Rule By Community

When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, there was a lot of (warranted) concern for what would happen to the Open Source projects that Sun started, supported, and championed. Though the acquisition began years ago, now, I think we're still in the process of figuring out how all of this filters down. The concern, largely grows from the fact that while Sun licensed a lot of work under free and permissive terms, and was an active contributor to communities, Sun (and now Oracle) remains the ultimate owner of that work moving forward. Thus, Free Software/Open Source projects are somewhat stranded because the leadership of these projects were supported by Sun, are supported by no one.

In response, there's been a lot of movement among these projects to formally establish "rule-by-community" systems, that give community contributors authority and voice in the management of these projects.

Nevertheless, it feels a lot like writing policy to save oneself from the mistakes of the past. It also seems like an action of democracy fetish rather than bottom up democratic organization. I'm always struck by how not democratic open source projects are, in practice, and how little this matters. Python and Perl are iconic examples of this, but most other projects have one or two people who are in charge of everything, and while they know that their "rule" is subject to the confidence of the community, their leadership isn't terribly democratic. I think this recent event in the org-mode community is a particularly useful example.

Maybe Sun was inflating an Open Source bubble of sorts, maybe corporate-sponsored open source, and community/consultancy-sponsored open source are different things that need different sorts of approaches.

comments powered by Disqus