Waugh, a two-term president of LA, opened a can of worms at the conference in Canberra recently by calling on the community not to splinter into factions and interest groups, and lift its game in areas of common interest, such as documentation, advocacy and events.

If the splintering -- primarily between coders and industry advocates, but also threatening from believers in various types of development and distribution models -- continues, Waugh claims the community is easy prey for its rivals.

"We need to work as one big family," Waugh told ZDNet Australia . "There needs to be respect from both sides".

The most critical issue for the developer and community-focussed LA and its sister business-focussed organisation Open Source Industry Australia is -- as discussed last week -- the ramifications of the Australia-United States free trade pact on rules governing intellectual property matters such as patents and copyright.

"Linux Australia feels very strongly about [the FTA]," Waugh said. "We've put a bunch of work in and paid a lot of legal fees to understand its implications for the community.

"There is a large potential for destructive measures," she said, arguing these could cramp software development in Australia and hamper the local ICT industry's capacity to flourish.

However, despite the efforts of Waugh and her fellow-travellers in LA and OSIA, she is adamant their efforts are not going to be enough in the long term to take the open-source community where it needs to go. The collaborative "family" ethos must be reinforced by forging ties where necessary beyond the community.

"We call on the broader (ICT) community -- not just developers -- over the next six months to help educate our government so the legislation [enacting the provisions of the FTA] put into force is not too onerous," she said.

Waugh reckons the community has made solid ground to date by dragging vendors, non-government organisations and Australian-focussed bodies such as Software Queensland and the Australian Computer Society on board in lobbying efforts where common ground exists. It can even reach outside to non-ICT groups where justified she said, citing meetings last year with the peak generic drugs group over the patents issue.

"Change just doesn't come from fringe groups," she stresses.

However, Waugh's remarks are tinged with a degree of bitterness. Without naming names, she believes some well-funded, professional ICT lobby groups are not pulling their weight on the FTA issue.

"A voluntary and community-based organisation like Linux Australia should not have been put in the position of single-handedly defending such rights [rather than] broader organisations that this negatively impacts.

"We would certainly hope to work with broader organisations on this," she said.

From your correspondent's perspective, the message is unequivocal. Free and open-source community members must resist any temptation to divide into camps and adopt a personal agenda. There are enough potential crises threatening -- some which could cripple FOSS altogether -- for its members to have the luxury of putting blinkers on. The disagreement between two heavyweights -- Andrew Tridgell and Linus Torvalds -- over the BitKeeper source code management tool is just one reminder that unity, while not easy to come by, must be prized.

Iain Ferguson is ZDNet Australia news editor.

Topic: Open Source

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  • Because the geeks are fighting themselves it must be Microsoft's....the USA FTA agreement that has caused the issue. Nothing like bringing a left field thought to de-focus the question. The question was why there seems to be a fracture in the open source world, not why has Microsoft... USA FTA forced the split.

    There are those who think it should be all for free and shared IP etc, and those who want to feed the kids and run a profitable business based on a concept. The two are not mutually exclusive but unfortunately the industry is very immature or full of the immature (not sure yet). It is typically the loudest geeks who drive the noise level, the vigorous ABM world, and cannot see past their own focus to see what the real world is about.

    They all seem to forget...the application and operating system choice must be the best one to solve a business problem, not just one or the other because of religious fervour, and not everybody needs to hear the doctrine.

    Reverse engineering a piece of software to steal the existing IP is not being inventive it is just theft. If it is protected by being owned by a developer then that should be respected and the rights purchased if you want to extend ot access that unique thought. The developer can choose to sign away a cost and release it if they want, but they should not be forced too.
  • A Realist from Darwain,

    buy some clue.

    You say:

    "Reverse engineering a piece of software to steal the existing IP is not being inventive it is just theft."

    That is just plain 100% wrong.

    If you don't know that much at least, that in almost all countries, reverse engineering and interoperability engineering are totally _legal_, and accepted business activities, then your remaining comment should be viewed with contempt.

    One reads fear and panic in your voice.

    It's as if you cannot compete with open source software.

    If you can't stand the heat, get out of the market.

  • Buy some mean pay for something isn't that against the principals of shared IP amongst all. Sorry but you can't have your IP and eat it.

    fear and panic not at all, I am a realist and I undersand what a business requires to survive and grow, it is the right application on the best platform to support the application. I am agnostic when it comes to this space, but a realist I am.

    I will not enter a religious discussion with a zealot becuase it is pointless and gets you now where. It is like discussing religion with an extremist they cannot see any bodies point of view but their own. Whether it is proprietary software from Novell, Sun, IBM or Microsoft, or freeware from open source it must always be the right app on the best platform to run the app. Anything else is business suicide.
  • Realist,

    luckily I don't actually need to rebutt any of your comments.

    All readers need do is read the logical and spelling errors in your post to make up their own minds about your value to the discussion.

  • buy some clue....great use of language yourself. You could use "get a clue" or "buy some clues" but using Asian English isn't much better than my bad spelling
  • Realist, my mother told me never to have a battle of wits with an un-armed opponent.

    And since it's (now) almost mother's day, I'll honour her request.

    Hvae a good life.
  • No problem, just let me know where to order the pizzas from, have a good life and lets see some of your code adding value to the open source community