An Open Source History Lesson & More with Patrick Masson

In this Sustain Podcast episode, we have Patrick Masson, who is the General Manager and Board Director of OSI (Open Source Initiative). Patrick gives some very interesting “nerd history” on Open Source Software.


@pia | @jdorfman | @RichardLitt | @eric


“I really think Open Source will take off once all the software companies are gone.”

“We need to have more joiners of projects than starters of projects. And so, again, there’s no real reason to differentiate any of these.”

:memo: Show Notes


Excellent, this is much better. Thanks! :pray:

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It seems like this version takes up more screen real estate. Maybe I should just make it text, drop the audio element?

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Are there any open source tools for automatic transcription? I would use one of those. There were several services, but because of sustainability problems I don’t see anything ready.

Zoom provides one but it’s hit and miss. The problem is removing the stuff our sound editor cuts out, formatting, etc. We would need to have someone dedicated to that task.

Snippet of what Zoom gives us:

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Patrick: Key reasons to get together was actually the label free software and there was a lot of confusion.

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Patrick: With free versus no cost and free versus liberty or or Libra. And the idea was to make

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Patrick: The development concept and software freedom more palatable to business folks who, who, if they were selling software probably didn't want somebody to walk in and say, hey, it should all be free and then they think cost or it had a context of

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Patrick: Beyond just the technology.

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Patrick: Broader personal freedoms and things like again, which a lot of companies may not want to have been, it may not have been too interested in getting into

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Patrick: So the term open source was coined. Well, technically, the term open source software was coined open source the label had been around before that it dates back from the earliest I could find is if this is all too much NERD HISTORY. You can edit.

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Richard Littauer: This is great.

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Patrick: You can actually go find open source intelligence as it as a reference to World War two and and apparently the US military and British military would use sort of publicly available information to assess

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Patrick: The success, which is sort of a strange word to say success in their bombing campaign. So as the price of oranges went up or or the lack of other

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Patrick: staples that were delivered via train or roads, they could determine whether or not their, their head bomb the bridge or something like that. So this open source intelligence.

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Patrick: Was the idea of publicly available information. So Christine Peterson, who was with the foresight foundation actually suggested the term open source.

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Patrick: And applying it to software again making the connection between publicly available and accessible information to the source code.

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Patrick: And it was really a marketing campaign again to try to capture the momentum of the Netscape communicator release and tailor a message that would be more palatable to business so they could engage with open source soon after that that was in February of 98

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Patrick: Within a couple weeks. Bruce parents had been suggested the, the use of the Debian free software guidelines as the initial template for the open source definition. The goal was to

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Patrick: Create a standard, if you will, around software licensing processes that we could sort of stamp a certification that said that if you met these 10 a lot the time it was nine nine guidelines than the license would be

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Patrick: Labeled open source guaranteeing permission first or software freedom to use that software and that was adopted and the first license was the then Netscape Public License.

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Patrick: Which now is the Mozilla Public License, but also existing licenses, like the GPO family of licenses and the BSD and those sorts of licenses. So that was the idea

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Patrick: You know, if we could, we could guarantee software freedom through licensing, we could cultivate the

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Patrick: Community of collaboration around software development and open source would be successful and in some way. I think that helped in where we are today because it seems to be open source of pretty successful

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Patrick: More history.

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Richard Littauer: No, I was given the chance for someone else to jump in.

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Richard Littauer: That silence out Paul um

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Richard Littauer: That's awesome. So you talk about, I didn't know that.

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Richard Littauer: That's awesome. I didn't know at all about the war that is super cool. The price of oranges. Everything seems to start with oranges. No, it doesn't. But certainly war.

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Justin Dorfman: Actually, yeah, it's a lot of innovation usually comes from war, I mean, I'm not advocating it but it's that when you said that I was like really as like that's that's a cool fact

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Richard Littauer: I mean, I know a lot of linguistic stuffs like NLP stuff came out of MIT, which came directly out of, like, you know, do D funding.

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Richard Littauer: So it's also kind of similar.

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Richard Littauer: You mentioned this phrase at the end building communities of collaborative contributors. Basically, which I think is something you're focused on very heavily at the OSI right

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Richard Littauer: You sort of lose that already with their 10 volunteers who are collaborating openly and that's that's volunteers is like that's awesome work that's God's work. Right.

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Richard Littauer: How do you see

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Richard Littauer: Open Source and communities of like collaborators changing in the, um,

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Richard Littauer: Can you talk more about communities of collaborative contributors

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Patrick: I'll step back a little bit touchy again on the history of the other side when they first started up. It was really about validating the collaborative network effect of many eyeballs. Right. The, the likenesses law. Many eyeballs may call book shallow or something along those lines and

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Patrick: There was this perception by and if people could see my air quotes I have them up now by professional developers.

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Patrick: That there was it that that open source software and community driven development was amateur work. It was hackers in the basement. It wasn't deemed high quality.

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Patrick: And in fact, that was often used by companies or organizations.

