Linux Australia ponders name change

Linux Australia president John Ferlito has asked the community of Australia's peak Linux body whether it's time to change its name, eliciting a strong response.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

Linux Australia president John Ferlito has asked the community of Australia's peak Linux body whether it's time to change its name, eliciting a strong response.

"We think it is time for us to change the name of our organisation to have it more accurately represent the focus of our community," Ferlito wrote in a message to members last night.

Ferlito added that the organisation is now over a decade old, and its day-to-day operations are no longer accurately defined by the name Linux Australia.

"Linux Australia has been around for over 10 years, and we are no longer an organisation focused mainly on Linux and running [the organisation's annual conference Linux.conf.au] each year. All of our members use or contribute to open-source projects in one form or another. Linux Australia has also become involved in open-source and open-culture events that are not specifically related to Linux," he wrote.

To get the ball rolling on the organisation's name change, Ferlito suggested that Linux Australia change its name to Open Source Australia.

Ferlito and the Linux Australia council called for discussion on the matter, and, since sending the original email 18 hours ago, Linux Australia members have been caught up in a heated debate over the issue. Over 30 responses have already been submitted, some proposing new names in support of the change while others spoke out against the proposal.

Some said that the proposed Open Source Australia name is too similar to Open Source Industry Australia, and could lead to community confusion.

Other names suggested by the community overnight include Free Software Australia, Open Communities Australia, Open Technologies Association of Australia and Linux and Open Source Australia, which one poster pointed out has "the unfortunate abbreviation LOSA".

Anti-name-change advocates said that changing the Linux Australia name would destroy the brand identity and goodwill associated with the name that the community has spent 10 years building.

"The name is well known and respected for [the reason that it's been around for a decade]. I'm -1 for any name change," said Noel Butler of the proposal.

Others disagreed with the suggested new names, as many of them used the words "free" and "open" in the wrong context.

"I really don't like the use of open at all — too many closed products sold with that terminology. Looking at the [standards of conduct] in front of me, [I see that] OpenGL, OpenVG and OpenMax [are all] closed binaries! And free can be just as confusing, and both open up religious wars," wrote Paul Shirren, a poster who is largely in favour of a name change.

Jon "maddog" Hall, executive director of Linux International, added his two cents, proposing a measured solution to the name-change debate. Hall said that instead of changing the name outright, Linux Australia could modify its logo and tagline to be more inclusive of various open-source communities in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Have you thought about keeping the name, but strengthening your by-line of 'Representing Free Software and Open Source Communities'? For example, you create a logo that has the Penguin feet and Linux Australia as you have currently, but create a circle of the words 'Representing Free Software and Open Source Communities' and put that around the logo?

"I also remember a while back, there was talk of being more inclusive in another way, and joining with the New Zealanders. If you do change the name, you might consider that issue, too," Hall suggested.

While Linux Australia is in line for a possible name change, Ferlito specified that the organisation would keep the Linux Australia name and the linux.org.au domain name, while at the same time keeping the name for the annual open-source conference, linux.conf.au, due to its wide brand recognition in Australia and New Zealand.

"Linux.conf.au is our largest and longest-running conference, and we don't believe we need to change its name. The reputation and wide recognition of the LCA brand is important to the future of linux.conf.au," he wrote.

Torvalds awarded

Meanwhile, in international Linux news, the father of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, was named as one of two recipients of this year's Millennium Technology prize from the Technology Academy of Finland.

Torvalds got the award for his creation and contribution to the Linux project.

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