[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
Sat Mar 16 14:27:50 UTC 2019

Hi all -

Lots of great discussion here. Responding to a bunch of different messages:

On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 3:37 PM Bruce Perens <bruce at perens.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 12:26 PM Ben Hilburn <bhilburn at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 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.
> So, this is why I don't contribute technically to your organization, GNU
> Radio. I don't know as much about signal processing as Michelle Thompson,
> and would be more of a drag than an asset.
> License review is really complicated and my views have continued to evolve
> after 21 years of participation. <snip> So, IMO there really is a hump that
> people have to get over to be good contributors, and it is a significant
> one.

Thanks, Bruce. To clarify, I didn't mean to imply to that I think
*everyone* could meaningfully contribute to L-R. As you point out, in much
the same way that the vast majority of the world can't meaningfully
contribute to GNU Radio, I don't disagree that the same holds for L-R.

What I was trying to communicate, rather, is that there are people who
*could* make valuable contributions to the discussions on L-R and L-D, but
don't feel comfortable doing so because of aspects unrelated to whether or
not they have relevant knowledge, thoughts, and opinions to add to the

Due in part to what you point out above, actually, GNU Radio tends towards
Cathedral. We work *really* hard to make it possible for anyone that can
contribute to not only jump in, but feel comfortable and welcomed to do so.
It's not an easy problem, and in my experience, really takes a conscious
and dedicated effort to do well.

On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 5:27 PM Richard Fontana <
richard.fontana at opensource.org> wrote:

> <snip>
> That might suggest that if there's a loud voices problem, it is not
> about undue influence on *OSI*, but undue influence on the license
> submitter (i.e., the reaction to the license is so overwhelmingly
> negative that the license submitter informally or formally withdraws
> from the process).

I think this is an important distinction, Richard, and your point about how
most licenses that don't get approved are actually pulled from
consideration before being rejected by the board is an interesting point.

The one thing I would add, I think, is that based on what I've seen, if
there is a "loud voices" problem, then it's impacting not just the
submitter, but the discussion & debate process itself. As you (I think?
maybe it was someone else) pointed out in a previous thread, disagreement
is a natural and expected part of this process. I submit, though, that
L-R's process and rules should protect the submitter and the debate itself
from some of the potential negative effects being discussed here.

> This view implies that the OSI ought to be
> approving more licenses than it has been. Yet for a long time the OSI
> struggled to accommodate the view that it had erred in the past by too
> easily approving too many licenses (most of which were submitted by
> business interests, it should be noted), and there is still a
> viewpoint out there that the OSI should withdraw entirely from license
> approval because we have all the licenses we could possibly need. And
> there has also been much criticism of what some pejoratively call
> "crayon licenses" (I more charitably call them thought experiments)
> which characterize a lot of the license submissions.

Hm, I'm not sure I agree, here, that this view implies more licenses should
be getting approved. I'm in general agreement that license proliferation is
a bad thing, actually, and also think so-called "vanity" and "crayon"
licenses should be rejected. One of my principle points, though, is that
*especially* for licenses where L-R recommends rejection, our process and
debate really needs to be completely trusted.

On Sat, Mar 16, 2019 at 2:28 AM VanL <van.lindberg at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 8:54 PM Chris Jerdonek <chris.jerdonek at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 4:00 PM John Sullivan <johns at fsf.org> wrote:
>>> I think some of this can be done without changing tools. Just as an idea
>>> from someone who can't volunteer the time to help with it, each license
>>> application could be assigned to a caretaker responsible for maintaining
>>> a dossier/brief for the application, listing points raised in
>>> discussion, posted regularly to the list (more regularly than monthly,
>>> and with a tagged subject heading). The dossier becomes a collaborative
>>> document that people in the discussion can be asked to refer
>>> specifically to when making their arguments.
I think looking at PEP is a great idea. One of the things I really liked
about McCoy's original suggestion about looking at how F/OSS projects
handle code merging was the premise that we might benefit from being more
like a F/OSS project (sorry, McCoy, I meant to say this in my original

For what it's worth, we adapted the PEP process for GNU Radio, and have had
great success with it.

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