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

Richard Fontana richard.fontana at opensource.org
Sat Mar 16 18:26:24 UTC 2019

I just noticed that I mistakenly sent this only to Luis but intended
it for the list as a reply to this thread. Sorry!

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Richard Fontana <richard.fontana at opensource.org>
Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 4:39 PM
Subject: Re: discussion of L-R process [was Re: [License-review]
Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 2 (SSPL v2)]
To: Luis Villa <luis at lu.is>

On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 1:13 PM Luis Villa <luis at lu.is> wrote:
> [retitling and moving to license-discuss]
> On Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 11:44 AM Josh Berkus <josh at berkus.org> wrote:
>> 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 withdrawn.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.

It would be helpful if you could point more specifically to when and
how the discussion turned into a "screaming match". Maybe my standards
are too low but it seemed overall relatively civil to me.

I am more than a little concerned about the possibility that
opinionated, impassioned (but within the limits of civility)
discussion could get characterized as '"screaming", which could have
the effect of stifling debate and expression.

> 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.)

I agree with much of this criticism. However I am not sure why
SSPLv1/SSPLv2 is taken to be the case that points particularly to such
problems, if that's what you and Josh are getting at. There wasn't a
board vote for SSPLv1, because MongoDB withdrew it by proposing a
replacement following significant negative reaction not just on
license-review but in the larger open source community. There wasn't a
board vote for SSPLv2 because MongoDB withdrew it just days before the
board likely would have had a vote on it, specifically citing a
failure of MongoDB to achieve community consensus that SSPLv2 ought to
be considered an open source license (and I do not think Eliot was
referring merely to license-review).

> 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.

It's definitely worth trying, if someone can put in the time and
resources to administer (that's been the main problem with such
proposals in the past). I have no experience of using Discourse myself
and my impression is that it is aimed at different kinds of
discussions from the sort license-review aims to have. I've also just
become generally skeptical that new tools will solve what are
fundamentally social or political problems.

> (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],

I agree with Bruce here. What would it prove? Blue Oak is, as to its
content, both extremely simple and extremely non-controversial. Where
has the license-review process failed in the past with respect to
similarly simple, politically noncontroversial noncopyleft licenses,
apart from issues of delay and motivation (which I think the new
decision process discipline is helpfully addressing).

> 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.

CAL might be a better candidate, yes.

> This is not exactly a new idea; someone told me at OSLS that "even bugzilla would be better" than a mailing list,

Now bugzilla is something I am quite familiar with, and I have to
disagree. Tools like bugzilla are elitist in nature, in a setting like
this one. They are not familiar to non-technologists who may
nonetheless have important contributions to make to discussions of
such things as open source licensing policy issues. They are also not
designed for such discussions. They're designed for discussions of
*software*, and this is *not* software. I say this with some emphasis
because as you may remember several years ago I entertained the idea
that it would be obviously beneficial for license drafting to adopt
the preferred tools of developers for developing software. It may have
*some* benefits, but also many drawbacks, and I see now that
championing that viewpoint involved a lot of romanticization of
developers and open source development.

I do not think Bugzilla would be superior to a mailing list for
purposes of discussing the philosophical and policy merits of putative
open source licenses, no.

Then there's the exclusionary nature of some such tools. I recall that
one long-time helpful contributor to license-review said that he would
not participate anymore if OSI shifted away from mailing lists as a
primary discussion medium. Not only do some tools exclude
non-technical people, but they also exclude people who are relatively

For a while we were talking about using Taiga to aid in the review
process. I've never admitted this before even to the rest of the OSI
board but I had absolutely no idea how to use Taiga and found (and
find) it completely foreign and non-intuitive, as though it is
designed for a completely different sort of brain than the one I
happen to have. That's not the only reason why the OSI never succeeded
in adopting Taiga for license-review (again, limited time and
resources, volunteer board ... ) but I'm sure it was a factor. We have
many similarly relatively nontechnical people who participate in

> and I believe I've suggested GitHub here in the past.

See above. It may be easier in some ways than Bugzilla. But a lot of
nontechnical people have no idea how to use GitHub, or else for
reasons of culture, age, or professional background may find it as
non-intuitive as I found Taiga.


Richard Fontana
Open Source Initiative

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