Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Brian Behlendorf <>
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 16:31:21 -0800 (PST)

On 1 Apr 1999, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> The activities of the OSI are not technical.  They are political.
> When addressing technical issues, it is often appropriate for a small
> meritocracy to get together and determine the best solution in
> private, without interference.
> When addressing political issues, an open debate is best.  Sometimes,
> in extreme cases, it is even appropriate to use democracy.  Yes, these
> approaches are harder, time consuming, and even painful.  But it is
> the only way to truly speak and act for the community.

I agree with you, Ian, to a certain degree.

Let me start by saying - I found out this morning that my application to
the board of OSI was accepted, so my comments previously about what
direction OSI might want to consider have that context.  :)  I do have
some specific ideas in mind for OSI, and they are along the lines of:

a) how do we set up processes for creation & nomination of the board and
its posts to be able to more concretely claim we speak for a community
that can be identified

b) identify those things the board does/can do which are technical
in nature (like certifying licenses as valid Open Source licenses) and
bring a formalism to them, in ways that could mitigate the odds of a
blowup like we had over the O-S Summit and the APSL.

c) identify those things the board does/can do which are political in
nature (advocacy, coordination, etc) and learn from other groups out there
in non-technical spaces (like, say, the Sierra club) on how to approach

There is plenty to criticize today's OSI about.  But I think on the
balance, they've done a tremendous amount of good for this community by
generating awareness and informing people about what makes this system
work.  Now it's essential that OSI channel all that awareness and hype
into productive results.

Yes, Ben, this is about marketing; I don't think we should be ashamed to
admit that.  Unfortunately most people have a mental block that marketing
equals deceit.  That's a ball and chain we'll have to carry, I guess.

Finally, as for "open debate" - an unfortunate fact about gathering
consensus from an online community is that those who are most vocal about
issues can outweigh a hundred people who feel opposite but are quiet about
thier position.  In technical communities like IETF mailing lists or
bazaar-development projects, arguments are usually won by those whose code
is max(elegancy * performance).  In political communities, there are
usually no such direct metrics to evaluate arguments.  I agree that OSI
has work to do to address the elitism argument, and to figure out how to
better represent the community it claims to speak for.