Karsten M. Self kmself at
Sat Sep 29 03:09:59 UTC 2001

on Fri, Sep 28, 2001 at 07:45:08PM -0700, Lawrence E. Rosen (lrosen at wrote:
> 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:

This problem is inherently a filtering issue, not a transport and
presentation issue.  Most mail clients, including those I otherwise
deprecate strongly, feature tools for sorting, filtering, and archiving
mail.  If automated tools aren't sufficient, a human filter, to trap
significant discussion and post this to a separate list, archive, etc.,
would be preferable.  My experience with Slashdot, Kuro5hin, and several
other boards suggests strongly that they would not be an improvement
over the present situation.

I'll be happy to share my own methods of organizing, reading, and
reviewing mail.

Another alternative would be to utilize a format that tends toward
self-organizing content:  Wiki or Everything2.  Neither, however, is a
good choice for issues in which an archive of discussion is desired, as
both tools are designed with a strong mind to refactoring discussion.

The problem space (one I've spent more than a small time thinking about)
is characterized by two conflicting desires:

  - Maintain a record of all discussion (or other relevant data).
  - Summarize, filter, and associate the most relevant data.

No one tool is going to answer both issues well.  Again, an online
gateway might be useful to some, but it's not going to replace the
existing system.  Ultimately, what a web-based tool does is remove the
ability for you (or individuals in the group as a whole) to be able to
effectively search, sort, and reorder data on your own initiative and
according to your own needs.

> (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?

You need a secretary.  A well-designed collaborative filtering system is
another option.

> That input needs to be structured so that it isn't buried in a
> chronologically-listed archive containing hundreds or thousands of
> emails.  

Mail is *not* inherently time-oriented.  It carries a timestamp.  It's
also imbued with an author, a subject, other metadata, and content.  In
all, mail is a structure that's well-suited to the rather fuzzy domain
of text-oriented databases.

> 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 matter.

I'd suggest an osi-board moderated list containing a "best-of" selection
from license-discuss.

> 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.  

Slashdot accomplishes threading discussions.  It also has a search
feature.  Both features are incorporated in a wide range of search

Slashdot's content moderation system is quite poor, resulting in a great
deal of under-rated comments and poor differentiation of comments
overall.  It was a specific point addressed by me in designing the Scoop
(Kuro5hin) moderation schema.  Slasdot has a simple filtering system
which *is* useful (Scoop's not yet implemented same). 

The fundamental problems of websites are essentially fewer points of
individual control, and a large single point of failure.

It should also be kept in mind that neither Rick nor I are known for
speaking our minds.



Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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