Subject: Re: The merger: a user's perspective
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:39:46 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Bruce" == Bruce Perens <bruce@perens.com> writes:

    Bruce> Cygnus' problem, paradoxicaly, was that they had too much
    Bruce> financial history to be percieved well in an IPO. Nobody
    Bruce> would expect, based on their past performance, that they
    Bruce> could become a superstar. It's sometimes better to have
    Bruce> _no_ track record, it gives people room to believe.

    Bruce> If that sounds stupid, don't blame me. The market is only
    Bruce> sometimes logical.

The market's evaluation of Cygnus _is_ logical (although not
necessarily accurate).  If it sounds stupid, blame only your ears.

If it sounds venal or greedy, well, that's what markets are for---to
channel greed and venality, hopefully in socially productive
directions.  I see a lot more than mere venality in this merger, of
course; I expect that the usual suspects will come forth to assign the
whole "blame" to greed, though.

Nonetheless, I'm sorry to see Cygnus, a standard-bearer in the free
software community despite its detractors, lose its independence.
Despite my personal political-economic leanings, I do see the free
software community as a core constituent of the open source movement,
and as a source of great energy.  I wonder if the merger will have
some effect to diffuse that energy.  I hope not.

But I'm happy to see a new stronger standard-bearer for the open
source movement.  I think it will be really interesting to see
whether the "the economics of open source will drive the market to
open source" theories that ESR among others promote will actually be
reflected in the market process.  In particular, I will be very
interested to see if resources (programmers, money, whatever) flow
from finance-rich Red Hat to Cygnus's free projects, or if Red Hat
raids Cygnus's projects for talent to support its branded projects.

Having raised those possibilities, I hope that people will not be too
quick on the trigger in evaluating the results, and especially not
organizational changes.  I can see, for example, the merged company
unifying the glibc development teams.

Now, it doesn't necessarily matter whether glibc gets put under the
"Red Hat Linux" division or the "Cygnus" division.  What matters is
how much independence the project maintainer gets to make decisions
that are good for glibc, as opposed to good for Red Hat Linux.  This
independence could be enhanced if he ends up reporting directly to a
strong executive in the RHL division who will protect him from
unreasonable demands of the Linux integration team.  It could be
decreased if he ends up as a second-tier leader in the Cygnus division
whose immediate boss sacrifices glibc independence in return for, eg,
a larger budget for eCos and gcc.  (Hypothetical possibilities aside,
I do think something like putting glibc development in the Linux group
would be a rather bad sign; but it's not conclusive.)

Also, I expect that the merger will cause communication problems for
projects maintained at Cygnus and Red Hat; mergers usually do snarl
the internal communications somewhat and thus the external ones
(including bugfixing etc).  Of course it shouldn't go on too long; but
some confusion wouldn't be unnatural, and the community should be
supportive rather than critical of the project maintainers caught in
reorganization for a decent interval.

Discussion is good; I suspect that neither Red Hat nor Cygnus is
completely sure what to do next, and certainly they do not want to
alienate the free software community.  I hope people will strongly
advocate what they think is good practice for the merged company,
while withholding judgement on the merger itself.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."