Open Source Advocacy: from hecklers to lobbyists

Dana Blankenhorn says “open source need lobbyists” (actually he didn’t mention free software hecklers). He observes that we need money to hire them because otherwise the law will always be in favor of the proprietary folks.

In Europe we faced (and we keep facing) very talented lobbyists working hard on a controversial political issue regarding software patents. As you might know patentability of computer-implemented inventions is not legal here yet, the reason for this is simple resumed by Florian Mueller in his “no lobbyist as such” (a must read):

After spending million of dollars,euros and pounds, company like IBM, Microsoft, Siemens and Nokia did not get their way. They were beaten over at their own game – a game called lobbying – by our group of mostly young people, sparsely funded, and formally untrained “freedom fighters” who staged a spirited resistance. Many of us seemed utterly unlike traditional lobbyists and yet we proved effective in the political arena.

Florian MuellerFlorian Mueller by duncandavidson

James McGovern answered back saying that Dana, and not only him, is part of the problem:

Maybe what he is asking for is to get some other body to spend lots of advertising dollars while not acknowledging that open source doesn’t really need traditional media to be successful.

Throughout his column he always talks about open source but never seems to segment thoughts on commercial open source such as Alfresco, Intalio, MySQL, etc from non-commercial open source such as Apache. Why not ask the question of media and its ability to simply be charitable in terms of advertising space?

I am not sure we need any charity, not even for open source projects that are not driven by a corporate actor or are under a big enough “umbrella”. Appropriating returns from Commons is critical indeed, that’s why we see many good open source projects with no advertising coverage, but people like Matt Asay, Matthew Aslett, Alex Fletcher, James Governor, Savio Rodrigues, Raven Zachary and of course James McGovern himself are already making the difference.

What about federating? Here I am dreaming about a sort of Gawker for Open Source..

Technorati Tags: Open Source, Commercial Open Source, software patent, gawker

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10 thoughts on “Open Source Advocacy: from hecklers to lobbyists

  1. Something this overlooks – and that was present in the CII Directive debate – is that as more and more companies depend on open source as the bedrock of their business, they will direct their lobbyists to act on behalf of the open source communities.

    I spent a great deal of time in support of lobbyists (as did my colleague Mark Webbink from Red Hat) patiently explaining to politicians and their staffs the problems with software patents as envisaged by Microsoft and the other pro-lobby members. In fact, I might even want to claim that our little informal alliance – Sun, Red Hat, Oracle, IBM and one other that prefers to remain anonymous – actually swung the interoperability argument that killed the Directive.

    This is not to say we don’t need lobbyists acting on behalf of FOSS projects directly. But don’t forget that corporations that grok FOSS lend can their weight to the cause.

  2. Dear Simon, thanks for your comment, I wrote a post about it, asking Florian his opinion too. Have a look and keep joining the conversation, you are always welcome.

  3. The questions Roberto poses to lobbyist Florian Mueller gave me to think about the current file format war and the role of medium/large European companies. It impresses me how many of them still have no idea of what mess the specification of OOXML are, how bad it will be for them on the market to have it approved by ISO. I also think that a stable lobbying group can be more effective at preventing damaging legislations.

  4. In my opinion what I call the file format war it is a very complicated issue. I would recommend Europe to adopt formal procedures to adopt IT products pretending to be compliant with this or that standard. Would you believe me that there is no product fully compliant with those specifications?

    Everyone talks about standards, but compliance it is a different thing!

  5. Microsoft will be involved in the patent pool for HD DVD as will every other company who has technology in it. The same is true of Sun Microsystems which developed Java for Blu-ray. Since patent pools have non-discriminatory provisions, no tie-in can exist with any operating system or who is licensing the technology. Every claim in the above paragraph is simply wrong.HDi is based on open web standards (XML) which makes it very easy for web developers to become familiar with it. This is the reason that there are hundreds of HD DVD discs (nearly every title) with HDi interactivity whereas there are less than 30 Blu-ray discs released that are using BD-J. BD-J requires a greater degree of programming experience, which is why the even the Blu-ray technical committee investigating HDi recommended it in place of BD-J, which had previously been selected.

  6. Hello Everyone,

    I just learned that Microsoft Offer to Buy Yahoo for $44 Billion Dollars and Yahoo turn it down. Does anyone knows why Yahoo turn this kind of offer?

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