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Patrick: As a lever or to sort of pass doubt or fear, uncertainty and doubt but into open source communities like oh, that can't be that good. It was built by a bunch of wackos in

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Patrick: A basement and they weren't even paid. How could that be as good as our slick cellophane wrapped on the box there in the box on the shelf software.

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Patrick: And there are other issues around. Well who do you call there's no support.

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Patrick: Security if anybody can see the code and it's going to be more insecure. So they're all of these sorts of things. So the OSI really focused at the beginning on addressing those building confidence within communities to actually

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Patrick: Form and self organize and and and create the software that was really the first 10 years until I think Wired magazine in 2012 had a, I don't know if there's a cover, but it says, Open Source one. So I guess that makes it legit at that point.

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Patrick: And the shift in that second decade was really around how to help projects form and create communities.

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Patrick: What do they need to do, how they and not so much prescriptive or, or, you know, direction and this is the right way, but to share the variety of ways that communities conform.

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Patrick: To meet their needs offer their contributors, whatever it is they're looking for the advantages that that community might offer

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Patrick: And so that really became the focus, how to form create maintain communities. And now today with the growth of communities, you know, size works really around

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Patrick: I haven't thought of a better word, because this is sort of sounds like accusation but authenticity within communities, how do, how does both the community and those

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Patrick: Looking at the community.

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Patrick: Determined determine the authenticity or honesty or or even just practices of those companies. So you can think about

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Patrick: An individual I'm some developer who who is working on a technology or a tool or for some reason is motivated to join a community. How do I assess that community to understand how it behaves its organizational structure the roles that might be open for me.

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Patrick: Even cultural things, how to how to comments without getting yelled at, or you know what the bug reporting process is like or what the

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Patrick: Conferences or meetings or all those sorts of things. And then how do I ensure that those are those are aligned with whatever my

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Patrick: Expectations values assumptions are for what a quote open source software community might be like

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Patrick: So that's one perspective and that just importantly is is looking at communities and authenticity.

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Patrick: Within the organization. So how, if I'm part of a project already, how do I ensure that that person coming into visit discovers those things can assess those things and feels confident in joining

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Patrick: So that's today where we're really working on, because we're definitely seeing all sorts of

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Patrick: Activities and

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Patrick: Behaviors out there and organizations that are that are practicing some what I think personally and what the OSI

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Patrick: Has recognizes some pretty disingenuous.

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Patrick: Activity trying to capture on the success of open source leverage that success to further their own perhaps not to open the

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Patrick: Goal.

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Justin Dorfman: I think you call it open washing

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Patrick: Right. So that's one term, we actually

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Patrick: We have four terms now that shows the complexity of this issue is that we're creating a larger and larger vocabulary to describe the nuance of each nefarious actor

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Patrick: The

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Patrick: Open washing is really

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Patrick: Michelle thing came up with that. That's the first reference I found a bit Audrey waters also

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Patrick: References that

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Patrick: It's really a marketing scheme. So the idea with open watching is to associate yourself with the ideals. The ethos. The practices, the language.

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Patrick: The messaging of free and open source software in order to capture customers gain audience traction media attention, whatever it might be. And there's some pretty

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Patrick: Gross examples gross in both ugly and gross as in large examples of this.

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Richard Littauer: Like, no, no.

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Ops Open Collective: Thank you, Justin.

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Justin Dorfman: No, come on, come on. We gotta have some

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Justin Dorfman: Okay. I even think of that weight know you do have an open source project know what PA Dodo. What is an example like what recently, you know, I know, I know. Christiana shack on Twitter was ranting about a

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Justin Dorfman: Company, that's, I don't even remember or nor do I want to promote maybe it's not good. I get to promote them, I guess, I guess I understand where you're coming from.

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Patrick: You know, this also ties into a lot of criticism, the OSI gets if you look at our website. I think the quote is where the pragmatic

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Patrick: Organization and that and that a lot of the work we do is is when an issue comes up we reach out to the organization tap them on the shoulder and say hey you know

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Patrick: That add that you have about your new open source tool is it's not open source is not using an open source license. It's not or, you know, whatever it might be.

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Patrick: That's our first step is to to because honestly, in a lot of these it. It's not even that the case that maybe I came down too harsh on on the initially here because, without a doubt, the majority of people we contact are

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Patrick: Unbelievably excited about.

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Patrick: very engaged with and motivated by open source software and they simply may not have the they've grown up with it. And I don't mean that in an age thing. I mean that in a sense of

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Patrick: Their whole career has been open sources. The default, you know, if we want to say, look, you know, the OSI was super successful and by 2000 everyone was using open source are aware of it.

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Patrick: And that's 20 years of people using open source. So if it's the default. Now I can appreciate that many folks may not have the nuanced.

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Patrick: You know, because there isn't anything much more exciting than intellectual property and licensing for developers. So I you know I while I missed it by that they're

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Patrick: Not

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Patrick: They're not fully engaged in this I can understand that they aren't. And so their misuse of the open source label or miss application of licenses or whatever it might be. Without it out is more often related to

Zoom is not Open Source.