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

Smith, McCoy mccoy.smith at intel.com
Fri Mar 15 18:58:02 UTC 2019

>>From: License-discuss [mailto:license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org] On Behalf Of Luis Villa
>>Sent: Friday, March 15, 2019 10:13 AM
>>To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
>>Subject: [License-discuss] discussion of L-R process [was Re: [License-review] Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 2 (SSPL v2)]

>>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.

I’m with you that the mailing list is a non-optimal tool for conducting the process. Trying to search it, or try to follow which of the many subthreads may contain a particularly salient or interesting comments, is quite difficult, and extracting historical information is no small feat (although David Kappos’ article indicates that it can be done).

>>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.

It seems to me that the main criticisms being lodged are not with the tools by which the process is administered, but the process itself.  They seem to boil down (to my best understanding) to the following three complaints:

1.      A few loud voices have undue influence on how ultimate decisions are made [as a regular poster, that may include me].

2.      There is not enough variety of voices are being heard, or there is a “silent majority” whose opinions are not reflected in the eventual decisions being made or the discussions on the mailing list.

3.      There is a lack of clarity as to how the process of taking mailing list input and turning it into board decision output occurs.

As to those three, I’d respond:

1.  Other than some form of moderation (which I’m not sure there is a need for), I’m not sure how you modulate perceived loud voices.  In fact, I would argue that the louder you are, the more you run the risk of being perceived as unpersuasive (like the old lawyer adage: “when the law favors you, pound the law; when the facts favor you, pound the facts; when neither the law nor the facts favor you, pound the table.”)

2.  I talk about open source licensing with some frequency, and almost always suggest that people should pay more attention to, and chime in if appropriate, this process.  Infinite eyes make all license bugs shallow and such.  How one accounts for the opinions of a “silent majority” I have no idea, other than having some sort of anonymous voting mechanism (and would such a mechanism be restricted to OSI members – like board elections – or would it be open to anyone caring to vote?)

3.   I think Richard Fontana has provided some explanation as to how the decision process works – community input is gathered through the mailing list over a period of time, and then the board meets to vote when the input is clear and complete, and makes a decision.  If there is a better system (other than anonymous voting of everyone willing to vote), I haven’t really seen a proposal or have one in mind.  And it seems that at least the board elections (which close today) is one mechanism where people can potentially have input to how decisions are made in the current process.  Having a “more licenses should be approved,” “we need licenses to address new business models” or “I will represent the silent majority” candidate might serve to address the perception issue that not all issues or concerns are being fully addressed.

I also think it would interesting to compare whether decision-making on license approval is substantially different than the way in which decision-making is done for code contributions to large open source projects with maintainers (or subsystem maintainers).
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