Sharing my statement of intent for Open Source Initiative 2021 Board election

Hi all, this was first published on the Open Source Initiative Wiki. In light of the election update this year, I wanted to share my platform and statement of intent, since there are many voting members of the Open Source Initiative in our community.

My platform is below:

I appreciate any re-sharing or boosting of my platform. It would help me a lot! Also, if you have questions or want to discuss something about my platform, please add a comment to the blog post. This will make it easier for me to manage discussion in multiple places, and also easier for others to read questions and my answers.

Thank you!


You got my vote, thanks for running!

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In your letter you openly praise Coraline, but don’t mention RMS? How do you intend to resolve such conflicts?

Hi @abitrolly, I prefer to take questions on my blog so it is visible to more folks. If you have follow-up questions, it is a good conversation to take to the comments, since I don’t want to go too far off-topic from Sustain OSS here.

I guess I am wondering, is one supposed to mention RMS? :man_shrugging: I didn’t feel the need to center him in my statement of intent.

Conflicts in which way? Inter-community conflict between Free Software, Open Source, and Ethical Source? Or interpersonal conflict in another way? I’ll humor the question, but it reads broadly to me.

If you are aware between conflict of RMS and Coraline and choose to praise Coraline, who don’t mind using f-words like and you support to call this behavior Ethical, then I can’t support you. If you don’t have weighted opinion about the impact of RMS for open source and free software, or afraid to say it, then I don’t think you deserve to be on a board. Sorry. That’s just my opinion.

I think that your job at advocating Open Source at UNICEF is more important and impactful than these stories. Take it further to UNDP, and you’ll make more for Open Source than OSI could do in nearest future. Not a personal advice. Just telling that OCI already did its role. It may rest in peace as buddhists say. Making copyright a system with opt-out could be a next big story, but no OSI and no other organization involved into license games will do this.

I do have a weighted opinion and never hid it. I have spoken at conferences around the world, telling the story of how Richard Stallman founded the GNU Project with a clear set of values in 1983, then the Free Software Foundation in 1985, and even after, the first draft GPL in 1989. I presented at FOSDEM 2020 with @Nolski where I shared the same history and reflected on how we got to where we are today as a movement:

In the image I used on my statement of intent blog post, I am presenting in Tirana, Albania to the Open Labs Hackerspace’s first “Linux Weekend” in 2017, where I shared the same history.

I feel an accusation that I do not have a weighted opinion about RMS feels like a bad-faith argument, because I have always had a weighted opinion about RMS. My opinion has changed over the years, from how teenager-me first perceived him as a leader—until he emailed me, and then that changed.

I chose not to center him in my campaign.

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I appreciate your concern for my role because I know that you care.

However, I think you underestimate the perception of Open Source within the wider United Nations system. Most UN technology is deeply embedded in proprietary software contracts in place since the early 1990s, not long after the GPL was first drafted. Consider for a moment that Microsoft has an entire division just for UN Affairs:

There is a lot of good that our Sustain friends employed at Microsoft do for Open Source. Microsoft is lucky and privileged to have the visionaries and FOSS leaders they have in their Open Source Program Office. However, Microsoft still stifles Open Source in the public sector.

It is not really the fault of anyone, it is just the way it is. Microsoft was first. It’s just a fact. The question is, what do we do about it? That is a question I want to begin answering.

I might add that the voice and advocacy of Free Software was surprisingly quiet in the public sector in the 1990s. This depreciates my view of Richard Stallman’s perceived impact on Free Software. It reinforces why I chose not to center him in my campaign. It renews my appreciation and gratitude for the Open Source Initiative, and it is part of what compelled me to run in the first place.

I skimmed over the content, but could not find “stallman” or “RMS” in the text. Wrong link?

Thanks for your response. I appreciate your past achievements, but let me bring your attention on the fact that you chose to ignore a significant challenge that divides the open source community at this present moment. At the same time you choose not to ignore Coraline, who is equally (if not more) controversial with much less trail impact on the engineering side. I would say that’s a perfect example of a cancel culture which you would bring to OSI if elected.

Yes, I encountered the lobbying of Microsoft and Oracle quite often in public sector in my country as well. It is interesting kind of corruption with banquets and seminars that are common for any commercial partnership, but much more effective on people who are serving in public offices on fixed salary, and who don’t have much fun and business trips otherwise. They quickly became the advocates of anything that treated them as people. I don’t think that OSI legal path can provide anything like that. But UN/UNDP knows how to bring people together and make better social systems making public sector and citizens work together. Regardless of the perceived corruption that they may have (because they do not operate on their own money) UN/UNDP still have the good goals and the publicity mechanisms that help to outline the reason why corporation are doing bad things, as well as mechanisms to prevent that, and direct the resource towards more pilots and data in building open source infrastructure. I won’t be surprised if Microsoft now advocated that they are the open source, and I don’t think that any lawyers, at OSI, or not, could prevent them from saying so. But the impact on local development from Microsoft owned open source infrastructure and country owned open source infrastructure is drastically different. In the first scenario country prepares corporate workers for Microsoft, in the second they develop the engineering culture. And the way UNDP people who I know would do this, is that they will explain it to the people inside Microsoft why they need to invest in engineering and diversity, rather than in themselves.

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I mistakenly thought I included Stallman’s email response in the blog post. Since I did not, I included an excerpt of his response in 2015 here, when I reached out in the aftermath of the Bukkit GPL / DMCA fiasco.

I do not ignore, but I consider the impact of my words and actions while also remaining true to my own values and beliefs. I choose not to center RMS because I do not believe his continued presence as a leader is moving us forward as a movement. I think his visible presence on the FSF Board of Directors harms Free Software advocacy globally.

I do not believe RMS is an effective leader of the Free Software movement. I believe we deserve better from people who have a great moral responsibility of representing and advocating for the commons and the community.

If my belief that RMS should not remain in a position of leadership in 2021 is considered “cancel culture,” then so be it. I hold a core personal belief that RMS is not an effective leader, and instead of arguing about whether or not he is, I think we have more productive conversations by not centering him all the time.

When can we go back to talking about copyleft and the goals of the Software Freedom movement? I think the OSI is in a good place to be a leader in these conversations. It is a reason why I am running.

I do. That is another reason I am running. The United Nations doesn’t fully comprehend what “Open Source” means. I don’t want UNICEF or another UN agency to write their own definition of Open Source either, but that is not something I have much control or a say over. :slightly_smiling_face: Yet it does not feel effective to write a similar thing to what has already existed for 23 years.

If a UN agency goes ahead and writes their own definition of Open Source… what does that mean for everyone else who has already used the phrase “Open Source” with a specific meaning for 23 years?

I hear you. This is where the Digital Public Goods work fits into the puzzle:

The problems you point out are some of the same problems I have in my mind. We have different viewpoints on how to accomplish them, or at least in how to discover new solutions to these existential problems.

In my candidacy for the OSI Board of Directors, this is the perspective I want to bring. I want to bring the experiences, wisdom, and observations I have made at UNICEF into the conversation. I also want to bring a learning mind, in order to grow and better understand from others who have been at this a lot longer than me.

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Hey folks,

I’m just catching up on goings on here and thought it was worth acknowledging:

  • that the subject of conversation here is both devisive and difficult,
  • that we are all dealing with more difficulties right now, and that can affect how we might convey or interpret one another’s comments

that said, Sustain does have a code of conduct and while it might be designed for in-person events I think the general principles should apply here too.