Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 3 Apr 1999 12:50:22 -0500

   Date: 3 Apr 1999 15:09:00 -0000

   I'm not sure I see how truly democratizing the OSI process could practically
   work.  Perhaps I'm just not cognizant of examples of democratic public
   control of private properties akin to trademarks.

I'm not sure what you mean by ``truly democratizing.''  I certainly
agree that having everybody vote on everything would not work.

   Successful control (and, therefore, proper treatment) of a property
   seems to always boil down to depending on only those who have a stake
   in that property's success being able to participate in the decision-
   making processes that affect it.

   When people need not demonstrate -- via fiscal investment, affiliation
   requiring time/commitment e.g. by being on an advistory board, etc. --
   their stake in the property before being permitted to vote on its
   disposal, however good the intentions of *some* might be, the process
   invites the participation, in great numbers, of those who desire to
   subvert the property.

I'm a member of a number of advocacy organizations.  These do require
some small monetary contribution.  They normally permit voting to
select a board, which then governs what the organization does.

Presumably OSI does not want to go down this path.

Offhand, I can think of one example of an Internet based advocacy
organization:  This group only claims to act
for those who have signed its petitions and pledges.

OSI could act similarly: they could encourage people to sign on to
their platform, and then act in their name.  In particular, they could
seek out well known people and convince them to sign on.  This would
give them a clear legitimacy in that they could honestly claim to
represent some large group of people.

Of course, hackers being a cranky lot, many people would probably not
sign, and small numbers, or any obvious holes in the list well known
hackers, might seem to weaken OSI.  I predict that OSI will not follow
this course.

There are organizations which do not claim to act for any particular
community, but instead to represent a particular philosophy.  People
listen to such organizations based on the eminence of the persons
involved and the worthiness of the motives.  I regard the FSF as such
an organization.  A non-computer example would be People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals.  These organizations have a clearly
stated mission and goal.  They act in the service of that goal, not in
the service of any group of people.  They have contributors, but those
contributors are assumed to support the goal; there is no democratic
input.  If these organizations stray from their path, they lose
influence as people perceive that they do not mean what they say.

Something along these lines is what I had in mind when I suggested
yesterday that OSI drop their claims to be acting on behalf of the
community.  I think this would be a very logical position for OSI:
instead of being the marketing organization for free software, they
could be be an organization which promoted the use of free software in
commercial organizations, or perhaps an organization similar to the
FSF which argued in favor of open source software rather than merely
GPL software.

Craig, I do understand your point about what can happen when people
with no stake in a process are permitted to participate in it.  On the
other hand, I feel that OSI has created a situation in which people
like myself who consider themselves to be part of the free software
community have a stake.

Ideally OSI could accept votes only from bona fide members of the free
software community, perhaps the class of people who have either chosen
to run a free OS or have contributed patches to some free software.
Then OSI could legitimately claim to act on behalf of the community.
Unfortunately, that seems rather impractical.

   *Partial*, or stake-based, democratization is possible, though.
   That's basically what every US corporation has at its core, for
   example.  And, OSI could, if it wanted (and had the resources),
   take polls of public opinion, which people seem, nowadays, to think
   of (incorrectly) as democracy in action.

Any sincere attempt to seek input from the community and act on it, or
even just to acknowledge differences within the community, would be
better than the current situation.

A friend wrote to me about this thread and said it seemed that my main
objection was that I wasn't asked to be part of OSI.  Perhaps others
think that as well.  Just in case, I'll state now that that isn't the
case.  I can honestly say that if I had not received my friend's
message I would never have considered myself as a prospective member.
If approached, I would of course have considered it, but I believe I
would have turned it down, or left, as soon as I understand the
situation of claiming to speak for a community but not accepting
control by the community.  In any case, serving on the board of such
an organization is not my style at all; my nature is to be an outside
critic, not an inside man (for one thing, criticism is an easier job).