Subject: RE: Fwd: Wall Street article on a new Cooperative
From: "Larry M. Augustin" <lma@lmaugustin.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 19:24:10 -0700

 Tue, 20 Apr 2004 19:24:10 -0700
Benjamin J. Tilly ben tilly@operamail.com wrote:
>Russell McOrmond <russell@flora.ca> wrote:
>[...]
>>   I am surprised that these closed groups of people in this "co-op" are
>> being discussed in this forum.  It is not the number of developers that
>> make a project open source, but the ability of a third party to be a user
>> and to fork the project entirely *outside* of any membership.
>> Organizations which allow internal-forks within a closed membership don't
>> seem relevant to this group, and are largely indistinguishable from
>> existing "software manufacturing" firms which are internally open.
>
>Why the surprise?  The list is about free software business.  It
>is of interest to us to know about both what is happening in the
>free world, and what alternatives we are likely to run into.  In
>particular, attempts at "partially open source" say a lot about
>what parts of the open source message are getting through (and
>which are not).
>
>>   Suggesting that this co-op is Open Source is like saying that a
>> dictatorship that has greater than 20 people in the governing council is
>> really a democracy.  It isn't a democracy unless citizens outside the
>> governing council have a vote and a say in the operations and makeup of
>> the government, not just existing council members.
>
>Nobody has said that this is Open Source.  Lots of people have
>said that it is not, and there has been discussion about whether
>this represents a step *towards* open source.  That is, will this
>lead to participants realizing that this strategy is better than
>what they had, but open source would be better still?

One of the arguments I've been making for years (and one that others
certainly made long before I started making it) is that Open Source provides
a framework for companies to cooperate on creating infrastructure software
that benefits all and does not provide a competitive advantage to any of
them.

Avalanche seems like a great first step.  Even if Avalanche is not Open
Source, I like that the founders are taking Open Source concepts and
applying them in a new way to solve their business problems.  (See Tom
Abate's recent SF Chronicle article.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/04/19
/BUGH865P5O1.DTL)  That's a positive thing for Open Source.

However, I think the real excitement comes when the member companies
contribute people dedicated to taking the software collected in Avalanche
and continuing to develop it.  Further, I would discourage members from
contributing dollars and encourage them to contribute developer time.
Otherwise, it's still a centralized, closed development process.  It's just
funded by member dues as a non-profit, rather than sales in a for-profit
company.

But if the member companies each dedicate a few people to working on
projects that everyone cares about, and those projects become open to the
whole membership, then it's not a big step from there to real Open Source.
The good news is that it sounds like the founders understand a lot of this.
I can't wait to see how it develops.

Larry