Posts Tagged ‘ftf’

LinuxWorld wrap-up

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Two days of LinuxWorld have left me tired by happy. I ended up giving two talks, because Karsten and I made it a double on wednesday and then on Thursday I had another one on best practices in license selection for Free Software projects (one-line summary: pick one that is consisten with your business strategy). The Open Source pavilion at LW isn’t all that large, so 14-20 people as an audience fills it.

Besides giving some talks on licensing topics (FSFE hat), I sometimes stood around the NLUUG booth and handed out posters for the next NLUUG conference — spring 2010, topic “System administration.” Very traditional for an Open Systems and Open Standards organization. And aside from that, wandering around a trade fair with four themes — Linux, Storage, Security and Business Tools — is an education in itself. I try to make clear at the start of every conversation that I’m not a sales opportunity, as that seems to avoid wasting time for both of us if I run into a hard-sell booth (still, the one stand that asked “How many workplaces does your company have?” and then “Well, you have less than five hundred desks, you’re not interesting, goodbye!” — I never even found out what they were selling at all.) You can still get conference goodies though, so I got home with a nice collection of peppermints and flashlights for the kids.

Return to blogging

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Fell quiet for a bit there. After ferreting out some anti-blogging quotes written fourty years or more ago, I headed off to the UK. Lincoln, which does have a very nice cheese shop as well as a cathedral. There was ale and innuendo — and a blind taste test to see if Stella Artois is actually different from Beck’s — as well as some planning of interesting Free Software things. I have another research paper to wrestle with now, for one thing. Returned home to sad news in the KDE community. I will remember Matthew as the guy who inexplicably got me not one, but two horse whips — which I take to most conferences ever since.

I didn’t take the whips to OSiMWorld, though, because that didn’t seem like the right kind of event. More suits and ties, less silliness. Although Lefty tried, with his pub quiz. Last year, the Roaming GNOMEs won, this year it was the “Intelligents” — big Intel / Atom presence at the show. The European Legal Network team came in third, which is reasonable. The available knowledge on the team was dramatically skewed: sports were clearly our worst category.

For the OSiMWorld conference itself, I must say it was fun to meet some more Trolls and troll-alikes, chat with a bunch of people from GCDS, like the Igalia guys. Saw some very nice Linpus desktops. What impressed me most was the attention to detail — the visual feedback on user actions, the clear organization of the desktop. Something that comes from understanding the target audience and the limitations of the device. Similar efforts at polishing the user experience are the hundred paper cuts. Chatted a bit with the Canonical folk about that. But the attention to detail and tailoring for more specific uses is something that takes a way a bit from the general purpose computing model, and moves towards appliances. When I was shown a nice Atom-based MID (mobile Internet device), my response was “ooh! cluster of x86 build machines!” which is very much not their purpose. Pointing to Lefty again, he summarizes arguments against the Desktop, some of which were presented at the conference itself.

One of the things that surprised me at the conference was the number of people who “get it” from a Free Software and business perspective. Free Software asks you to play by the rules (that’s a link to the GPLv3, but of course there are other rules you can agree on: MIT/X11 rules, or APLv2, or others). Many of the people I spoke with at the conference understood the importance of licensing and of working with — or at least not against — the communities that produce the Free Software they use. It struck me that there is an increase in what I’ll call “business-led Free Software” alongside “community-led”, and that the management styles and processes of the two are quite different. Heck, talking about management in a community context always makes me a little queasy, call it leadership instead.

I had a nice chat with Peter Vescuso of Black Duck about license compliance and processes. We seem to have a common desire for understanding of licenses and license interactions and working with the implications of license terms for projects and businesses. For Free Software projects — community-led — the desire is for long term safety and stability and protection of the principles that the members of the community around a project want. Pragmatism is necessary to understand how people in multiple fields of endeavour interact. Idealism is needed to start the ball rolling.

It’s planned to be a busy week or three for me with conferences and articles, so somewhere in between I hope to write about some of the other interesting technical and legal stuff that is happening.

Working Week

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Today closes out my first week of working “for” the Free Software Foundation Europe; the word “for” is in quotes because there is still some formalization left to do. Still, the FSFE — and more particularly the Freedom Task Force — is what occupies my time during the week. In terms of response times, that means I’m on call for FTF things during working hours in western Europe. “FTF things” includes planning and executing educational services around Free Software licensing, facilitating infrastructure activities and managing FSFE’s legal affairs; as a whole this is aimed at the promotion of proper use of Free Software.

