Enterprise Linux Log

Oct 15 2008   11:01PM GMT

Linux Foundation caves to pressure, closes summit to press

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

The Linux Foundation’s job is promote the use of Linux-based open source software, whose code is freely available for anyone to examine, modify and distribute as they please.

Yet the foundation’s first End User Collaboration Summit in New York City this week was closed to the press and the public, open only to guests by invitation.

Does anyone see a contradiction here?

While the purpose of the Linux Foundation is to promote the use of open source software, the foundation will hold a closed conference with several hundred attendees to discuss how to accelerate innovation in the platform.

In declining my request to attend the summit, the foundation wrote that “the end users there are completely paranoid about getting quoted in the press and made us close it.” The end users. That means the big IT guns in the audience. No doubt they came from many industries but had a heavy representation from Wall Street firms who like having access to open source code and modifying it for their own competitive advantage without allowing their rivals (who might be in the next seat) in on the secret. It’s a tight-lipped group.

Exactly how would the presence of the press infringe on the confidentiality of the conference attendees? Would it make them reticent to ask questions? Even with the press absent, their competitors were still there to pick up any nuance in a question. If the insistence on secrecy comes from the “end users,” the confidentiality problem would have been better solved by simply having attendees ask speakers questions privately, as I did to the CIO of Merrill Lynch following his keynote at LinuxWorld. (To his very evident annoyance, I might add.)

If the push for a closed meeting came from speakers, that’s bad, too. One summit speaker defended the closed meeting by saying his company requires advance permission to give presentations at a public event, and it makes such permission difficult to obtain. (That sounds like the recent Chinese Olympics, which created special locations for protests  but didn’t grant speaking permits.) How sad this is if corporations in the land of the free and the brave prevent their brightest developers from leading workshops and helping others because they might divulge corporate secrets. (And based on the workshops I’ve attended, that’s highly unlikely.)

Just this week, I struggled to find a user who would speak to me about his experience with a Fedora community project and a Red Hat spokeswoman explained that the Fedora project participants couldn’t speak to me either without getting prior corporate permission. (All this fuss over a new installer.)

Under the same principle of “protectionism,” what if the U.S. decided to close its borders to imports to boost local manufacturers and businesses? What if federal, state and local governments decided to close public meetings and decisions to avoid holding officials accountable for difficult (or slimy) actions?

I think the Linux Foundation caved on this issue. By closing the door on the press, it also closed the door to everyone except an elite handful. The thousands of Linux users who might have benefited directly or indirectly from the idea exchange and thought up new ideas on their own will never get that cross-fertilization opportunity.

Conferences on open source software should be open to the press and the public — period.

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  • Qqandary
    Ahhhh, No. Despite your investigative fervor, nobody owes you nuthin. Press rights or Privileges are not addressed in Linux kernel documentation, nor the GPLv2, nor any other license generally considered 'Open Source' that I'm aware of. I know of no body of law that delineates your 'right' to get up in somebodies face and weasel business plans and secrets. I do not believe that the simple act of delivering a Keynote makes anyone a 'public figure', and strips them of their expectance of privacy. If an organization comprised of individuals have concerns about confidentiality, They are well within their rights to limit who participates in or eavesdrops on their conversations. In this case, The Linux Foundation, is a collection of like minded individuals with common cause. You are obviously not of like mind, and do not share their cause. I see nothing about disclosure in their charter, and nothing about global announcements of innovations in their mission. and try though I might, I can't find a release schedule anywhere. Nothing within any 'Open Source' license I know of, grants you or anyone else any right to know how the code is being used privately. This includes 'in house' systems. Nothing prevents limited sharing of information (including code) directly between consenting individuals or organizations. Be they a pair of hobbyists or multinationals. If there is a commonality among all or most 'Open Source' licenses, it's that you can't sell or profit directly from the efforts of others. Nothing says you can't use it to create products and services of your own, or retain the value of your private modifications. If they make common contribution of things like bug fixes, home bred utilities, specs, or ideas, or even if they don't, it is exactly within the spirit and intent of the community. I specifically refute your disengenuous invocation of the term 'elite' as a profane epithet. These might be some high powered people, and perhaps not. But, they are 'elite' only insofar as they don't include you. You want to join the party? Apply for membership. You want to demand a press pass so you can scarf on the buffet? Not likely. BTW. I'm not a member either, and have no need or intention to join. I've been up to my hairline in 'Open Source', as a user, contributer, and stalwart community participant, probably longer than you've been alive. I run 'Open Source' throughout my organization. If you were to try to ask me what my secret sauce is, I'd laugh and call a cop. Why, is this central concept not obvious to you? Why are you not championing the supportive environment that welcomes contribution of any scale without demanding it? There are too many people around that treat 'Open Source' licensing in a cavalier, and even disdainfully haughty fashion. There are criminals unashamedly charging license to code not of their own making. or based on code they received under licenses that specifically exclude such charges. Go hunt them, and if you want for suspects, let me know. If you clam Linux, or 'Open Source' in general as your bailiwick, whence comes your insistence upon rights that don't exist? and the intent to enforce by proxy, rights of others that don't exist. Like any other Paparazzi, you're tryin to make money off hawking information you have no right to. And worse, you're naively, and unabashedly attempting to use your platform and flame words to coerce people that just simply don't want you around. We in the community, live by the golden rule. You don't like it, leave -- period.
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