[License-discuss] discussion of L-R process [was Re: [License-review] Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 2 (SSPL v2)]

Luis Villa luis at lu.is
Fri Mar 15 17:13:26 UTC 2019

[retitling and moving to license-discuss]

On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 11:44 AM Josh Berkus <josh at berkus.org> wrote:

> On 3/12/19 11:18 AM, Richard Fontana wrote:
> > On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 1:31 PM Josh Berkus <josh at berkus.org> wrote:
> >>
> >> If nothing else, SSPL was a serious license proposal and deserved
> >> serious consideration it didn't get.  THis was a dramatic failure of the
> >> license-review process, and I think shows that this group needs to be
> >> reconstituted.
> >
> > Josh, I'm honestly really puzzled at your reaction. Looking at the
> > license-review archives from the point in time SSPLv1 was submitted, I
> > believe there was quite an energetic and serious discussion about the
> > OSD conformance of SSPL from an unusually wide variety of commenters
> > including several who don't normally post here (which continued to
> > some degree after SSPLv2 was submitted). Look at Lukas Atkinson's
> > summaries of the discussions. I just don't see a dramatic failure in
> > *this* case.
> I'm talking about the last month of discussions, before the SSPL was
> withdrawn.  I don't think the submitters consider that serious
> discussion, and I *know* that folks who have been following L-R don't.
> I'm at OSLS now, and literally within 10 minutes of posting that I got
> two people coming up to me and saying "thank you for posting that".

I was not one of those people... because I had tuned out this thread some
time ago, since it looked to have degenerated into a screaming match. I'm
weighing in now because people came up to me at OSLS and asked "what did
you think of Josh's post?" I'm pretty sure I'm team Josh, but do have some
perhaps constructive suggestions (below).

> The OSI only has authority to the extent that we are widely regarded as
> an impartial arbiter of what is and is not open source.  It's important.
> And on the SSPL, we are *not* widely perceived as fair or impartial.

I'm not sure I would go this far? But I would critically say that the
current "process", such as it is, permits no way for an outsider to make a
reasonable determination of the quality of the process, or to join
constructively in the process.[1] Specific issues are not listed/tracked;
summaries are monthly while discussions may be relevantly (or irrelevantly)
argued in minutes; etc. And of course mailing lists, as a technology,
encourage discussions that look like screaming matches: only the bluntest
of moderation tools; poor search; no way to quietly "+1"; etc., etc, etc.
(Lots of citations here

This is a spitball proposal, so feel free to propose something more
constructive, but I'd suggest standing up an OSI Discourse instance, and
moving future discussions there. In particular, I'd suggest use of
Discourse's more wiki-ish features to establish standing lists of known
issues with a particular draft, easy tracking of initial (and updated)
rationales for the license, and probably other things I'm not thinking of.

(One could imagine many other alternatives here, but I'm specifically
suggesting Discourse because it is (1) open (2) easily hostable and (3)
actually existing. Any solution that requires writing and maintaining
custom code is, I presume, beyond OSI's capabilities at the current time.
I'd suggest that any counter-proposals need to meet at least #2 and #3; up
to the OSI board if #1 is also a hard requirement or not.)

I'd happily submit the Blue Oak Model permissive license as an initial
guinea pig for such a process[2], and suspect (though have not talked with
him about it) that Van would also happily experiment with such an approach
for his (much more complex, requiring much more discussion) CAL.

This is not exactly a new idea; someone told me at OSLS that "even bugzilla
would be better" than a mailing list, and I believe I've suggested GitHub
here in the past. But I think the recent discussions, which have turned off
many people, suggest OSI badly needs to step back and rethink not just "the
process" but the underlying tool.


[1] I do not think that the participation of new people on license-review
during the SSPL discussion is very indicative of anything - as best as I
can see they were mostly drive-bys, which is exactly what you'd expect
given the intense, high-volume discussion and difficulty of extracting
context unless you're essentially a full-time license geek.

[2] I have no current plans to submit the license primarily because I am
too busy to have a massively inefficient discussion on license-review. But
I'd be willing to make that time commitment if I thought it was helping
prototype something new and better.
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