[License-discuss] Discourse hosting

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Mar 19 23:07:20 UTC 2019

Quoting Thorsten Glaser (tg at mirbsd.de):

[GPLv2 Discourse codebase:]

> I’ve not looked at it, but many “open core” are not Free Software:
> they often reject patches that add features because they would
> reduce the “added value” of the commercial version, and some even
> strip comments or, worse, uglify the published source code.

Without commenting on whether open core codebases are Free Software,
certainly you are correct.

Back in 2001, the first sign outsiders to my firm VA Linux Systems / VA
Software Corporation had about the firm's proprietary intentions for the
underlying 'Alexandria' codebase was when suddenly VA started asking for
copyright assignment to outside community members' patches.  Loïc
Dachary of FSF Europe was alert enough to call attention to the change
and its implications, e.g., at
http://www.free-soft.org/FSM/english/issue01/loic.html .  VA continued
for an additional year to claim that open source code releases would
continue, but (to quote Niven and Pournelle), that turned out not to be
the case.[1]

As an employee who dutifully sidestepped conflicts of interest, I was
unable to (ethically) comment at the time, but Monsieur Dachary was 
absolutely correct and prescient, and not enough people heeded his
warning, such that most people were surprised a year or so later when VA
quietly removed repo access to the SourceForge code tree.  Multiple
community forks based on (differing) old snapshots emerged, a confused
situation that persisted until VA employee Tim Perdue, six months after
his layoff so that he'd be free of confidentiality agreements,
re-released the final open source SourceForge codebase as GForge.  Since
then, sponsoring firm GForge Group went open core and a second fork,
FusionForge, which now is the open source leader (at least, in, ugh,
PHP[2], at least as dreadful as Ruby on Rails but in different ways)
after years of confusion that would have been averted if people had
heeded Dachary's warning.

> Furthermore, the basic tenet can, and should, be extended to using
> Free Services as well. Services that don’t spy on you, and that can
> even be used by minors, ideally. I say this with my Teckids charity
> member hat on.

This would be a very typical part of the cost of outsourcing to hosted
offerings run by for-profit corporations.  I detail some of the other
typical costs in my Meeup essay,
http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Essays/meetup.html .  E.g., one many
outsourcers are slow to realise is:  'Oh gosh, I guess contributors who
aren't yet legal adults may prospectively no longer participate, because
$HOSTCO insists on a legally valid contract with every user.  Oops.'

[1] Dialogue from their novel _The Mote in God's Eye_:

  "Wrong,", said Renner.

  "The tactful way," Rod said quietly, "the polite way to disagree with
  the Senator would be to say 'That turns out not to be the case.'"

Some charged VA with making deceitful promises they had no intention of 
keeping and could not be enforced against them.  I find it sufficient to 
note that what my employer promised the community would occur turned out
to be very much not the case.

[2] Since 2011, SourceForge.net itself has run a Python rewrite of
Alexandria called Apache Allura, which is Apache License 2.0-licensed, 
and IMO it's just as well that GForge/FusionForge's PHP got abandoned.)

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