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

Ben Hilburn bhilburn at gmail.com
Fri Mar 15 19:24:57 UTC 2019

Responding to McCoy's e-mail in-line:

> 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.”)

For what it's worth, I think if the decision process was more clear &
transparent, it would be easier to tell whether or not "loud voices"
actually do carry undue influence. As things stand now, I think you could
construct pretty strong arguments going either way - which is a huge part
of the problem.

The other half of this is community & discussion moderation, which I think
is also a very important point, but also worth its own discussion.

> 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?)

So, I think I'm actually a fairly good example of this. I do not consider
myself more knowledgeable than anyone I've seen post on the lists in the
last few years. I'm not a lawyer, and if anything I would say I'm much
_less_ knowledgeable about some of the finer details than most of the
active contributors. That said, and indeed even for those reasons, I think
my opinions regarding many of the discussions could be some of the most
helpful. But, I have rarely wanted to participate in the debates.

My point, here, is that it's important and good to say, "the process is
open and anyone can contribute," but that doesn't mean that everyone
actually feels welcome to do so, or that their opinions would be valued.
I've heard from others who have echoed this sentiment as their reason for
not participating, as well.

> 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).

One key difference, here, is that almost all maintainers (whether for full
projects or partial subsystems) exercise absolute authority. They obviously
see and consider input from the developer community, but ultimately they
make an executive decision about whether or not something gets merged.
L-R's decisions are markedly more complex, I think.


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