Governance and responsibility

Eric S. Raymond esr at
Sun Sep 25 22:07:19 UTC 2005

David Dillard <david_dillard at>:
> Everything you just wrote makes the case that people OUTSIDE the
> community believe you speak for the community.  None of it says that
> people inside the community feel as though as you speak for them.
> I sincerely hope the distinction isn't lost on you.

To repeat:

> > We know that the community entrusts us with certain important 
> > jobs by its behavior.  Most hackers will refuse to work on 
> > projects without an OSD certified license.  Major project 
> > sites, including SourceForge and Berlios, reflect that policy 
> > by not accepting new projects under non-OSD-compliant 
> > licenses.  That's a pretty good indicator of the community's trust.

What else am I supposed to count?  The number of times a week I get
mail thanking me for what I and/or OSI are doing?  The frequency of
invitations OSI Board members get, individually or as a body, get from
organizers of open-source conferences (as, for example, FISL in

How about this: *you* tell *me* what would be acceptable as a metric
of the community's trust in us as gatekeepers and spokespeople.  Stick
do something behaviorally measurable and possible, please; requests to
display some sort of invisible pink unicorn will go to /dev/null.
Within that constraint, I have every confidence that OSI will peg the
meter whatever you pick.

But no, we're not going to please everybody all the time.  Hackers are
such prickly individualists that 5-8% of them will reject the idea
that they can be represented by anybody they didn't personally elect
for the job.  We're aware of this problem.  Personally, I sympathize;
I'm an anarchist myself. and *I* might be that prickly if the
situation were reveresed -- I freely admit this.

The best service we can do the community is to benignly ignore this
problem and represent that reflexively-disgruntled minority *anyway*
as best we can, along with the other 92-95% that are happy with us.
Accepting that we will piss some people off on principle even as we are
knocking ourselves out to serve them is part of the job.

And, in a sense, this is a relationship that neither OSI nor the rejecters
has much choice about any more.  What do you suppose would happen if I
personally or OSI corporately announced that we would no longer try to
speak for the hacker community, starting next Wednesday?

Here's what would happen: the entire world outside the hacker
community, and about 90% of the community, would treat that
announcement as some kind of brain fart or temporary insanity and
*keep right on calling us* for all the same old reasons.  Because what
we do is desperately needed -- give it three weeks and we'd have the
same tide of press calls (from outside) and conference invitations 
(from inside) that we do now.

Success at what OSI has been doing has a momentum of its own.  Frankly,
when I hear someone say "You don't represent the community", I'm hard
put to it to suppress helpless laughter.  You have no idea -- I mean,
anyone who can say that has no idea -- how very little choice 
*anyone* involved has about that at this point.  OSI itself included.
		<a href="">Eric S. Raymond</a>

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