At the same time, this has an effect on the other Free Software work that I do. My day job is the FSFE, and KDE issues (primarily the OpenSolaris porting work) are going to move more strongly to the evening hours, something like 9-11pm. So do not necessarily expect responses to KDE things, especially bug reports or requests for testing, during the day or while I’m traveling on business. It’s just so easy to get distracted by, say, fiddling around with Qt creator. KDE legal affairs may be compatible with business hours, depending on the topic. What I really need is a green, a purple and a blue hat to indicate what thing I’m working on at any given moment. Maybe I should file a feature request for KMail, disallowing access to certain mail folders during the work day; that would help enforce discipline for me quite a bit.

This first working week was mostly filled with the IFOSSLR launch in London; the journal is independent, but the FTF is keenly interested in high-quality legal opinion on topics around Free Software. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

New Legal Journal

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

There’s a new legal journal out, and it is all about (and by) us. “Us” in the wide sense of the word, those people that are concerned with legal issues around Free Software communities, projects, organizations. You can find it on boing boing as well, where Andrew Katz, one of the editorial team, is quoted as “even lawyers can adopt a collaborative model and create something both free as in freedom, and as in beer.” This collaboration is in part thanks to the Freedom Task Force of the Free Software Foundation Europe, which has created a neutral ground for exactly this kind of collaboration and sparring around Free Software law questions. You’ll see that positive, constructive dialogue is our main weapon.

If you were to look in the journal, you’d find a piece by me commenting on some topics that were active in march and april, basically a blog on paper. I like it that way, and I feel my role both as a columnist for that journal and within the FTF as a whole is to push the technical and community aspects. In other words, make sure that the topics that are relevant in Free Software communities are taken up by the legal experts that write for the journal. In the meantime, I’m learning about the practice and interpretation of law. It’s fun to get lost in the twisty passages of esoteric interpretations of licenses, but far more useful in the medium term to provide services aimed at projects and businesses involved with Free Software. The journal, I think, provides a means to communicate interpretations of the law to all involved — also people in the projects, not on the bench.

One might get one’s knickers in a knot over the title of the journal, which contains either a redundancy (Open Source software is Free Software, and there’s no need to expand upon Free Software) or is missing several additional terms like Libre and Liberal. I like the latter, but that’s because the opening keynote of GCDS was by Robert Lefkowitz; it was a wonderful display of showmanship and rhetorical skill. The upshot of the talk was that we use Free Software because we are lawyers (or pretend to talk to them) and gentlemen.

So be it. I will go find my monocle and take the first train to London, there to consult with Sherlock Holmes on the case of the licentious liberal.

Changing of the guard (2)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

At the Free Software Foundation Europe general assembly, I was accepted as a member of the association. Like KDE e.V., the FSFE is a German association with fairly strict rules on becoming a member (I should mention that becoming a member of KDE e.V. isn’t all that hard, and that you can support FSFE by becoming a fellow of FSFE). This means that I have an additional FSFE hat to wear, on top of NLUUG and KDE.

I am also discarding some hats. On the cusp of summer, I have informed the University of Nijmegen that I am leaving the place where I’ve studied and worked for the past 19 years (that’s longer than KDE exists, and longer than some valued contributors to KDE have existed, for that matter). This means that I will no longer be working on CodeYard (a project to have Dutch high-school students produce Free Software with modern tools) or Sprint-UP (closing the gap between high schools and universities). CodeYard occupies a special place in my heart, as it has produced some really neat software and gotten students to build beautiful things — something I think is really important when writing Free Software. I’ll continue to watch CodeYard from the sidelines, though.

The FSFE hat represents some additional responsibilities, too, and answers the “how do you eat?” question. In the coming months the Freedom Task Force will transition from the capable hands of Shane Coughlan to mine; Shane has spent the past two years building up a unique group of technologists and legal representatives to discuss law-and-technology matters on neutral ground and provide services to Free Software projects that need a little help getting their legal activities in order. The FTF created the Fiduciary License Agreement, for instance, for dealing with copyrights in distributed development projects; KDE uses a modified version (PDF, 40k). It continues to grow, and I hope I’ll be able to follow some of the path that Shane has charted.

I may need a captain’s hat, after all.