Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at
Sat Sep 29 02:45:08 UTC 2001

Since I've been perhaps the strongest internal advocate within OSI for a
forum-based license feedback system, and I'm sensing not much support,
let me make my case publicly.

The current email-based license-discuss is not helping the OSI board
evaluate licenses.  Indeed, I just discovered that at least one board
member is so inundated with email that he doesn't even subscribe.  The
problem -- as I perceive it -- is that the discussions are of two
entirely different types, and the fire-hose-like email barrage combining
those two categories is reducing our effectiveness at absorbing the
content of the messages:

(1) Discussions about licenses are the most important immediate function
of license-discuss.

(2) Discussions about other issues (legal, political, philosophical,
etc.) about a wide range of topics are invaluable to the community but
don't often affect license reviews.

BOTH categories are important and I don't want to reduce the dialogue in
any way.

But considering the first category only, license submitters and the OSI
board need a way to obtain focused feedback on specific licenses.  The
board needs to know, does License X comply with the OSD?  If it does
not, what provisions of the OSD are violated and why?  If it does, are
there any other specific comments about that license that would help
companies decide whether to use the license or to accept software
licensed under it?

That input needs to be structured so that it isn't buried in a
chronologically-listed archive containing hundreds or thousands of
emails.  Otherwise, the input will inevitably be ignored by those
members of the board and by the community who haven't the time or
patience to weed through the archive for the few important comments that

General discussions about other issues are extremely valuable input for
the OSI board's other role, which is to influence the evolution of the
open source movement.  Discussions, even flame wars, can result in
ultimate consensus on things that matter to us all.  All I ask is that
we not bury the license discussions among those other important emails
in such a way that both are ignored or useless.

My original proposal was to implement a slashdot-like interface for
license discussions.  I gather from some of your feedback that that may
not be the best way to do it.  I have already given my feedback to our
webmaster and the board on the current implementation, which is that,
unless we also send email for each individual contribution to the
threaded discussion list, the web-based license-discuss site will seldom
be visited.  But perhaps we should take a new design look altogether.
Remember, please, we have a volunteer webmaster so asking for a totally
new interface is probably not going to be reasonable.  

Let's all step back from this and address the basic problems: How can we
create a focused online mechanism where members of the community can
review and comment on specific licenses?  Can we do that in such a way
that we don't also choke off the more general discussions that enrich
our community?

I'd like to hear your suggestions.

/Larry Rosen

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